Exposure to some of the best minds in science has long been a benefit of studying medicine at Yale. For a group of 24 first-year students last spring, that experience was intensified during a week-long immersion in bench research and discussion of the broader themes in science. “The goal was to pick a topic and convey two things—how you come up with strategies to test a hypothesis and how you see the project through its successive steps,” said John N. Forrest Jr., M.D., HS ’67, who along with four other faculty members accompanied the students to the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, in May. “It was a very intensive week in the lab. They worked morning, noon and night. [Dean] David Kessler had proposed that we give students this intense pedagogical experience and it was successful beyond anyone’s expectations.”
Working with shark tissue, the students focused their investigation on the structure and function of polarized epithelial cells, examining the topic with techniques from several disciplines, including physiology, biochemistry, cell biology and molecular biology. The faculty included Forrest, director of the Office of Student Research, and colleagues Michael J. Caplan, M.D. ’87, Ph.D. ’87, Bliss Forbush III, Ph.D., and Mark S. Mooseker, Ph.D.
“It was a perfect environment for learning to take place,” said Nancy R. Angoff, M.P.H. ’81, M.D. ’90, HS ’93, associate dean for student affairs, who accompanied the group. Angoff, who wrote her own medical school thesis not on basic science but on an ethics topic, took the Bar Harbor course along with the students in order to bridge some gaps in her knowledge. “I ran my first gel, did PCR, cloned a gene. It was just a great learning experience,” said Angoff. “For the students who haven’t had that introduction to laboratory techniques and how to think scientifically, I think it was especially terrific.”
The school plans to repeat the course in May for interested members of the Class of 2004.