CA senior Sophie Dornstein presents the research she conducted into focused ultrasound applications during her summer 2022 InSPIRE internship.

Through Concord Academy’s InSPIRE (Interested Students Pursuing Internship Research Experiences) program, CA students have a chance to contribute to ongoing research at some of the Boston area’s leading scientific institutions. Over the summer, four CA seniors from the class of 2023—Shahin Aliabadi, Sophie Dornstein, Isabella Ginsburg, and Jay Talwar—were matched with mentors in their fields of interest. They gained invaluable hands-on experience while furthering scientific investigation into schizophrenia, focused ultrasound technologies, and surgical robotics. On October 19, they presented their research to their peers, faculty, and staff at CA.

Isabella and Shahin both worked at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Genomic Medicine in the lab of Roy Perlis P’22 ’24, which focuses on developing cellular models of brain disease to identify novel treatments. Shahin worked to visualize microglial synaptic-pruning activity, which, in excess, is theorized to contribute to schizophrenia. Isabella’s team isolated the stimuli of synaptosomes within human brain cells to demonstrate that drug treatments, rather than the brain itself, caused observable changes. At CA, Isabella said she was thrilled by the chance to work with real human tissue—brain cells derived from skin cells. “We know it’s applicable to humans, because we used real human cells, not monkey cells or mice cells,” she said with great excitement.

CA senior Isabella Ginsberg discusses her research methodologies.
CA senior Jay Talwar talks about the surgical model he created.

Sophie was placed in the Focused Ultrasound Laboratory of Nicholas Todd ’95 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. She helped test two vectors for delivering gene therapies by disrupting the blood-brain barrier—a natural protective mechanism that can limit doctors’ ability to treat diseases of the brain. She contributed to statistical analysis that compared the effectiveness and safety profiles of two treatments, demonstrating promise for the future optimization of focused ultrasound technology.

In Nobuhiko Hata’s Surgical Navigation and Robotics Laboratory, also at Brigham and Women’s, Jay contributed to research into robot-assisted surgery to diagnose and treat kidney stones. He created a machine-learning model to automate the process of segmentation, or diagnostic medical image dying, of the kidney, a manual process that takes considerable time. The best part of the experience for him was how helpful each of his mentors were. “I could ask basic questions, and they were all really willing to help,” he said. “It was inspiring. The professor always had his door open to talk.”

CA students interested in directly contributing to scientific knowledge while gaining research experience can apply for the InSPIRE program during the spring semester of their junior year.

Calling New Mentors

Do you work in science or computer science at a university or corporation? If you would welcome a CA intern into your lab next summer, please email science teacher James Booth.

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