For Harvard medical students interested in clinical and translational research opportunities, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start looking for information. HMS is a complex place, with 15 hospital and research facilities and nearly 11,000 faculty members.
But for some, the path to connection became a bit smoother at the second annual Bench to Bedside: Clinical and Translational Research Fair in the Tosteson Medical Center Atrium in January, an event that drew scores of students and dozens of faculty members from research teams who were all looking to make a match.
“Really, this event is about bringing students together with our faculty who are doing C/T research,” said Joan Reede, HMS dean for diversity and community partnership and professor of medicine. “To me it’s always better to talk to someone who really wants to talk to you.”
Faculty are also looking for a way to meet students who have a passion for research but who might not know yet where they will fit in, Reede said.
“I came here to look for any labs I’d possibly be interested in working in,” said first-year MD student Akash Premkumar. “I’m not sure of the specialty I want to go into yet, but this can help expose you to the people and the path you want to be on.”
“I think part of it is, being first-year students, we don’t always get exposed to the magnitude of what’s going on here,” said Maya Ball-Burack, who attended the fair to get a sense of the scope of work being done at HMS and its affiliates.
“I’m interested in emergency medicine,” said student Henry Ashworth, who was hoping to make some connections with faculty who are working in community health as well.
“Trying to navigate your way through all the institutions and find out what your passion may be can be a difficult path,” said Lee Nadler, HMS dean for clinical and translational research and the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor of Medicine, speaking to the crowd gathered in the TMEC atrium.
Nadler is the founder and principal investigator at Harvard Catalyst, which co-sponsored the fair along with the HMS Scholars in Medicine program. Harvard Catalyst works to foster an environment where scientific discoveries can be more efficiently translated to improve human health. It is one of a network of more than 57 translational centers across the U.S. that are funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.
“Harvard Catalyst wants to help you find the resources you need,” Nadler told the students. “The most premier labs around are here at this event, so it’s important that you not be shy.”
Alex Cortes a fifth-year student, said he had become involved in orthopedic surgery research by working with Jeffrey N. Katz, HMS professor of medicine and director of the Scholars in Medicine program, who took the time to mentor him.
“The important thing about a good mentor is that they lead you in the right direction,” said Cortes, whose research experience helped him to “understand how to go about solving a question and coming to an answer and doing it in a way that’s effective.”
“For faculty, it’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to bring a student into your research environment,” said Katz. “It’s really such a pleasure to participate in the professional development of younger people, to help them figure out what they want to do. It’s gratifying to bring someone talented into a field we care about as well.”
Meg Lippincott, HMS instructor in medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in the Endocrine Division, was busy at one of the tables talking to students. She said she hoped to inspire them to consider careers in research.
“We’re dedicated to research and we want to share our passion with them,” she said.
Other participants at the fair included faculty from the Department of Radiation Oncology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the Tothova Laboratory at the Broad Institute and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Division of Genetics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Division of Newborn Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital. A total of 35 research groups participated in the fair.
“[Faculty] see this as a way of sharing their enthusiasm for the work they love,” said Reede.
Image: Steve Lipofsky