Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Shadowing Neurosurgery And Researching Liver Regeneration

Joshua Seidman, a Biology major in the Verrazano Class of 2016, had the opportunity to shadow a surgeon and participate in undergraduate research during the summer after his freshman year.  Read below for more details about Joshua's experience.

Joshua (far right) with fellow researchers
My name is Joshua Seidman and I am currently a Verrazano student in the Class of 2016. I am pursuing a BS degree in Biology with hopes of attending medical school after I graduate. It is no surprise that to attend medical school students must do well in school as well as complete internships and research positions.

During the summer of 2013, right before I started my sophomore year, I was blessed with two major opportunities.  The first opportunity was to shadow a surgeon for a week at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.  I met the surgeon through one of my father’s coworkers. This was pretty exciting, since it’s not everyday people get a chance to watch neurosurgery.  I arrived not knowing what to expect, yet I was more anxious than ever before. I had been in the operating room many times before, but I never had a chance to see surgery like this.

When it was time for the first surgery, we walked into the operating room and the surgeon started to tell me what was going to happen during the procedure.  He explained to me that when people have a disease such as Parkinson’s Disease or Tourette’s Syndrome, they have uncontrolled muscle spasms that prevent them from doing everyday tasks. He continued to explain that over time the muscle spasms progress and get worse, so medication that worked originally will stop working and leave the patient with few options for treatment. However, this procedure that he was about to do would really help the patient. The procedure was to implant a Deep Brain Stimulator into the patient’s brain in order to decrease the frequency and amplitude of these muscle spasms.

So what is a Deep Brain Stimulator?  It’s a device that disrupts the electrical signals being sent to the brain that are causing these spasms and prevents them from occurring involuntarily. But how do they implant the stimulator? First they scan the patient’s head and get measurements for a mold that can be put onto their head. This mold will then act as a map and map out exactly where the stimulator should be placed. Once the mold is in place it shows the doctors exactly where to make the holes in the skull in order so that they can implant the stimulator.  Once the two holes are drilled, they then attach the stimulator to the mold around the patient’s head and have it slowly implanted. A machine slowly inserts the stimulator while a computer displays the brain waves and amplifies their sounds. Based on comparison to normal brain waves, doctors can then tell when they have reached the correct location for the stimulator. Once it is in place, they remove the mold and they put caps in the holes of the skull in order to close it. Lastly, they create a tunnel under the patient’s skin from the top of their head, down their neck, and to their chest. They then feed the stimulator wires through the tunnel. Once the wires have reached the chest they make a small incision and hook the wires to a small battery that will stay in the patient’s chest. Once the patient is sutured up, they turn on the stimulator and the patient will start to feel relief immediately.  Seeing this procedure was truly fascinating.

During that week, I also viewed a surgery for chronic lower back pain and a brain tumor assessment, but my favorite experience was watching the surgeon remove an abscess in a patient’s brain.   An abscess is a collection of pus due to the inflammatory response to an infection.  In order to remove it the doctor had to drill through the skull and remove the skull cap. Than they slowly had to maneuver around the cranial nerves and major blood vessels in order to get a sample of the pus to determine what kind of bacterial infection they were dealing with. Once they removed a majority of the pus they were able to get a sample and determine that they can get rid of the bacterial infection with antibiotics.  It was incredible!

The second opportunity I had was to participate in research for six weeks at NYU. The lab primarily researched pancreatic cancer and liver regeneration.  I was paired up with a scientist who was researching liver regeneration, so I didn’t really deal with the pancreatic research until the end of my internship.  The purpose of our research was to investigate how the liver regenerates itself and potentially find a way to increase the rate in order to save patients who have severe hepatitis C and/or liver disease.

When I arrived they explained to me that their ongoing research showed that there was a ligand, a substance that forms a complex with a biomolecule to serve a biological purpose, that would potentially increase the rate that the liver can regenerate itself. The specific ligand we were dealing with was called Zymosan.

So how did we test to see if this was a step in right direction? In order to test it, we did what was called a hepatectomy. What this means is that we would surgically remove three of the five lobes of  mice livers. Then before we sutured up the mice, we injected three of the six mice with the ligand. The next step was to wait about 36 hours, and we then removed the rest of their liver and sent it to a company that made us slides.  The information we collected from the slides allowed us to compare the number of cells between the livers of the three mice that didn’t receive the ligand and the three that did.

Towards the end of my research experience, I did work a few days with another scientist who was working on creating a model of pancreatic cancer in mice that resembled pancreatic cancer in humans. This has never been done before, because when humans get pancreatic cancer it causes connective tissue deposits to form which creates a fibrous like tumor. However, in mice they don’t get this fibrous tumor. Every day we injected a number of mice with a certain type of injection that actually created this fibrous tumor. This is the first time anyone has created a perfect model of pancreatic cancer in mice.

There is definitely a lot more to be said about my summer experiences, but I had to pick and choose what I felt was necessary to mention. If anyone has any questions feel free to contact me. I hope this post interested you and I hope it inspired you to go out and make a difference through research or any other outlet that allows you to help change the world one step at a time.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Exploring History: An Undergraduate Research Fellowship Experience

Adriane Musacchio, a student in the Verrazano Class of 2015 who is completing majors in History/Adolescent Education and Dramatic Arts, was awarded an Undergraduate Research Fellowship over the summer.  Read below to learn more about the very interesting work that Adriane has been doing through the fellowship!


My name is Adriane Musacchio and I am a Verrazano Honors Student in the Class of 2015. I am currently pursuing a BA in History/Secondary Education and a BS in Dramatic Arts. Last semester I enrolled in Seminar in Advanced Historical Study (HST401) with Professor Zara Anishanslin. In this research seminar, I wrote a paper based on primary and secondary sources. The topic of my final research paper was how the Patriots influenced the intellect of women during the American Revolution. Once this class had finished, Professor Anishanslin thought that I would be interested in applying for the CSI Undergraduate Research Fellowship. If I got accepted into this fellowship I would become the research assistant for her book, which focuses on a 1765 portrait of a colonial merchant’s wife in a silk dress. Since this sounded like an exciting and interesting project, I applied for the fellowship and was accepted this past June.

As a recipient of the Undergraduate Research Fellowship, I worked alongside Professor Zara Anishanslin as her research assistant for her book, Fashioning Empire. The History Series at Yale University Press will be releasing Fashioning Empire in Fall 2015.

Although I am still assisting Professor Anishanslin with her research, I have completed many different tasks thus far. The biggest task that I have completed was coming up with an image log sheet for all of the images that will be used in Fashioning Empire. On this log sheet I included the name of each image, artists names, price quotes for each image, contact information of the institutions that hold the images, .tiff image files, .pdf permission forms, and whether or not permission rights have been granted. The institutions that I have been in touch with regarding gaining the reproduction rights of images include the Winterthur Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Library Company of Philadelphia, National Trust, Natural History Museum (London), Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Rhode Island Historical Society, American Philosophical Society, Newark Museum, Wichita Museum of Art, the de Young Museum, The Huntington Library and Museum, Albany Institute of History and Art, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Atwater Kent Museum, Philadelphia Landmarks Commission, Rhode Island Historical Society, Harvard Law, Harvard University, and Yale University. In order to gain image permissions from each institution, I had to provide information about the book as well as information about the publication. This image log sheet will be submitted to Yale University Press this fall, before Professor Anishanslin submits the book for publication.

As Professor Anishanslin’s research assistant, I have also fact checked and researched eighteenth-century primary sources, images in museums, online history collections, and other information accessed through different archives. Some of my fact checking was done by ordering off-site primary sources to the New York Public Library and the Butler Library at Columbia University. For example, I ordered microfilms of the Boston Newsletter and Boston Gazette, The Antiquarian magazine, History of the Baptist Church of Oyster Bay, Long Island by Charles S. Wrightman, and Extracts from the Court Books of the Weavers’ Company of London. I mainly used these research materials to confirm information having to do with Robert Feke, Simon Julins, eighteenth-century paintings, and Queen Victoria. In addition to this, I helped locate an 18th-century probate inventory taken of Charles Apthorp’s estate, located the probate inventory of Thomas Willing, found information on Judah Hayes and Queen Caroline, came to the conclusion that the painting that once hung above the fire mantle at the Rock Hall Museum was a fake copy of Landscape, by Robert Feke, and located the wills of Reverend Ephraim Garthwaite, Reverend Robert Dannye, Thomas Willing, and Anne Willing.

I am so grateful that I was chosen to receive the 2014 Undergraduate Research Award. Gaining image permissions, fact checking, and researching eighteenth-century primary sources has been intellectually rewarding. Not only have I been able to make connections with professionals in my field of interest, but I have also been exposed to many different career options in the field of public history.