Research for Medical Students

As part of the NYU School of Medicine's "Curriculum for the 21st Century (C21)", medical students can engage in research projects with basic and/or clinical science faculty. Students choosing this option spend 12 weeks pursuing basic or translational science research under the mentorship of a faculty member.  For additional information on concentrations, please view the MD curriculum page.

The Skirball Institute offers opportunities for research in Basic, Clinical, or Translational Science - Type I Concentrations. Below is a list of Skirball Faculty currently offering research opportunities as part of this track.  This list will be updated as opportunities arise.  Please email faculty from this list directly to inquire about the research projet and opportunity, and to schedule a meeting.  If you are interested in working with a faculty member who is not listed below, please contact Julia Gelman.

Research Mentor Suggested Research

 

Robert Froemke

 

 

Neural circuitry of the central arousal and stress system.

The locus coeruleus is small brainstem region that controls arousal by releasing noradrenalin, essentially acting as the brain's 'alarm clock'. We have recently discovered that these neurons are highly plastic and can become sensitized to environmental signals previously linked to stressful situations (possibly similar to what occurs in cases of post-traumatic stress disorder). Also, new evidence indicates that this small but critical brain area is the first area damaged in Alzheimer's disease and that damage here leads to cognitive impairments in this condition.

Here we are interested in understanding the inputs and outputs of the locus coeruleus in adult rats. With a combination of electrophysiology, optogenetics and anatomical studies, the goal is to understand how sensory inputs are routed to this brainstem nucleus, modified by changes in experience, and how the targets of locus coeruleus projections are modulated by noradrenalin release. We will test the hypothesis that inputs from prefrontal cortex convey auditory information into the locus coeruleus and are rapidly modified when sensory experience is paired with locus coeruleus activation.

Oxytocin and long-term memory of social stimuli.

Oxytocin is a neuropeptide believed to be important for control of social behavior and pair bonding, like the relationship between parents and children. We have been examining the effects of oxytocin on the auditory cortex in a form of learned social behavior in female mice. Our studies suggest that oxytocin is a critical factor enabling parent animals to learn the significance of infant distress calls; however, the fundamental learning rules and circuits directly affected by oxytocin are unclear.

Here we aim to perform electrophysiological studies of synaptic transmission in the mouse auditory cortex in vivo and in vitro. Recordings will be used to assess the effects of oxytocin on synaptic excitation and inhibition evoked from different sources, as well as the long-term consequences of pairing specific forms of stimulation with oxytocin application or endogenous oxytocin release. We will test the hypothesis that intracortical inhibition is directly modulated and downregulated by oxytocin, gating the induction of long-term potentiation of excitatory inputs onto auditory cortical neurons.

 

 

E. Jane Hubbard

 

General description of research interests

Using established molecular, genetic, and imaging techniques, seeking students to participate in the following projects that use the germ line of C. elegans as a model. Carried out in conjunction with a postdoc in the lab, each project contributes to the understanding of the control of stem cells in vivo by conserved signaling pathways and their responses to cell-cell interactions, nutrition, the environment, and physiological changes:

Suggested research projects

1.     Identify and characterize genes required for the control of stem cell proliferation and differentiation.

2.     Generate and apply transgenic animals for induced cell ablation, cell-restricted gene expression and transcriptional profiling.

3.     Analyze specific compounds that act on conserved signaling pathways in this system.

 

Holger Knaut

 

 

Molecular Control of Early Head Mesoderm Development 

Cardiac and craniofacial malformations are the two most common categories of birth defects. The goal of this project will be to use in situ hybridization and immunostaining to describe early cardiac and cranial mesoderm patterning in wild type and mutant zebrafish.

 

Ruth Lehmann

 

Germ line stem cell biology

Making use of the ability to conduct large scale systematic RNAi screens, the aim of this project is to generate genomic mutations in genes identified in recent screens. We are particularly interested in genes acting in the germ line with a role in stem cell renewal and differentiation as well as transposable element control. The project will include use of CRISPR/Cas-mediated genome engineering to generate knockouts, reporter, and conditional alleles.

Analysis of germ line death and survival

Germ cells are more sensitive to irradiation than other cells in the body, but the underlying molecular mechanisms remain uncertain. We have identified genes in Drosophila that affect germ cell survival. This project will include a further characterization of these genes and placing them into the context of known death and survival strategies.

 

Jesús Torres-Vázquez

 

General description of research interests

The Torres-Vázquez lab studies the development of the vasculature using the transparent zebrafish embryo and cultured endothelial cells as model systems.  Techniques include confocal imaging, immunofluorescence, cell transplantation, analysis of gene expression, chemical and reverse genetics, gene missexpression, cell culture and biochemistry.  Students will work under the direct supervision of a Postdoctoral Fellow and the PI.

Suggested research projects

1. Vascular patterning by Semaphorin-Plexin signaling and its crosstalk with other cascades.

2. Molecular dissection of vascular lumen formation using candidate gene approaches.

3. Modulation of brain-specific vascularization by the tumor suppressor Reck.

4. Modeling heritable vascular malformations in the zebrafish using cutting-edge genome engineering approaches.