P&S Students
Student Life and Times

Mixing Study with Research

By Irene Lo’08 and Mark Mann’08

Tom Karnezis
Tom Karnezis
Over the years, Columbia has consistently provided world-class leadership in scientific research. P&S is home to numerous faculty members who have made watershed discoveries from the basic sciences all the way to clinical research. Many of their discoveries have been translated to new techniques for the prevention and treatment of disease. Taking advantage of the amazing research taking place at Columbia and its proximity, many students at P&S have been fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of research projects throughout their time in medical school.
    The research experiences of P&S students have been diverse, ranging from performing experiments at the bench in a Columbia research lab to working in the clinic at a community hospital in Honduras. A variety of mentorships and programs are available to students. Below are a few examples of student research experiences.
    Comron Saifi’10 spent last summer as an NIH Summer Research Fellow, working with mentor William Macaulay, M.D., the Anne Youle Stein Professor of Clinical Orthopaedic Surgery at P&S. Mr. Saifi’s research project focused on studying hip fractures in the elderly. An abstract of Mr. Saifi’s research project has been accepted at the American Orthopaedic Association meeting for presentation and a manuscript detailing his research project has been submitted.
    Alexis Dieter’08 spent a year performing clinical research in South Africa as a Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellow under the P&S mentorship of Scott Hammer, M.D., the Harold C. Neu Professor of Infectious Diseases in the
Lisa Bebell with Red Cross plane
Lisa Bebell with Red Cross plane
Department of Medicine, and Magda Sobieszczyk, M.D., assistant professor of clinical medicine, and, in South Africa, Salim Abdool Karim, Ph.D., professor of clinical epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, and Dr. Koleka Mlisana. Ms. Dieter worked on the Acute Infection Project at the Center for AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa in Durban, South Africa. In Durban, Ms. Dieter, who has long had an interest in international health, investigated behavioral characteristics among the participants in the project and examined trends among the group and changes throughout the study period, concentrating on condom use and barriers to condom use within the population. Ms. Dieter says of her research opportunity, “I gained valuable experience in clinical research, was exposed to the field of international health, and got to live in a beautiful country and meet many wonderful people.”
    Lisa Bebell’08 has worked on a variety of research projects within several programs during her years at P&S. During the summer after her first year of medical school, Ms. Bebell worked on a summer research project with Stephen Nicholas, M.D., professor of clinical pediatrics. Ms. Bebell also took two years away from P&S to perform research. During her first year, as a Fogarty Fellow through the NIH, Ms. Bebell worked on the Acute Infection AI Project at CAPRISA in Durban, South Africa. During the next year, Ms. Bebell, interested in the bigger, more global picture of disease, worked as a Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellow with Dr. Phil
“I gained valuable experience in clinical research, was exposed to the field of international health, and got to live in a beautiful country and meet many wonderful people.”
Rosenthal and Dr. Grant Dorsey at UCSF as mentors. Ms. Bebell focused on an epidemiological project to determine the interactions between malaria and HIV in Uganda. “This was a fantastic and really interesting project, because in addition to the interesting scientific issues, I also got to travel around rural Uganda for six months,” says Ms. Bebell. Her work in Uganda was published in Journal of AIDS last December.
    Tom Karnezis’08 also spent a year performing clinical research as a Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellow. Under mentor Joseph Haddad Jr., M.D., the Lawrence Savetsky Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery and head of pediatric otolaryngology at P&S, Mr. Karnezis focused his project on the genetic evaluation of non-syndromic cleft lip and palate in Honduran families with two or more affected members. Mr. Karnezis spent approximately two months in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and collected blood samples and pedigrees from families that were disproportionately affected with orofacial clefts. Back in New York City, Mr. Karnezis focused on laboratory work and a database for study participants.
Meena George patching a pyramidal neuron in region CA1 of the hippocampus
Meena George patching a pyramidal neuron in region CA1 of the
Meena George, an M.D.-Ph.D. student, works in the laboratories of Laurence F. Abbott, Ph.D., the William Bloor Professor of Theoretical New Science (in physiology & cellular biophysics and in the Center for Neurobiology & Behavior), and Steven Siegelbaum, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology. He is exploring the effects of the hyperpolarization-activated current on the excitability of CA1 pyramidal neurons. During his first two years of research, Mr. George used computational modeling to predict how a depolarizing current like Ih can have inhibitory effects via interplay with other ionic currents. Mr. George is now doing experiments to test these theoretical predictions using slice electrophysiology.
    Kathleen McManus’10, spent last summer performing research through the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Summer Fellowship for Medical Students. Working with Dr. Andrei Holodny, chief of the neuroradiology service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering as her mentor, Ms. McManus interviewed tumor patients and analyzed their fMRI studies. The majority of her time was spent working on papers concerning the dispersion of gadolinium contrast in MRI studies as well as fMRI studies involving agenesis of the corpus callosum. “This project was extremely interesting and exposed me to many different specialties, including neuroradiology, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, and surgical neuromonitoring,” Ms. McManus says.