The Institute’s research enterprise—the fastest-growing within Mass General Brigham—now has state-of-the-art laboratories to help researchers continue to improve people’s lives and educate future clinicians.

Earlier this year, MGH Institute opened the doors of its brand-new, 35,000-square-foot research space at One Constitution Wharf. Equipped with labs and offices designed to serve faculty and student researchers across campus, the new facility is the culmination of more than a decade of research growth and a step into the future of research innovations.

"The thing I’m most proud of is what is going to happen in this space,” Denis Stratford, the IHP’s chief operating officer, says. “It’s the synergy. It’s having professors conducting research that can be moved into clinics to help clients. It’s helping to advance the Institute’s mission.” 

That means supporting interprofessional work, which is why a key feature of these labs is their flexibility. The previous space was originally designed to support the research of a few faculty, primarily in the Speech & Feeding Disorders and the Speech & Language Literacy (SAIL) labs. Now, through collaboration with researchers in other disciplines, the new space’s flexible design will support the work of the Institute’s almost 20 labs in the same square footage while enabling the expansion of labs such as the Cognitive Neuroscience Group (CNG), Brain, Education, and Mind (BEAM) Lab, Brain Recovery Lab, and Hearing Research Lab, among others. 

Its offices are designed to encourage interactions among students, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty so that casual conversations can lead to creative collaborations. And just across the parking lot is the Dr. Charles A. and Ann Sanders IMPACT Practice Center, putting researchers close to the faculty clinicians and students who work with clients. That way, a client who comes to the Aphasia Center, for example, might be connected to a research project that could benefit and improve the quality of their life.

“Again, it’s the synergy this space creates,” Stratford emphasizes. “The eventual outcome of our faculty’s research is that it’s improving people’s lives while it’s also informing how we educate future clinicians.”

Rooted in the IHP’s Mission 

The seeds of the new research facility were planted in 2013. That’s when the IHP’s Board of Trustees decided to make a transformational investment in the school’s research mission by starting the school’s first PhD program and hiring speech-language pathologists Dr. Jordan Green and Dr. Tiffany Hogan as the school’s first full-time research scientists. Green, director of the Speech and Feeding Disorders Lab, has conducted research with Google to develop tools to recognize the words spoken by people with disordered speech, such as stroke survivors. Hogan, director of the SAiL Lab, studies the genetic, neurologic, and behavioral links between oral and written language development, with a focus on language and literacy disorders. Hogan also works with the Boston Public Schools to create more effective strategies for teaching students with learning disabilities. 

These hires sparked the expansion of research at the IHP, a blossoming of mentorships, more grant applications, new research centers, and seed funding for early-career faculty researchers. In 2019, Dr. Nara Gavini brought years of experience from his work at the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation to the school as the associate provost for research. 

“Research at the IHP is amazing,” Gavini says, “because it is focused on people. We’re not trying to find out what caused the stroke. There are thousands of papers on that. What we’re trying to do is discover how people can recover more quickly.” The results have been impressive—and exponential. When Green and Hogan arrived in 2013, the IHP’s research portfolio hovered around $500,000; by the end of 2023, the portfolio  had grown to more than $45 million. Similarly, in 2011, faculty published 26 research papers; 2023 saw 228 faculty research publications. 

“If you look at the rate of growth over the last few years,” Gavini says, “we are the fastest-growing research effort in the Massachusetts General Brigham system.”