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Yale Pathology Research in Progress: ‘A Rite of Passage’

March 25, 2024

On a recent Tuesday morning inside The Anlyan Center at Yale School of Medicine, Edel Aron, a PhD candidate in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, stood before her colleagues in the Department of Pathology and presented research from a study she’s working on in the Kleinstein Lab.

For 20 minutes, Edel discussed, “Single Cell Profiling of the Host Immune Response in Lyme Disease in Blood and Skin,” augmenting her presentation with slides displayed on a large overhead screen. Afterward, she responded to questions from fellow students and faculty. Next up was Paul Stabach, a veteran Research Associate in the Braddock Lab who presented research on, “Clearance of Pathogenic Neutrophil Extracellular Traps with a Novel DNASE Biologic.”

The Pathology Research in Progress (RIP) Series, held every Tuesday morning, gives two pathology researchers the opportunity to not only present before their colleagues, but, more importantly, receive feedback that will help improve their research projects and presentations. This has been recurring weekly during the fall and spring semesters for the past 15 years.

“It’s a rite of passage for students. You’re teaching them how to present their scientific work in a formal setting, using the lingo and structure they would use in a job talk or in a national or international scientific meeting,” said Demetrios Braddock, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Pathology and host of the weekly sessions. “We have a formal setup where there is an introduction, a strict time limit and then questions. We try to educate and have a rigor about it so that when they go out and present, they’re going to be able to handle themselves appropriately.”

Students and faculty members present during the weekly sessions, and attendance is strong.

“The students have a camaraderie, and they all show up to look and learn from each other, and support each other,” Dr. Braddock said. “By doing that, they learn how to give talks and what is expected. The students who attend this regularly really give superior presentations.”

For Edel Aron, the recent Pathology RIP presentation was not her first.

“I'm coming from the computational side, so it was great to hear the perspectives of the biologists and physicians in the room,” she said. “I think the feedback will help me keep the scope of my project going forward.”

Pathology faculty are also regular attendees.

“We ask them pretty pointed questions, such as they would receive in meetings, not being hypercritical but not being gentle either, just being straightforward with the things they might have to handle,” Dr. Braddock said. “Some of the students are more computational oriented and they’re not used to handling biological questions. That’s often an issue where you’re trying to get them to think. If you’re presenting biology to biologists, we’re going to ask you questions. You should expect to be asked these questions in your job talks, not just the technical details of the analysis, for example. I think that is extremely valuable to these kids and also to their mentors.”

The value, he said, is that it forces them to think outside their areas of study and expertise.

“The problem in academia is that you can become siloed in your little department and not really have the cross-disciplinary feedback you need to have your work extend to a greater population of scientists and clinicians,” Dr. Braddock said. “We’re trying to bring the whole department together, not just the cancer biologists, the bio-informaticists, and the people who are biochemists like me, who do very rare diseases.

“We want everybody there to give feedback so we try to get as much faculty participation as we can. It shows that we are interested in their work and interested in their development and we’re going to put in some time to support them. But it also gives them confidence that a faculty that’s comprised of distinguished scientists are going to be in the room and you’re going to be evaluated, your work is going to be evaluated, and you can hold your own in that setting so you’re have confidence when you go nationally or internationally to these meetings.”

Submitted by Terence P. Corcoran on March 25, 2024