Travel Award Student Summaries

2011

Corissa L. Rodgers

Thanks to the support of the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences at Boston University, I was recently able to attend the Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists (NEAFS) Meeting between November 3rd and 5th, in Newport, Rhode Island. This meeting is held annually to convene members of the forensic sciences community to exchange information and facilitate collaboration. DNA analysts, chemists, ballisticians, biologists, pathologists and other scientists from jurisdictions across the northeastern United States were in attendance.

I presented a talk in the Criminalistics section of the conference, entitled “Further Studies Investigating Zeolites for the Recovery of Oxygenated Compounds from Fire Debris Analysis”. As a second year MS student, my presentation was based upon findings gathered throughout my Master’s thesis research in the Biomedical Forensic Sciences Program within BU’s Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology. The NEAFS community was very welcoming in receiving student research and I had the great opportunity to hear constructive feedback and suggestions for future project directions. Additionally, I was honored with the Peter R. De Forest Forensic Science Graduate Student Research Award.

It was a humbling experience to address an audience of professionals within my future field, and one I will not soon forget. I now look forward to presenting at future forensic science meetings. I thank GMS sincerely for their generous support and for allowing me such a wonderful opportunity.

Andrew Ferree, MD/PhD candidate

Dear Boston University GMS office,

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!   With your travel funding assistance I was able to attend an exciting and truly illuminating meeting on the beautiful island of Sardinia.   The 2011 conference entitled Mitochondrial Dynamics: from Mechanism to Disease featured 5 packed days of talks by experts from around the world.  I learned a tremendous amount regarding the basic mechanisms that underlie mitochondrial transport, fusion, division and turnover.   In addition to general features of mitochondrial dynamics, I also gained insight into tissue specific regulation and pathologies from diverse fields including cancer, cardiac tissue, pancreatic beta cells, skeletal muscle, and neurons.   It was a great honor to meet so many of the leaders in this field in such a small, intimate meeting of only 200 people.  The talks ran literally all day everyday but due to the diversity and quality (and a bounty of espresso) they never lost interest.

On the second day of the conference I presented my poster describing data I have collected on mitochondrial motility and respiration in primary hippocampal neurons treated with low-dose farnsyltransferase inhibitors.  These compounds were originally designed for treatment of RAS-related cancer but are now under investigation for neurodegeneration applications.   I had several people visit my poster and give positive comments and constructive criticisms.  Finally and perhaps most importantly, through attending this meeting I now have established a new connection with a lab in Harvard Medical School that also works on intraneuronal mitochondrial transport and we will be collaborating on my project in the future!   Again, thank you so much for enabling this amazing experience.

Sincerely, Andrew Ferree, MD/PhD candidate

Chen Yuan Charlie Yang

Thanks to the generous support of the Boston University Division of Graduate Medical Sciences I was able to attend the 2011 Global Enterprise for Micro-Mechanics and Molecular Medicine (GEM4) Summer School from June 20th to June 30th at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia.

The small class size (about 50 people) and many prominent faculties from various institutions presented enormous networking opportunities and discussion on research across all field of biology, engineering, and medicine.

The classes are intense and went from morning till noon, and sometimes they runs through the afternoon when labs were not offered. Large amount of information were delivered to us (the students) uninterrupted often with just a break in between session. This gave me the opportunities to “see” all the exciting researches done cross-country, generate new ideas for research proposal, and even initiate potential collaborations with other labs.

The poster session was held during the lunch break. This gave all of the students the time to look at each other’s poster as well as discuss with each other on research and even life as graduate student. More importantly, the small class size gave us the opportunity to bond together, become friends and even collaborates on future projects.

The lab offers something else. It was presented in a informative way rather than actual whole experiment due to time constraint. For some of us who have never done certain experiments (Microfabrication, Stem cells…), the lab portion gave us the glimpse the basics of how the experiments were conducted without offered much detail.

Overall, this was a great summer school/meeting which offers plenty for networking opportunities, generate new ideas, and initiate research collaboration, and along a way make some friends. Thanks once again to the Boston University GMS for funding a portion of my travel expenses to this event.

Evan Rossignol

Thanks to the financial support of the Boston University GMS office I was able to attend the 2011 Gordon Research Conference in the field of Three Dimensional Electron Microscopy from June 26th-July 1st.  It was a fantastic meeting with a great deal of information on many of the new ideas and developing technologies in the field.  The small group size (approximately 180 people) facilitated networking and discussion with many people of related interests, and this focused group allowed discussion of technical aspects involved in structural electron microscopy at a very advanced level.

At the poster sessions I presented a poster entitled “Poliovirus polymerase interactions investigated by cryo-electron tomography and volume averaging” and received a great deal of helpful feedback that I will pursue in the future.  These ideas will probably advance my project, and if not at least give some perspective to some of the problems I currently face.  Discussion with other poster presenters was very helpful and allowed me to advance my understanding of the biology and specific methods in the field.

Thanks to this travel award I was able to further my understanding of the newest techniques and technologies in the field of three-dimensional electron microscopy, network with people with a similar focus, and gain feedback on my project as well as contribute to others.  Thanks for the support GMS office!

Fadie Coleman

Thanks to the generous support of the Boston University Division of Graduate Medical Sciences, I was afforded the opportunity to attend the 2011 American Thoracic Society (ATS) International Conference in Denver Colorado from May 13-18th.  As a second year graduate student, I was able to attend one of the premiere conferences in the field of respiratory research, which focuses on improving health worldwide by advancing research, clinical care and public health in respiratory disease, critical illness and sleep disorders.  With over 10,000 scientists and clinicians in attendance, I was truly in one the most unique and intellectually stimulating environments in this field.

The benefits of attending ATS this spring far exceeded my expectations. Presenting my work at ATS not only allowed me to share my research findings with scientists that specialized in lung immunity, but I also gained insight into other lung related research areas and their approaches to answering similar questions.  The flow of information was always bidirectional, which made discussions exceptionally informative. I was also able to network with a very resourceful group of scientists and clinicians in lung immunity and connected with individuals that could potentially lead to new opportunities for collaborative efforts in the near future.

As a trainee, I was also given the opportunity to attend a postgraduate course titled—“Lung Innate Immunity: At the Frontlines of Host Defense.”  This course was an excellent series of presentations that provided current knowledge and cutting-edge research in the field of lung innate immunity and host defense.  Much of what was presented was unpublished, preliminary data.   As I am just starting to put together a thesis project, the chance to observe and openly discuss how different scientists developed their experimental approaches was extremely advantageous and educational.

Some of my personal goals for this meeting were to gain experience in presenting my own work, obtain valuable feedback on my research, as well as start to gain visibility in the field of lung immunity. Overall, my experience was most fulfilling and I look forward to presenting at future meetings.

Srimathi Srinivasan

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Boston University GMS office for finical support, which allowed me to attend the 2011 Gordon Research Conference on Proteins held in New Hampshire on June, 2011. Here’s a brief report.

Participation in sessions and networking opportunities:  This conference focused on Protein biogenesis, folding and aggregation and their importance in diseases. It was well-attended by leading scientists in the field of “Proteins” from around the world. The conference had morning and evening sessions consisting of talks from the senior scientists, lunch sessions and the poster sessions in the afternoon where posters were presented by Post-doctoral candidates and graduate students.

During the morning and evening talk sessions, I was exposed to recent advances in the field of “Proteins” such as protein folding, protein aggregation, protein biogenesis, and large protein assemblies. Although my research area is focused on protein stabilization, I found protein aggregation was fascinating as well. I have learnt environmental factors can influence proteins to become an inheritable trait.  Listening to thought provoking lectures, it gave me new ideas for my own research. It was very valuable to interact with top-notch scientists one on one discussing their own research.

Lunch sessions were interesting as well. I was able to discuss a topic every lunch session related to career development such as choosing a post-doctoral position, academic versus industrial opportunities, and general networking with experienced researchers as well as graduate students like myself. These discussions helped me to broaden my knowledge about post-doctoral positions in academia and industry.

Poster Session:  The highlight of this conference was presenting my poster entitled “The PDCL3/CCT chaperonin complex regulates angiogenesis through the generation of functional VEGFR-2” to the attendees. It was a very valuable experience for me. I got a number of suggestions and experimental advices for next steps for my own research. Prof. David Agard from University of California, San Francisco who is working on Chaperones suggested me to perform number of experiments to explore CCT (the chaperone which I am working with) and its importance in VEGFR-2 signaling.  Prof. Sheena Radford from University of Leeds advice me to perform co-localization experiments to investigated the role of PDCL3 and VEGFR-2 in ER. Not only these poster sessions help me to improve my own research, but it also gave an opportunity to know other people’s work in the same field using many advanced techniques of protein folding such as NMR, CD, Mass spectrometry etc.

Overall, this conference was not only an excellent opportunity to learn current research, but also to broaden my exposure & network with eminent researchers in the same field. Thanks once again to the Boston University GMS office for funding a portion of my travel expenses to this event.

Ariana Darcy

With the help of the Division of Graduate Medical Science at Boston University, I was able to attend the Keystone Symposium joint meeting for HIV Evolution, Genomics and Pathogenesis and Protection from HIV: Targeted Intervention Strategies in Whistler, British Columbia in Canada from March 20-25.  This was the first year these two meetings were combined and it allowed clinicians and basic research scientists to come together and learn about each other’s work from differing perspectives.  In order to develop better therapeutics for HIV infection and prevention, we must learn where HIV evolved from and how it functions.  This meeting unified these topics nicely.

I learned more than I ever planned to at this meeting and I have found that it has already been useful in my research.  Every day consisted of talks that were separated into categories.  For example, one session was called “Innate Immune Sensing of Lentiviruses.”  There were about three 2-hour sessions a day and a break in the afternoon to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Whistler.  At night, there was a three-hour poster session that was a great time to meet new people and hear about the new research ongoing in the field.  I presented a poster with my lab mate Camellia Banerjee, called “Evaluation of Muscle Signatures for Aging and HIV Infection” on the third night.

Presenting a poster at such a well-known conference was intimidating but a good experience at the same time.  As a second year PhD student, I was able to learn the ins and outs of a conference and became more comfortable with meeting people and discussing my research.  This conference will help me in future conferences and I look forward to presenting more of my research as it continues to develop.

Racquel Wells

The travel award I received from Boston University allowed me to particpate in the 10th Annual New England Science Symposium at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA on April 1, 2011.  This conference was sponsored by the Harvard Medical School Minority Faculty Development Program of the Office for Diversity and Community Partnership and the Biomedical Science Careers Program (BSCP). The focus of the conference "is to provide a forum for postdoctoral fellows; medical, dental and graduate students; post-baccalaureates; college and community college studnts (particularly African-American, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska native individuals) to share their biomedical and health-related research activities through oral and poster presentations, to engage in discussions related to career development in the sciences, to exchange ideas and to expand their professional networks".

The highlight of the day was the poster session in which judges came around to hear about the research. I presented a summary of my thesis work regarding travelers who visit friends and relatives and their associations with increased infectious disese. Patients seen for pre-travel visits in Boston travel clinics were analyzed in numerous categories and surveyed for knowledge, attitude and practices regarding travel. It was very helpful to get comments and feedback in this setting as it was my first time presenting any research. My peers were very interested in the work and I was excited to receive so many questions about what future studies should be done in this area.

During the course of the day, I was able to meet students of a variety of backgrounds and interests. There was a panel discussion of professional researchers in different fields of science and at different levels in their careers. We asked questions about understanding our career paths and what a career in scientific research means for an individual and for society. The most important message to me was from the keynote speaker, Dr Lee Nadler of Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He discussed the invention of the polio vaccine and how two students had an idea that was criticized by their principle investigator. Their belief in themselves led to an amazing contribution to medicine that we cannot take for granted.  We cannot let others discourage us from doing things that seem impossible- that is research.

I want to thank the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences for assisting me with this memorable experience. I am looking forward to presenting more research as I move further in my career.

Eileen Rojas

With generous support from the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences at Boston University, I was able to attend the 55th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting in Baltimore, MD from March 4 -9, 2011. This is the premier conference for national and international biophysicists, with approximately 6,500 attendees from over 20 countries. The goal of this conference is to report and disseminate cutting edge biophysical research.

At the meeting I was able to attend talks, learning about a wide variety of topics including lipidmodified peptides, lipid effects on bilayers, membrane protein folding, and membrane protein insertion. I attended several symposia, including the New and Notable Symposium, learning about emerging topics in the field- including a novel hydrophobicity scale for membrane protein folding and the structural basis for rotational switching of bacterial flagellar motors. Monday evening I was pleased to attend the National Lecture by Arthur Horwich of Yale University, were he described his part in the research of chaperonin mediated protein folding of GroEL. The highlight symposium was without a doubt the Awards Symposium on Tuesday morning. Here, emerging and accomplished scientists gave talks summarizing their research. Of particular note were the talks by Toshio Yanagida of Osaka University of Japan, who discussed his research on single molecule nano-biology, and the talk by Eric Oldfield of the University of Illinois, who presented his research on lipids and membranes in drug discovery.

An important component of every meeting is the ability to present one’s own work. On Wednesday morning I presented my poster entitled, “Relative Affinities of Fatty Acid Binding Sites on Human Serum Albumin Probed by 2D-NMR.” This poster session was well attended, and I received feedback from numerous colleagues, both old and new. I attended other poster sessions as well, in particular learning about caveolin-1 from students at Lehigh University, and a patch method for protein-ligand interaction predictions from faculty of Purdue University.

Su Xu

The 55th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting covered a very broad range of research areas from membrane dynamics and transport, protein structure to protein folding, protein-ligand interaction and single molecule nano-biology. Single molecule nano-biology has attracted special attentions this year because of its successful applications in various types of studies such as viral infection, protein function and cell signaling.

As a member of the Biophysical Society, I presented a poster in the Membrane Protein Function session, based on my studies about the role of the membrane protein CD36 in fatty acid transport and metabolism. I really enjoyed presenting my work to other researchers and have received very good comments and suggestions from them.

Most excitingly, I met a researcher in Harvard Medical School that also study CD36, but in its particular role as a receptor for collagen in macrophage cells. She used single molecule imaging technique to monitor the dynamic movement of CD36 upon ligand stimulation. Her works have demonstrated the successful uses of the single molecule imaging in studying CD36. I am looking forward to the potential uses of this technique in my study on its role in fatty acid uptake, in relations to diabetes and obesity.

Overall, I feel that this meeting really served as a great platform for communication between researchers in different areas. Moreover, I want to thank Boston University Division of Graduate Medical Sciences for providing me the travel awards, which really encouraged me to share my research interests and achievements with other scientists.

Elyse Cooper

With the financial support I received from Boston University, I was able to attend the 2011 Annual Meeting for the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Chicago, Illinois, which was held from February 21-26. It was such a privilege to be among many prominent figures in the forensic community, and to present my thesis project at a major conference where so much quality research was presented. The forensic sciences encompass so many diverse disciplines. Although my own forensic concentration is DNA analysis and I tend to gravitate to that realm of study, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the many fascinating lectures encompassing all forensic areas. I attended lectures on topics ranging from social network stalking to emerging developments in forensic identification methods using an individual’s own unique set of antibodies. I found it extremely interesting and beneficial to learn about emerging forensic research in many areas.

On Friday morning, I presented my thesis research poster, which is entitled “Differential Extraction Conditions: Effect of Aging and Dehydration on DNA Mixture Quantification and Amplification.” People seemed interested in the work we have been performing, and I received much positive feedback and suggestions for further experimentation. It was a great opportunity for me to not only represent the Biomedical Forensic Sciences graduate program, but Boston University as a whole. I am most grateful to the Division of Medical Sciences for their support. It was an experience that further enhanced the excellent education I have received here.
Overall, it was a unique and growing experience, and I was proud to represent the university and our research programs. Thank you for allowing me this most memorable opportunity.

2010

Conor Smith

This year the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting was held at the San Diego Convention Center San Diego, CA from November 13 – 17. Over 30,000 people converged at the meeting to present their recent scientific results, attend talks from leaders in many different neuroscience fields, and network with the scientific community as a whole.

I arrived at the conference on Saturday and sampled many different poster topics during the day, including a presentation by Xue Han of the BU dept. of Biomedical Engineering on her application of optogenetics to the control of ion channel conductance. The poster sessions were a substantial part of my conference experience, as they were excellent opportunities to learn about new areas of neuroscience research, catch up on research topics related to my work, and network with people in my field both on a national and an international level.

As I am currently researching calcium signaling, one of the highlights to the meeting for me was getting the opportunity to go to a symposium entitled ‘New advances in calcium signaling in neuronal function and disease’. One of the speakers was Solomon Snyder (who was involved in the discovery of the opiate receptors and also works on nitric oxide signaling), who discussed his recent work in calcium signaling. I also attended a nanosymposium focused on autism research that was very interesting.

On Tuesday morning I presented my poster entitled ‘Mechanisms of pregnenolone sulfate-induced increases in plasma membrane NMDA receptor expression in rat cortical neurons’. Throughout the morning I fielded questions on the poster and received helpful input from other interested scientists.

Finally, after all the posters, symposiums, science discussion over dinner, and with lots of free pens, I returned to Boston exhausted but looking forward to next year.

Kathryne St. Pierre

The travel award I received from BU provided me with the opportunity to attend the Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists (NEAFS) conference in Manchester, VT November 9-12, 2010. The conference was very beneficial and I learned a lot from attending. I had the opportunity to hear and learn about new research ideas and experiments. I also had the opportunity to listen to lectures from very notable personnel within the field of forensic science. They spoke about where the field in heading and what we can do today to improve the practices of forensic scientists. They had some great thoughts which will help me as I am just beginning my career within the field.

I was also privileged enough to present my own research during the conference. I conducted some very promising research towards the completion of my thesis and had the opportunity to present my work to the attendants at the NEAFS conference. Speaking publicly is always a great opportunity and a great addition to a resume. A typical responsibility of forensic scientists is to testify within a court of law; having the opportunity to practice my public speaking at a regional conference was beneficial in preparing for future testimonies. The presentation went very well. I received some great feedback from fellow students and others in the field who were very interested in my research. I was very excited to have the opportunity to represent the Biomedical Forensic Sciences Program at BU as well as introducing myself to the forensic science community, and to share with other researchers what I have been working very hard on the past year at BU.

Crystal Oechsle

Due to the financial support that I received from the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences, I was able to attend the 2010 Annual Meeting for the Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientist (NEAFS) held in Manchester, Vermont. This meeting serves as an annual gathering and training opportunity for professionals in the field of forensic science. While at the conference, I was able to attend workshops on interesting cases from the various member labs and a lecture on the National Academy of Sciences’ report on the state of forensic science. I found these sessions extremely interesting because they gave me a feeling for the experiences of different labs in the region.

The main reason that I wanted to attend this meeting was that it gave me the opportunity to present my research for my thesis in the form of a poster, which was titled “A Comparative Study of Biological Fluid Identification Methods: Lateral Flow Immunochromatographic Test Strips and Real-Time PCR Quantitation using Quantifiler® Duo”. Putting together the poster was a good learning experience, in general, and I now have an outline for my thesis writing. But, beyond that, presenting my research to other professionals in the field gave me a new appreciation for the peer review process. I found that people seemed to be receptive to my research and asked several questions, some which I had anticipated and some which I hadn’t. I have a renewed sense of purpose, and am returning to Boston University ready to undertake the thesis writing process.

Chen Yuan Charlie Yang

 

Thanks to the generous support of the Boston University Division of Graduate Medical Sciences I was able to attend the 2011 Global Enterprise for Micro-Mechanics and Molecular Medicine (GEM4) Summer School from June 20th to June 30th at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

The small class size (about 50 people) and many prominent faculties from various institutions presented enormous networking opportunities and discussion on research across all field of biology, engineering, and medicine.

 

The classes are intense and went from morning till noon, and sometimes they runs through the afternoon when labs were not offered. Large amount of information were delivered to us (the students) uninterrupted often with just a break in between session. This gave me the opportunities to “see” all the exciting researches done cross-country, generate new ideas for research proposal, and even initiate potential collaborations with other labs.

 

The poster session was held during the lunch break. This gave all of the students the time to look at each other’s poster as well as discuss with each other on research and even life as graduate student. More importantly, the small class size gave us the opportunity to bond together, become friends and even collaborates on future projects.

 

The lab offers something else. It was presented in a informative way rather than actual whole experiment due to time constraint. For some of us who have never done certain experiments (Microfabrication, Stem cells…), the lab portion gave us the glimpse the basics of how the experiments were conducted without offered much detail.

 

Overall, this was a great summer school/meeting which offers plenty for networking opportunities, generate new ideas, and initiate research collaboration, and along a way make some friends. Thanks once again to the Boston University GMS for funding a portion of my travel expenses to this event.