For those research staff and faculty who are looking to gain practical experience or expertise in a technology or method not otherwise available at BU, the BU CTSI awards funding for mini-sabbaticals at other institutions. Annually, the BU CTSI will announce a call for applications and select three to be awarded. Applicants must be planning to learn a new or advanced technique or method, either within or outside their field of study. For example, a researcher introduced an animal model of bariatric surgery to BU and a physical therapy faculty member, creating an ongoing collaboration using a technique not available at BU, dual fluoroscopy of hip femoroacetabular impingement, to evaluate rehabilitation strategies. Applicants must make prior arrangements with an external sponsor who is willing to commit to collaborating making your mini-sabbatical possible. Applications will be reviewed by Drs. Felson, Bair-Merritt, Center and Saitz and awarded based on the goals for the sabbatical and whether certain arrangements are in place. Although other institutions award mini-sabbaticals only to faculty, and primarily KL2 scholars, the BU CTSI has joined with other CTSIs to provide evaluation data on mini-sabbaticals to conduct our own reviews. In the last 3.5 years, we have awarded 16 mini-sabbaticals. Most recipients were staff project managers (4 awardees) and faculty (5 awardees).
BU CTSI Funds Four Mini-Sabbaticals in 2020
Anna Belkina, MD, PhD, is a scientist with extensive research experience and interest in the fields of immunology and bioinformatics and with 10+ years of experience investigating immune changes associated with the chronic infectious and autoimmune diseases, including HIV, cancer, systemic sclerosis, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and periodontal disease. Her most recent research is focused on the intersection of immunology and computational biology and the development of computational techniques to assess high-parameter single cell cytometry data. As an Associate Director of the Flow Cytometry Core Facility at BUSM, she has been deeply involved in the international cytometry community activities, including novel method development and educational outreach. Dr. Belkina will use the mini-sabbatical funds to support her advanced training in high-parameter imaging data analysis at the Flow Cytometry and Cellular Imaging Facility (FCCIF) at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The FCCIF is under the management of Dr. Jared Burks, an acknowledged educator in the IMC field and presenter at multiple regional and national meetings. Dr. Burks has agreed to provide in person training/shadowing to Dr. Belkina and her team on IMC best practices, specifically those addressing data analysis strategies that facilitate generation of reproducible data in translational research. Her goal is to integrate data analysis principles developed at MD Anderson FCCIF into the bioinformatics backbone of methodologies that is currently being composed for the IMC analysis platform at BUSM. Altogether, this will allow her to leverage IMC potential to uncover new insights in health and disease and eventually to deliver better predictive and personalized approaches to patient care.
Deborah Lang, PhD, Dr. Lang and other laboratory members will visit and participate in hand-on research with host PI Robert A. Cornell, PhD at the University of Iowa for a CTSI sponsored mini sabbatical. This sabbatical opportunity will be invested in learning the cistrome analysis technique, Cleavage Under Targets and Release Using Nuclease (CUT&RUN), an innovative advancement on the non-biased screen for a genomic enhancer method known as ChIP-seq (next generation sequencing chromatin immunoprecipitation). This method will reveal novel enhancers and gene targets. CUT&RUN is an efficient identification method for revealing transcription factor binding sites, and compared to standard methods, is more robust, requires significantly less starting material, takes less time, avoids problems of crosslinking and solubility issues, and since cells do not initially need to be disassociated the protein-DNA complexes are more likely maintained in a native state. Overall, this method will be a quicker and more robust method for discovering unique pathways in how genes are expressed and regulated.
The Lang and Cornell laboratory have an active collaboration involving animal models and more standard cistromic methods, such as ChIP-seq. CUT&RUN is a great advance forward and will accelerate the shared goals of both laboratories; namely, uncovering roles of developmental transcription factors in melanoma initiation and progression. While these factors are normally expressed in developing and mature melanocytes, aberrant expression of these transcriptional coregulators is found in cancer and drive cell growth, migration, and survival.
Reza Jafarzadeh, DVM, MPVM, PhD, will use his award to go to UC Berkeley where he will spend 4 weeks working closely with Dr. Mark van der Laan, a Professor and an Endowed Chair in Biostatistics, and world leading expert in Targeted Learning. Targeted Learning is a novel causal inference methodology that can use observational data to simulate a randomized trial to address complex hypotheses involving time-varying interventions or optimize interventions to develop Individualized Treatment Regimens. These methods are very useful in clinical practice. For example, the decision to prescribe an intervention, e.g., a physical activity regimen for a patient with osteoarthritis may not be known in advance and may depend on pain level, physical function, and other interventions (e.g., pain medications).
Learning novel causal inference methods and techniques will allow Dr. Jafarzadeh to develop methods to optimize interventions in osteoarthritis patients, for whom it is aimed to decelerate disease progression or could reduce the risk of joint replacement.
Phillip Desrochers, PhD, is an expert in quantifying the neural control of human movement in both healthy people and those with movement disorders. His background in measuring human movement includes robotics, motion capture, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and electroencephalography. He has employed these techniques to examine the neural control of upper limb coordination in both healthy people and patients with a movement disorder called cervical dystonia. Dr. Desrochers will use the mini-sabbatical funds to support two one-week visits to Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. During these visits, he will develop a task utilizing wearable sensor technology that will evaluate how people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) make online corrections during lower limb movements when faced with obstacles in their environment. The manner in which PD patients respond to a changing environment with their lower limbs will provide key insights regarding neuromotor processes related to falls and tripping among PD patients and inform therapeutic strategies and interventions to help prevent falls in this population. In addition to advancing his postdoctoral training and career trajectory, this project will also foster an extended collaboration between the Motor Development Lab at Boston University and the interdisciplinary Consortium on Advanced Motion Performance at Baylor College of Medicine. Furthermore, this will prepare Dr. Desrochers to run his own lab following his postdoctoral training. His long-term goal is to build a programmatic line of research to study neural mechanisms of motor disability and devise innovative rehabilitation methods to slow or improve motor degeneration for these patients. This line of research is well suited to a translational clinical science approach that will have substantial impact on individuals with movement disorders.
BU CTSI Mini-Sabbaticals Funded in 2015 - 2019
Matthew Applegate, Postdoctoral Associate: Dr. Applegate worked with Professors Hendon and Roblyer in their Lab at Columbia University exploring research on: Combined Near-infrared Spectroscopy and Optical Coherence Tomography probe for breast tumor margin assessment.
Robin Ingalls, Professor of Medicine: Dr. Ingalls worked with Dr.Darville of North Carolina School of Medicine to broaden her research on: Biologic factors to predict infection concordance between sex partners
Julie Mottl-Santiagov, Director, Midwifery, Assistant Professor: Dr. Mottl-Santiagov visited a scholar at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management to develop economic evaluation skills using data from the Best Beginnings for Babies evaluation.
Cara Lewis, MS, PhD, Associate Professor, Sargent College: Dr. Lewis investigated how osteokinematic movement patterns affect arthrokinematics of the hip joint. She previously collected data to evaluate how differences in movement patterns correlate with differences in hip joint arthrokinematics.
Timothy Naimi, MD, MPH, Associate Professor, SPH: Dr. Naimi pursued a mini-sabbatical with the Center for Addictions Research of British Columbia. He worked with Drs. Timothy Stockwell and Jinhui Zhao who are leading experts in life course analysis and the use of longitudinal cohort data.
Ioannis Paschalidis, MS, PhD, Professor Biomolecular Engineering: Dr. Paschalidis spent his time at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) collaborating with groups specializing in medical informatics.
Thomas Balon, PhD, is Director of the Metabolic Phenotyping and In Vivo Imaging core for the Department of Medicine. For the past three years, Dr. Balon has provided services to more than 20 different laboratories in overseeing the Metabolic Phenotyping and In Vivo Imaging core. The majority of these services involved the operation of state-of-the-art calorimetry and imaging apparatuses with their associated accessories to characterize preclinical models of disease and experimental interventions. During the Mini-Sabbatical, Dr. Balon visited the laboratory of Dr. Randy Seeley at the University of Michigan. Dr. Seeley is a world-renowned expert in the area of bariatric surgery in rodent models. In an initial week-long visit, he was introduced to the intricacies of Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) surgery for rats.
Mart Dela Cruz: Dr. Cruz used the BU mini-sabbatical award to further develop the work he performed in his group’s breast cancer-exercise system by presenting and participating at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium 2016. The symposium was estimated to attract over 7500 attendees from over 90 countries. The main objectives were to develop a more in depth understanding of Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) biology through attending courses and sessions, and interacting with experts in this field to initiate and develop collaborations. TNBC is an aggressive disease afflicting up to 1/5th of breast cancer cases in the US. The innovation of better treatment options is urgently needed as limited and ineffective therapies are the only option.
Graham Voysey: Dr Voysey spent the duration of his sabbatical at the Auditory Neuroplasticity Lab at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI). He studied the mechanisms and therapeutic potentials of brain plasticity for hearing with Dr. Daniel Polley and his colleagues at the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories. MEEI is a world-class research institution, and is the premiere teaching hospital for otolaryngology, speech disorders and hearing. Since 1958, it has been a defining center of development for hearing aids and cochlear implants, and a leader in translational research in many areas of hearing and deafness. Pioneering work is done there in the origins of hearing disorders, the function of the auditory system, and the development of new therapeutic and adaptive technologies.
Thamarah Crevecoeur, MS: Dr. Crevecoeur was awarded a mini-sabbatical for her project titled “Determining & Implementing Strategies that Favor High Fidelity in Clinical Practice among Medical Practitioners and Community Health Workers after Training in Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI), Riviere Froide, Haiti”. As a Haitian-American nurse midwife, with the appropriate language skills and ample field experience in the areas of midwifery and Neonatal Resuscitation Training, she witnessed firsthand the tragic effects of childhood illness and death in the community. Furthermore, as a DrPH candidate in the BU School of Public Health, she was granted the opportunity to work part-time as a member of the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) team on the Medicines for Humanity Riviere Froide project.