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G1 Students Share Lab Choices

Posted by on Monday, September 30, 2019 in Student Spotlight.

The Vanderbilt MSTP would like to congratulate the G1 class on completing their first two years of medical school and on joining the following laboratories and graduate programs for their graduate studies!

StudentGraduate ProgramMentor
Natalie BennettCancer BiologyJulie Rhoades, PhD
Andrew BoalNeuroscienceDavid Calkins, PhD
Leon CaiBiomedical EngineeringBennett Landman, PhD
Nowrin ChowdhuryMolecular Pathology & ImmunologyDawn Newcomb, PhD
Juan ColazoBiomedical EngineeringCraig Duvall, PhD
Alissa CutroneCell & Developmental BiologyAndries Zijlstra, PhD and Jennifer Sucre, MD
Graham JohnsonBiomedical EngineeringDario Englot, MD, PhD
Margaret McBrideMolecular Pathology & ImmunologyEd Sherwood, MD, PhD
Nicholas PetersenNeuroscienceDanny Winder, PhD
Michael RudloffMolecular Pathology & ImmunologyMary Philip, MD, PhD
Alex SilverCancer BiologyMichael Savona, MD
Camille WangNeuroscienceLisa Monteggia, PhD and Ege Kavalali, PhD
Zack WilliamsNeuroscienceTiffany Woynaroski, PhD and Carissa Cascio, PhD

Here’s what they had to say about choosing their lab:

“As an undergrad, I spent several years in a lab studying cancer metabolism, and I knew I wanted to continue pursuing cancer biology during graduate school. In speaking with Dr. Julie Rhoades, I came to learn about the exciting work that her lab was doing in studying tumor-induced bone disease. I chose to join her lab because of the many techniques that I will learn, the motivated people I work with, and the variety of collaborations in several departments that will help me broaden my knowledge. I have greatly enjoyed my first month in the Rhoades Lab and look forward to the coming years exploring the field of bone metastasis.” – Natalie Bennett

 “I first became interested in studying the visual system as a neuroscience major in undergrad. I’m fascinated by the complex process performed by the eyes and brain that allow us to detect and encode electromagnetic radiation, and subsequently analyze it in a way that allows us to navigate our environment and recognize the faces of loved ones, all within milliseconds. Vision plays a fundamental role in everyday life, but is also a particularly vulnerable system to damage and disease. Glaucoma is the leading irreversible cause of blindness worldwide, and we don’t yet have a complete understanding of the biological processes underlying vision loss. Additionally, currently available treatments for the disease are often ineffective at halting progression. The Calkins lab is a leader in the field of glaucoma, studying the mechanisms of and potential therapeutics for the neurodegenerative nature of the disease. One of the biggest reasons that I chose to join the lab was Dr. Calkins’s emphasis on the human aspect of the disease – he always relates our work back to the impact that it can have on people with glaucoma and even has patient letters hanging in lab to serve as a constant reminder of the motivation for our work. I’m excited to be a part of such important research as I learn to use molecular and cellular techniques to answer questions that may one day change the way we manage glaucoma and other neurodegenerative diseases.” – Andrew Boal

My background is in engineering and computer vision, or in building systems to help computers “see” and understand images. At first glance, these areas seem very disparate from biomedical science. But the truth is, the world, and especially medicine, is changing. Every day, we are inundated with more and more data, whether it be clinical, ‘omic’, neural, or imaging. As we gain the ability to acquire this data, we gain a greater and greater potential for progress in medicine. But first, we have to know how to analyze and understand the data. This is where my background comes in. Computers have the extraordinary ability to handle quantities of data that would be utterly incomprehensible to the human mind. Thus, I joined the Medical Image Analysis and Statistical Interpretation Lab under the mentorship of Dr. Bennett Landman in order to hone my image analysis skills and learn to build better systems to help computers–and thus medical professionals–extract new and exciting information from medical images.” – Leon Cai

“Being trained as a biochemist, most of my past research has been in the field of discovery. Throughout medical school, I observed current “gold standard” therapies causing many harsh side effects and severely affecting patient quality of life. Thus, I wanted to shift into research applying and testing new therapies that are longer lasting and with less side effects. For these reasons, I decided to join the Biomedical Engineering PhD program to work with Dr. Craig Duvall’s Advanced Therapeutics Laboratory (ATL) focused on novel therapeutics, biomaterials, and regenerative medicine.” – Juan Colazo

“My goals coming into the MSTP were to add an immense amount of techniques to my scientific repertoire, become super knowledgable about how the human body goes from one cell to trillions (?!?!) of cells, and to make a lasting relationship with a mentor I could really connect with. Joining Jen Sucre’s lab has combined all three of those goals and exceeded all expectations. I never thought I would be able to give up my neuroscience background for a lung biology lab, but getting excited with her about how many programs are required just to make an infant’s lung functional after birth sealed the deal for me. I think the best way to choose a lab is to choose a mentor, not necessarily a project. And the most important qualities to look for in that mentor are: how excited they are about the science they are doing and know exactly why they are doing it, how invested they are in your training (not just in relation to furthering their own science, but to make you an all-around-better scientist), and how many times they invite you into their office to give you chocolate-covered espresso beans and tell you that you are so much more than one mistake or one challenge. I have luckily found all of those in my mentor and the other people that I collaborate with in the neonatology department, and now I get to spend the next 4(ish) years living out my nerdiest dream of becoming a cell and developmental biologist!” – Alissa Cutrone

“Human data – fascinating pathology – obvious translation – the brain – dry lab – sophisticated techniques – young hungry PI – excellent hands on mentorship.” – Graham Johnson

“I’m fascinated by how the human body acquires mutations with age and how this may transform our tissues into mosaics containing significant DNA changes from what we started with at birth. While I think there are many areas of human biology which may be affected by these processes, I’m choosing to study the consequences of somatic mutation in the blood. I chose my lab environment because it offered bridges between the wet lab work that I’m comfortable with and the dry lab skills that I want to learn in order to pursue these questions with vigor. Moreover, I could tell that the people I’d be working with were invested in having me on their team and would help nurture my professional growth.”  – Alex Silver

 “After working in a neuroscience lab in college, I found myself increasing drawn towards questions about the brain, attending seminars and working on a neuro-genetics project during my research gap year. Now, I will be studying synaptic physiology in the Monteggia-Kavalali lab. I joined the lab for its wonderful mentorship, exciting science, and kind and brilliant lab members. Most of all, they are passionate about science and willing to invest in my personal and professional growth.” – Camille Wang

 “With my longstanding interest in autism research, I came to Vanderbilt wanting to work with Carissa Cascio in the department of Psychiatry. Her lab focuses on studying sensation and perception in individuals on the autism spectrum, using a broad range of methods that include self-report questionnaires, behavioral observations, psychophysical tests, physiologic measures, and neuroimaging. The Cascio lab also collaborates closely with the lab of Tiffany Woynaroski (Hearing & Speech), who uses similar methods to study multisensory perception in autism. Over the first couple years of medical school, I became more interested in specifically understanding auditory perception in autism, and it was decided that a co-mentorship between Drs. Cascio and Woynaroski would be a good fit for my interests and ultimate goals. Working with both lab groups, I will be able to learn a wider range of research methodologies and benefit from mentorship and interactions with colleagues in both Psychiatry and Hearing & Speech.”  – Zack Williams