BWH Neurosciences Research Center (NRC) Internship Program

The BRI Neurosciences Research Center (NRC) Internship Program is seeking motivated students interested in pursuing biomedical research on the nervous system and respective disorders at the molecular, cellular, anatomical, translational and functional levels.

Internship programs at the BRI will provide undergraduate students with a focused and challenging summer research training experience in a cutting-edge science laboratory based out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

NRC INVESTIGATOR RESEARCH SUMMARIES

Alexandra Golby, MD

Associate Professor of Neurosurgery

Brigham & Women’s Hospital

Lab Website

Dr. Alexandra J. Golby is a Neurosurgeon and Director of Image-guided Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Professor of Neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School. She is also Principal Investigator at Golby Lab, a surgical brain mapping laboratory at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Golby has special clinical interests in epilepsy and brain tumors, and her research at the Golby Lab focuses on functional brain mapping using a variety of techniques to guide neurosurgical planning and intra-operative decision making. Novel techniques are used to define functional brain anatomy for surgical planning and to increase basic science knowledge of  how the brain is organized and how it may reorganize. The Golby Lab brings together extraordinary scientists working collaboratively to advance the field of image-guided surgery and functional brain imaging. By developing brain mapping techniques to better understand the functional anatomy of the brain and applying these techniques to surgical planning and in the operating room, Dr. Golby and her team are ensuring healthier outcomes and improving the quality of life for patients with brain tumors and epilepsy.

Several techniques exist that are able to take detailed pictures of the brain’s anatomy and of the brain in action. These functional brain mapping techniques include functional MRI (fMRI), diffusion tensor imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation, electrocorticography, and others. Using these techniques, a road map revealing some of the critical areas of the brain, such as areas responsible for movement, sensation, and speech, can be made. Mapping techniques, like neurosurgery techniques, have become progressively less invasive,  less risky, and less painful for patients, There is now an opportunity to obtain images from more areas of the brain, in more types of patients (including children), under a greater variety of circumstances. As part of their work, Dr. Golby’s team combines information from multiple brain mapping methods to obtain the most reliable and complete data, overcoming the strengths and weaknesses intrinsic to different methods capturing different types of information.

Another area of investigation is in addressing the fundamental challenge of oncologic surgery which is to remove the full extent of cancerous tumor while sparing surrounding tissue.  This imperative is particularly acute in brain tumor surgery since the surrounding tissue may harbor critical brain function and tumor tissue often cannot be visually distinguished from healthy brain tissue.  Thus we are developing methods that are able to characterize the histologic and molecular features of the tissue in near real time to guide surgery.

Melissa A. St. Hilaire, PhD

Instructor of Medicine

Brigham & Women’s Hospital

The Circadian Physiology Program in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders (PI: Steven Lockley, Ph.D.; co-investigators: Melissa St. Hilaire, Ph.D. and Shadab Rahman, Ph.D.) focuses on basic and applied aspects of human circadian biology. Our translational approach includes a range of techniques including epidemiology, field-based physiological studies, inpatient intensive physiological monitoring, and mathematical modeling. We have a particular interest in human circadian photoreception and the effects of light on the circadian pacemaker and other non-image forming responses. Our studies include investigations of the effects of timing, duration, intensity and wavelength of light exposure on circadian resetting, melatonin suppression and the acute alerting effects of light, including several projects underway studying these effects in crewmembers during long-duration space missions. We have also recently begun to examine biomarkers of individual vulnerabilities to sleep loss using machine learning and metabolomics approaches.

Ursula B. Kaiser, MD

Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Brigham & Women’s Hospital

Dr. Kaiser is a physician-scientist and leader in the fields of neuroendocrinology and pituitary biology, with a strong background in basic and translational research. She has an active research program focused on the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying the neuroendocrine control of reproductive development and function, with a particular emphasis on the mechanisms regulating physiologic and pathophysiologic GnRH and gonadotropin production. These studies include research focused on G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and their cognate ligands involved in the neuroendocrine control of human reproduction. Early in her career, she cloned and characterized the GnRHR, identified its chromosomal localization, and elucidated its signaling mechanisms.  She was among the first to study the effects of human mutations in the GnRHR on its cell surface expression, ligand binding, and signaling capacity to activate LH and FSH. A major focus of her research has been to elucidate the mechanisms underlying GnRH pulse frequency-dependent differential regulation of gonadotropin gene expression and thereby LH and FSH synthesis and secretion, relevant to reproductive disorders in women such as hypothalamic amenorrhea and polycystic ovarian syndrome.  In more recent years, she has studied loss-of-function mutations identified in KISS1R, PROKR2, and NK3R in patients with disorders of GnRH production. This translational research has traversed from clinical observations to investigation in mouse models to laboratory studies, to elucidate the molecular and biological underpinnings of these disorders. More recently, using whole exome sequencing in patients with familial central precocious puberty, she identified novel loss-of-function variants in the gene MKRN3, a gene not previously linked to pubertal physiology and suggested to act as an inhibitory “brake” for GnRH release. Her prior studies have included generation and stereotaxic injection of viral vectors into murine hypothalamic nuclei in vivo, with subsequent phenotypic and biochemical characterization of the mice. She has successfully mentored over 30 students, fellows and other trainees, many of whom have gone on to independent academic faculty positions.

Andrew J. K. Phillips, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine

Brigham & Women’s Hospital

My research focuses on the development of mathematical models of the neurophysiological systems that regulate sleep and circadian rhythms, as well as analytical/statistical methods for analyzing sleep and circadian rhythms data, both in the lab and the real world. Current areas of interest include the effects of chronic sleep restriction on performance, feedback between an individual’s behavioral choices and their sleep/circadian system, and the impacts of irregular sleep.

Tracy Young-Pearse, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neurology

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Lab Website

The Young-Pearse lab aims to understand the in vivo functions of certain genes identified in neurodegenerative and developmental disorders of the human brain such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, lissencephaly, autism and mental retardation.  They use a variety of molecular and biochemical techniques in conjunction with modeling in rodents and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to understand the normal and pathological functions of genes involved in these disorders. By elucidating the normal functions and mechanisms of action of these genes and how mutations cause pathology, there is the potential to better understand both the fundamental causes of these devastating diseases and the normal development and functioning of the brain.

IMPORTANT DATES & DEADLINES

Applications Close: February 6th, 2017
Decisions Announced: early March 2017
Program Dates for Internship:  June 5, 2017 – August 11, 2017

Eligibility
  • Applicants must be a US citizen or non-citizen national with a permanent residence visa.
  • Any year student from any university are encouraged to apply, but only applicants currently enrolled in a four-year undergraduate program will be considered.
  • Previous research experience in a biological laboratory is desirable, but not required.
Application

To be considered for participation in the NRC Summer Internship Program applicants are expected to provide:

  • A resume or curriculum vitae.
  • A copy of your transcripts to date.
  • A personal statement describing in <500 words:
    • Your educational and professional goals.
    • How participation in the NRC Summer Internship Program will assist in meeting your goals.
    • Your qualifications and reasons for wishing to participate in this program.
  • Two letters of recommendation and the contact information of two references.
  • The names of the top three researchers you would most like to work with.

Instructions on how to apply and a link to the online application form can be found on this page.

Compensation

A modest stipend will be given to all accepted applicants to help offset any travel or housing costs related to the internship.

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