As he delivered the 18th annual Farr Lecture at Student Research Day in May, Arthur L. Horwich, M.D., HS ’78, FW ’83, described his own path to a career in research. He trained as a pediatrician, but the lure of the laboratory ultimately proved too strong to resist. Still, he found a balance, he said. “Research and the bedside,” he said, “are inextricably linked.” Horwich, a geneticist whose work has shown how proteins fold, still consults on clinical cases.
“You cannot predict exactly what you will be doing in some balance of research and clinical medicine,” said Horwich, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Genetics and professor of pediatrics, as he offered some advice. “Make sure it is a balance that really causes you to have fun.”
Among the 75 students who presented this year was second-year medical student Mary Dombrowski, who examined whether transplants of olfactory ensheathing cells can regenerate myelin. She chose the topic because her father has multiple sclerosis. In her experiments with rats she found that the cells did encourage myelin growth. “It has stimulated my interest in neurology as a career choice,” she said.
Fourth-year student Hardean E. Achneck found the bright side to a devastating disease. Ascending aortic aneurysms are associated with a decrease in systemic atherosclerosis, and there may be a genetic mechanism involved, he said. “If we find out what the genes are, we may find the mechanism of this and, eventually, treat atherosclerosis,” he said.
Research topics ranged from a mix of basic science and clinical findings to at least one offbeat subject. David A. Ross, a student in the M.D./Ph.D. program, studied the phenomenon of absolute pitch. “The vast majority of great composers,” he said, “have had perfect pitch.” Alison H. Norris, also an M.D./Ph.D. student, studied the HIV risk for workers on a sugar plantation in Tanzania. Helena Hansen, who completed the M.D./Ph.D. program in May, studied faith-based substance abuse treatment in a Pentecostal community in Puerto Rico.
Five students were chosen to make oral presentations: Margo D. Simon, Eric Poolman, Suzanne J. Baron, Raymond Lynch and Joshua Klein.