Pathology Alumni Spotlight: Tyler Lebner, MS

Tyler Lebner, MS, is a 2023 graduate of the Master of Science in Pathology Laboratory Sciences Program. He currently works on the pathology team at Concord Biomedical Engineering and Emerging Technologies (CBSET) in Lexington, Massachusetts. While at BU, Tyler completed his master’s research at the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL), where he focused on characterizing mice models for seasonal coronavirus such as HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-NL63.

Tell me a little bit about your journey to Boston University. Are you from the Boston area?

I grew up in Wellesley, Massachusetts, which is not too far from the Boston area (traffic says otherwise). So, the Boston area is quite familiar. For my bachelor’s degree, I studied at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, where I focused on a unique degree in biomedical marketing. The degree encompasses the fundamentals in business with a focus in marketing and several science courses. I fell in love with all the science courses that I took. During my junior and senior years, I focused only on the field of microbiology and immunology, which led me to recognize that this is my passion. Ultimately, I was able to delve into the field for my graduate studies at Boston University.

What drew you to the field of pathology and laboratory medicine?

Early on in my life, I knew that I had a passion for the sciences. As an undergraduate student, my immunology professor inspired me and taught me that learning and understanding science is a process. From this, I was able to set aside some of the struggles and really focus on my academic journey as a lifelong process. The field of pathology encompasses many different aspects of science and medicine to better understand disease and its effects on humans. This, to me, was a way for me to embark on my science journey while having the ability to make contributions to our communities and further our understanding of treating diseases.

Why did you ultimately choose to pursue a master’s degree in pathology at BU GMS? In other words, what drew you to the Master of Science in Pathology Laboratory Sciences program here?

The first moment I knew this program was right for me was when the program director, Professor [Liz] Duffy, showed me how the pathology department goes the extra mile for their students and is always making sure that the students are doing exceptional, mentally and physically. Professor Duffy is an amazing luxury, and the graduating class of 2023 would concur. The Master’s in Pathology and Laboratory sciences is also under the GMS umbrella. It has courses with many other programs, including the Master’s in Medical Sciences (MAMS) and Master’s in Biomedical Research Technologies (BRT), to name a few. Meeting new people and creating lifelong friendships is inevitable. Another reason to pursue pathology at BU was the inter- and intra-departmental collaborations where students are able to pursue their scientific research in a wide range of departments from microbiology and biochemistry to cancer biology and neuroscience. These key elements are what makes the pathology program at BU so fascinating.

Tell me a little bit about the research and coursework you completed in the master’s program.

The first year of the program provides students with a strong understanding of the biological sciences, with topics ranging from biochemistry and immunology to pathology and biostatistics. The second year, which was my favorite, is dedicated to research and your presence in the laboratory. I completed my thesis in the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL), where I focused on characterizing mice models for seasonal coronavirus such as HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-NL63. There are several current models in literature developed, although they have limitations for understanding viral pathogenesis and ultimately lack the abilities of evaluating vaccine candidates and efficacies.

The goal of my thesis was to characterize mice models that are suitable for testing vaccines.  Additionally, I was able to strengthen my skills in cell culture, molecular biology, virology, and histopathology. One of my favorite aspects of this project was being able to be a part of the whole process, from viral propagation in cell culture to viral infections and working with mice to taking our samples to histology for process, embedding, staining and completing the picture with digital pathology image analysis.

What are you doing now and what are some of your longer-term goals in the field?

I currently have a position on the pathology team at Concord Biomedical Engineering and Emerging Technologies (CBSET) in Lexington, Massachusetts. CBSET is a contract research organization and encompasses a large number of dedicated scientist. Our goal is to assist biomedical companies with GLP [Good Laboratory Practice] and Non-GLP pre-clinical in-vivo testing. During the day, I complete a wide range of tasks, from gross and anatomic pathology during necropsy to immunohistochemistry and histology to the final stage of digital pathology image analysis. Being involved in every step in the process and reporting the results is one of the many reasons why my passion for the biomedical sciences continues to grow each day.

What are some of your best memories from your time at GMS?

Some of my favorite memories and remarks at GMS were how involved the pathology department is with the students and faculty. Every faculty member is always available to discuss any topic, whether it’s science, career goals, or even personal matters. I have made so many friendships that even post-graduation, we still are in contact with each other, and we are always findings ways to meet up.

Is there advice you’d give to students starting out their journey in pathology?

Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone! Before I came to BU, I never stepped foot into a lab (other than undergraduate courses). This was a major shift from what I was used to. I knew that it would be challenging having little to no laboratory experience prior, but there is nothing else I would rather have done than be a part of the BU pathology department. I always wanted to learn more about the sciences behind diseases and how they impact humans.  The pathology department has been an amazing group of colleagues, and even post-graduation, I still feel part of the department. This makes BU at pathology extremely special, in every way.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

The pathology department is truly a lifelong family of wonderful colleagues, and I could not have asked for a better department to be part of during my graduate studies!