Building community, one neighborhood at a time

August 15, 2017

In spring, 2017, Khalid Shah and Tracy Young-Pearse were settled in their new research home in Brigham and Women’s ‘Building for Transformative Medicine’ on Fenwood Road. Like good neighbors, they were very eager to get to know their HSCI colleagues in the Longwood area. With the HIP interns about to arrive, they figured, why not build a community around these new arrivals to our research family?

Khalid and Tracy thus organized three meetings over the summer of 2017 bringing together HSCI PIs in the Longwood area along with their HIP interns. The PIs came to know each other better – and the interns benefited from interacting with a larger set of mentors. “There is a significant number of HSCI researchers here in the Longwood area, but we are spread over many departments/institutions – many of us have never had the opportunity to meet one another”, Tracy observed. “It was relatively easy to get a subset of the faculty onboard. Many who take interns want to provide them with a rich experience, and this was a way to expand their interactions across labs.”

Gabrielle Price, a rising junior at Spelman College and a 2017 HIP intern, found great value in these meetings. “These meetings allowed me to meet with fellow HSCI interns who were working in similar areas of research and provided me with the opportunity to network with a wide range of principal investigators who conduct stem cell research. Additionally, I learned about future career options and ways to prepare for a career in science and academia. They allowed me to get a more diverse perspective on routes to becoming a PI and ways in which I can advance as a young researcher.”

For Tracy, the experience also served to further her development as a mentor. “Seeing how other faculty mentor students, and their perspective on career development, is always quite useful. On occasion it is important to step outside of our labs and departments to get our own ‘continuing education’ in mentoring.”

Khalid moved to the BTM from MGH’s Charlestown campus when he assumed the role of Director of the Center for Stem Cell Therapeutics and Imaging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Like Tracy, he was keen to meet his HSCI colleagues at BWH as well as the other Longwood hospitals. Khalid noted that the meetings “brought the mentors together and we learned more about each other’s work.  This could lead to potential collaborations between our labs and joint projects.”

He went on to say that the meetings were also beneficial to the students. “During our meetings, the mentors shared their experiences with the students not only from the lab perspective but also on grant writing, careers, etc. I think the students got a bigger perspective about research than they usually get.”

Marlise Arellano, a rising senior at Harvard College and member of the 2017 HIP cohort, echoed Khalid's remarks. "These meetings were useful in getting to know other PIs and interns as they spoke about their research as well as the current state of research in our fields. It was also a great opportunity to ask for advice about graduate school or other next steps."