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Summer Program Brings Budding Researchers to Campus

August 30, 2018
Associate Professor Yael Arbel talks with Harvard student Jared Sullivan about his poster at the completion of the intern program.
Associate Professor Yael Arbel talks with Harvard student Jared Sullivan about his poster at the completion of the intern program.

They came this summer to MGH Institute of Health Professions on a mission: to learn how to put theory into practice.

A cohort of 19 undergraduate, graduate, and high school students spent seven weeks assisting MGH Institute researchers with their work. Working at the Center for Health and Rehabilitation Research on the MGH Institute’s Navy Yard campus, the budding researchers and health care workers assisted several principal investigators on and did tasks big and small including data management, literature review, and data analysis.

“I’ve always been interested in the brain, so this gave me a chance to gain experience that I didn’t get in the classroom,” said Jared Sullivan, a biomedical engineering major at Harvard University who worked with Dr. Yael Arbel, associate professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders who is co-director of the Cognitive Neuroscience Group. “I hope to apply what I’ve learned here when I go back to college.”

For Arbel, having several students assist her and fellow CNG director Dr. Lauryn Zipse on projects met short- and long-term goals. “While they didn’t have any clinical experience, the interns brought unique set of skills that we could use in the lab,” said Arbel. “But more importantly, the internship was a way to get them interested in the application of what they’ve been studying in class and to ignite in them an excitement about research so that they consider becoming researchers after they graduate”.”

Arbel noted that the undergraduates also inspired several MGH Institute students who participated – Emily Feeley, Maria Galassi, and Gwen Meredith, who are in the Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology program, and Jasmine Urqhart, who is in the PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences program.

Other IHP researchers who mentored interns were Dr. Joanna Christodoulou (BEAM Lab), associate professor of communication sciences and disorders; Dr. Jordan Green (Speech and Feeding Disorders Lab), Matina Souretis Horner Professor in Rehabilitation Sciences and director of research; and Teresa Kimberley (Brain Recovery Lab), professor of physical therapy.

Several of the college students were part of Brigham and Women’s Community Student Success jobs program, which has placed interns at the Institute in summer. Students from the program were Angelica Castillo (Boston University), Destiny Miles (University of Massachusetts Boston), Lantharra Langlois (Brandeis University), Amiena Mohammed (MCPHS University), Esther Marie Stephens (Northeastern University), and Ygor Oliveira (University of Massachusetts Amherst).

Diana Hernandez, who is studying applied psychology and human development at Boston College, is a graduate of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Youth Program. The other students in the program were Lily Hitelman (New York University), Ashwin Panda (Carnegie Mellon University), Claire Pernat (Tufts University), Alexa Puleio (Union College), and Hunter Rice (Cornell University). Three Winchester High School students, Alex Cumming, Aidan Kimberley, and Jacob Kimberley, also participated.

While this was Anamika Duta’s first time as an intern, she was familiar with similar programs, having worked as a counselor at a STEM camp while in high school. A psychology major at the College of the Holy Cross, Duta’s created a poster based on a literature review of test instructions in implicit learning tasks. “It was cool to learn the mechanisms of how people learn,” she said.

At the program’s end, the interns presented posters that included topics such as “Is Attention Necessary for Implicit Learning” (Castillo), “Cortical Reorganization in Sighted and Blind Braille Readers” (Hernandez), and “Speed and Volume of Lower Lip Movement in Individuals with Facial Transplantation” (Langlois).

“The interns put a lot of time and effort into preparing and presenting their posters,” said Arbel. “It was rewarding to observe them share what they’ve learned with their peers and with the IHP students and faculty.

Link to photo album.