Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ask, Ask Again!

I must admit, stepping onto HMS campus is a bit terrifying. That's a silly concept now that I have been here for a mere seven weeks. Since the program will soon be coming to a close, I will highlight what stood out for me the most.

Since this was my first lab experience, the trickiest obstacle I had was minuscule--handling a pipet. This shows how helpful and reassuring my lab mentors were. Although I never, at this point in my education, could understand the depth of knowledge thrown at me on a daily basis, the eagerness to listen to instructions, ask questions, ask questions, ask questions, and embrace failure goes very far in the lab. Did I mention asking questions? I can't say lab life is sunshine at every moment, for instance my first independent project failed again and again and again. But it is science. I admire the diligence scientists pursue their research with. It takes a special kind of person to put in laborious hours and string together tiny results into a glorious finding.

As laboratory research was my "job description" for the summer, FDSPR schedules special events for the students to attend. In a nut shell, we had inmate talks with highly regarded faculty and administrators who are passionately involved in medicine and scientific research. The spectrum of speakers ranged from Dean for Diversity and Community Partnership Dr. Joan Reede ( and Department of Genetics pioneer Cliff Tabin, Ph.D. ( I suggest future program participants to fully engage in these opportunities and again, ask questions. We also attended weekly sessions with our program director, Dr. Sequist (Tom, as he prefers). The objectives of our "talking circle" is to address our progress and maintain contact with each other during the weeks. Dr. Sequist also explains his research ( and tailors it to our interests, Native American health care disparities, during the talks. I suggest you again, ask questions because such critical information is covered and don't worry if you don't fully understand everything, Tom is more than willing to explain.

On the weekends, my time was spend between the FDSRP events for the students, exploring Boston, and lab work. Such outings included a trip to Harbor Islands, a BBQ with some program supporters, a Duck Boat Tour, and staying late after a Red Sox game to scope out Ellsbury. Boston is a wonderful city from its historical standpoint to its vibrant culture and future participants should make every effort to see the city. There can never be a dull moment. Also, make sure you check out the free events which is helpful when living on a budget.

I do not have the words for my appreciation to the program, Tom, Lisa, the STARS program, and my lab mentors. These 8 weeks have been the best experience of my career so far.

-Tristin Moone, 2011 FDSRP Participant
Columbia University

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

2 Week Recap

"The past two weeks have been getting down to business. I've been keeping longer hours, and I've put as little time as possible between scheduled experiments on my calendar. Last week I finally started my main project in earnest. Prior to this, I had been experimenting with my experiment -- 'dialing' in every last variable on my project to make sure everything would go as planned. I had many, many trial runs to see what worked and what worked even better.

This last week I produced my first 'final' results, which were notably better than any I had produced before for the iron chelation experiment I have been working on. My main experiment has me chelating iron from two different types of cells and looking at their reaction. The side-effect of having a project based on cells is that I got to learn how work-intensive cell culture really is. You don't just experiment on your subjects: you have to keep them alive and thriving too.

This next week holds the possibility of working with fish, which will be super exciting! I will also be finishing up my primary experiment with iron chelation. If it goes well, I may have time to do a follow-up experiment based on the results of my iron chelation experiment. The next experiment would still involve iron chelation, but it would be more targeted in applying my work to cigarettes. I will also be shadowing a surgery with a fellow Four Directions student. It will be my first surgery, so I hope I don't pass out!

My main experiment only comprises about half of what I do in the lab. I've been running and re-running a PCR for my post-doc. It hasn't worked after four tries, but it taught me a lot about science. I've also done DNA isolation, slide staining, and other activities that serve an auxiliary function in the projects of people in my lab.

Last week we had a marathon-length seminar on how to get into med school. I would be seriously disadvantaged if Dr. Sequist had not put all that information together for us. I had not realized how long and arduous medical school applications were.

If there is one activity you do in Boston, you should go to the Museum of Fine Arts. It is amazing. I went two weekends ago, but I only had a little time there. I want to go back again because there is so much there, including The Fog Warning by Winslow Homer! The Aquarium is also great -- be sure to watch an IMAX 3D movie there."

-2011 FDSRP Participant, Layton Lamsam

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Week 1 - Learning the Lab

Week 1
"This week was amazing. I have never done research before, so I was totally blown away by what was going on. I was also quite nervous (and still am a little). What struck me most is how little we know about biology. So many mechanisms are mysterious, and that is probably what I love the most. It's like the last frontier. I was also amazed at how complicated the processes of cells are. I have had high school biology, but I had no idea how complicated things can get until I started learning about signal transduction, macroautophagy, and apoptosis. Cells are almost like chaotic systems. It seems like there is a link in function between every protein and every organelle. The multipurpose nature of the cell parts result in an interconnectedness that keeps everyone guessing.

The techniques in the lab puzzle me a lot. Some are simple and "old school." Others are extremely complex, and it seems impossible that such advanced techniques exists. The other thing that surprised me was contamination. I was thinking we would have to wear bubble suits and manipulate samples with robotic arms (or something ridiculous like that). In the lab, that is so far from the truth. The precautions against contamination are actually straight forward and common sense. 

My PostDoc is also great. She maintains research at the highest level while still being down to earth. She is a great teacher and has my best interest in mind. What a great experience! Now next week is the start of my own projects..."

-2011 FDSRP Participant, Layton Lamsam on first week impressions from the lab

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Welcome to the 2011 Four Directions Students!

We hope you have been enjoying your first few days in the lab!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Opportunity to Understand Research and Medicine

"Four Directions is the first opportunity I've had to do research. I'm slightly nervous about being able to do scientific research, but I am extremely excited to see what research is actually like. I think the program will assure me of my choice to be a pre-med student and give me a realistic picture of what medicine is like. Related to that, a lot of medicine is a mystery to me right now, and I look forward to understanding what all of the different medical disciplines are. 

I'm looking forward to staying in Boston, doing lots of work, and having a great time!"

-Layton Lamsam on pre-program excitement and concerns
2011 FDSRP Participant
Stanford University

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why Blog?

We are always interested in keeping in touch with our alumni as well as prospective students. By spotlighting current participants, and catching up with old members, our goal is to provide everyone a way to really stay current with our program!  If you have anything to contribute to our blog let us know!

Alumni - If there is anything exciting that is going on with your career, schooling or achievements, let us know!  We would be more than excited to spotlight your accomplishments on our blog!

Prospective Students - Follow our blog to learn about upcoming deadlines, and current news about our program!
And finally - keep an eye out for our new website that is currently under way! We will let you know when it is up and running!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Increasing Access, Improving Care

Check out this interesting article about FDSRP Program Director, Thomas Sequist, and other doctors from Brigham and Women's Hospital, who are active in helping out Native American communities by volunteering at various Indian Health Service Hospitals. 

Their main focus is to tackle many health related issues that the Native American population currently faces by improving accessibility to physicians. 

Read it online here:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Coming Soon!

Please check back soon to find up-to-date information and events regarding Four Directions!