Category Archives: September 2016

Notes from the Library…New & Noteworthy

A warm welcome to all students! Over the summer, a few changes occurred at the library, notably…

New study spaces: In an ongoing effort to make the library a functional space for all students, the lounge behind the café on Sackler 4 (adjacent to the bathrooms and bridge to the dental school building) has been converted into the Hirsh Library Reading Room. The construction of a glass wall with a sliding door, and installation of new furniture and a wall monitor, have transformed this space into a semi-quiet, semi-private place available to anyone for individual or group study. Standing desks have been added to the 5th and 6th floors of Sackler, and new study carrels have been added to the existing carrels on the 6th and 7th floors.

Business & Careers Collection: In response to a request from the Biomedical Business Club, we have created a special place for our business and career books. Located behind the seating section next to the Library Service Desk on Sackler 4, the Business & Careers Collection features books on life after grad school, scientific communication and leadership. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Take a look at the Biomedical Business & Career Resources guide for e-books and print books located at other Tufts libraries, or recommend a purchase.

Business and Careers Collection
Business & Careers Collection on the 4th floor of the Hirsh Health Sciences Library.

Software: Sometime in the upcoming months, the Prism software that is currently on the computers in Sackler 514 will be removed from those computers and installed on the computers in Sackler 510 and the PC laptops available for checkout at the Library Service Desk. Hopefully, this will provide more options for using this program. As long as a class is not in session, the library computer labs (Sackler 510 and 514) are open for anyone to use. Check the white board behind the IT Service Desk on Sackler 5 for the weekly class schedule. A complete list of available on the library’s computers and laptops is available at:

Printing: New laser printers have been installed at the printing stations on the 4th and 5th floors of Sackler. New swipe stations will be installed in the upcoming weeks. More importantly, there has been a change in how you send documents to the printers. The box that appears when you print looks the same, but instead of entering a name and password for your print job, you enter your Tufts username (e.g. jsmith01) and a name for the print job. This subtle change means that now when you swipe your card at the printer, you will see only your own documents. If you have questions about printing, then ask for help at the Library Service Desk on Sackler 4.

Sackler Graduate Student Council Announcements



     President: Julia Yelick2
     Vice President: Christina McGuire2
     Treasurer: Cho Low2


     Biochem: Christina McGuire2
     CMDB: Kayla Gross1, Cho Low2, Julia Yelick2
     Genetics: Kevin Child2, Jaymes Farrell2
     Immunology: Frankie Velazquez2, Rebecca Silver1
     Molecular Microbiology: Ila Anand1, Stacie Clark1
     Neuroscience: Anna Nathanson1, Molly Hodul1
     PPET: Vaughn Youngblood1, Roaya Alqurashi1
     MD/PhD Liaisons: Ramesh Govindan1, Matt Zunich1

     Faculty Liaison: Michael Malamy
     Dean’s Office Liaison: Kathryn Lange

     1,2 denotes year on GSC



    • CMP Representative: The new merged Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology (CMDB) program is entering its second year with the Cell, Molecular, and Physiology (CMP) and Biochemistry (Biochem) no longer taking students. As such, due to the current program student populations, Biochem will retain one GSC representative while CMP will no longer have a designated representative; students in the CMP program will be contacted by the Biochem representative regarding GSC matters.
    • MD/PhD Liaison: Due to increased commitment to and enthusiasm for involvement in GSC, the MD/PhD program students will now be represented by two liaisons.
    • GSC Liaison Positions: As an alternative to having separate, assigned liaisons positions between GSC members and other Tufts organizations, these tasks have been delegated to the appropriately designated committee chairs and members (described below).

Committees: The GSC Bylaws were revised this year in order to restructure the council committees to better serve the Sackler student community’s needs. The reorganized committees are as follows:

    • Career Paths (Chair: Vaughn YoungbloodPPET; GSC: Roaya AlqurashiPPET, Ila AnandMMB, Kevin ChildsGENE): Organize the Career Paths Seminar series; recruit external speakers from a diverse set of professional environments to speak about their career experiences in areas other than biotechnology; work with the Dean’s office to recruit speakers and to help facilitate events, collaborate with the Post-doc Association (PDA) and Tufts Biotech Business Club (TBBC).
    • Newsletter (Chair: Kayla GrossCMDB; GSC: Molly HodulNRSC, Anna NathansonNRSC; Contributors: Ila AnandMMB, Jessica Davis-KnowltonCMDB, Jessica ElmanCMDB, Nafis HasanCMDB, Andrew HooperNRSC, Dan WongCMP): Write, edit, organize, and distribute an electronic newsletter at least bi-monthly; actively solicit newsletter contributions from SGSC members, students, and faculty; serve as a conduit of information from the SGSC to the Sackler student body.  Also serve as a liaison to the Sackler Library, via Laura Pavlech.
    • Outreach (Chair: Stacie ClarkeMMB; GSC: Ramesh GovindanNRSC/MSTP, Matt ZunichCMDB/MSTP): Organize volunteer and community service events for the Sackler community, as well as advertise opportunities for Sackler students outside of Tufts.
    • Social (Chair: Rebecca SilverIMM; GSC: Jaymes FarrellGENE, Cho LowCMDB, Frankie VelazquezIMM): Organize social events to promote GSC visibility within the student community.

PubMed Tip of the Month: PubMed Labs

PubMed Journals

PubMed Labs is the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s (NCBI) innovation incubator. PubMed Labs releases early versions of tools, features and content for anyone to experiment with and comment on. One recent development is PubMed Journals, a site where you can browse and follow journals, see ahead of print articles, and view trending articles and updates, such as retractions. NCBI is considering how to push content from the site to users. The news feed in PubMed Journals links studies mentioned in the mainstream media directly to the reference article. I have not really explored the site (it was just announced on September 7th), but it may develop into a nice way to monitor journals contents and news via your My NCBI account.


Elisabeth Adkins graduates as the first Tufts JAX Track Ph.D.

Written by Alex Fine

Not all experiments at The Jackson Laboratory take five years to complete. But one day last month, a group of JAX scientists gathered to see the results of a five-year experiment. The presentation by Tufts University Genetics Program student, Elisabeth (Liz) Adkins, described a newly defined cell in the immune system, a cell that when multiplied excessively could contribute to autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. But the five-year experiment was even bigger than Liz’s newly defined cells. The other experiment was Sackler’s collaborative partnership with The Jackson Laboratory, and it had yielded measurable success: Liz is its first Ph.D. graduate!

A little over five years ago, the Sackler School and JAX created a new graduate program, the “JAX Track,” that would allow students to enroll with the explicit intent of conducting their thesis research at JAX. Located in Bar Harbor, Maine, The Jackson Laboratory is a world-renowned institution where mammalian genetics is at the forefront of research. JAX hosts Ph.D. students from universities in the US and abroad during some portion of their thesis research.

Tufts JAX Track students might be drawn to JAX because of the laboratory’s history and reputation in mouse genetics, or they might have been at JAX as a summer student and fallen in love with the place, or they might have been told about the resources and community from a mentor who had valued their own time at JAX. But the question, five years ago, that faced JAX and the Sackler School was: were there students who wanted a uniquely JAX experience during their Ph.D.? And would it work? Together, Sackler and JAX faculty thought they had the right ingredients: a strong translational research group at Tufts and wide strengths in mammalian genetics at JAX. But it took the students, and especially Liz Adkins as the pioneer student, to put it together and meet the high expectations.

Adkins joined the JAX Track on the strong recommendation of her undergraduate mentor, Tom King, who had worked with Eva Eicher at JAX during his scientific training. As Liz said, “I also knew that if I wanted to do mouse research – and I did – that there was no better place in the world to do it than at JAX.” Liz’s graduate school career began in the two months before her Sackler orientation, during which she attended the Short Course in Medical and Experimental Mammalian Genetics and had a short research rotation, both at JAX in Bar Harbor. She then moved to Boston to complete her first semester of coursework at Tufts with the rest of her Genetics cohort before returning to Maine to resume her laboratory rotations. At the end of her first year, Liz joined the research group of JAX professor Derry Roopenian for her thesis research. Roopenian studies autoimmune disorders, pathologies that arise when our body’s immune system starts fighting our body. Adkins wanted to understand the process by which B cells, the immune cells in our bodies that produce antibodies, become corrupted to produce antibodies against our own cells and tissues instead of exclusively against foreign invaders like bacteria or viruses.

As we all know, a Ph.D. requires a lot of work. There are hours and hours in the lab, at the microscope and the cell sorter, and reading papers and trying to figure out why results are different than you thought they would be. Adkins had the added challenge of helping to shape the JAX Track program. Although the Sackler and JAX faculty had a clear vision of the program’s mission and the overall structure, there were challenges along the way that no one anticipated – and which Adkins, initially as the sole student, helped solve. “I knew there would be hiccups helping pilot a new program, but I love a challenge and this was one I was happy to take,” recalled Adkins. “Communication lines are open over the geographical distance separating the two institutions. Faculty at both institutions are pulling together and there is a mutual sense of pride in what we all have accomplished,” added Mary Ann Handel, the JAX Track director in Bar Harbor. Thus today, thanks to the efforts of Liz, other Genetics students, both in the JAX Track and in Boston, and the Sackler and JAX faculty, we can all call the program a success!

Liz Adkins moves on from her successes and outstanding work at Tufts and JAX to a postdoctoral research position, studying basic questions about how stem cells remain immortal. And she will continue to teach, an interest she developed during her time as a Sackler student at JAX. She leaves with a sense of accomplishment – in her research and her life – and appreciation for the JAX Track’s unique scientific environment. “Five years later, I have absolutely no regrets,” said Adkins. “I know it helped shape me into the person and scientist I am today, and I feel extremely well prepared for the future.” So yes, in a very personal way, Liz has shown the JAX Track works!

Feature: Humans of Sackler

Do you have fun and interesting hobbies?  Have you traveled to fascinating places?  Held unusual and challenging jobs?  Do you use cutting-edge technology to conduct biomedical research of earth-shattering importance?  Are you a human?  If you answered “yes” to any of these, you could be the next Human of Sackler!

Humans of Sackler is a monthly blog featuring individual Sackler students’ firsthand accounts of their path to the Graduate Biomedical program.  Inspired by Brandon Stanton’s “Humans of New York” blog, the aims of this project are to highlight the Sackler School’s rich diversity of backgrounds, interests, and personalities, and to engage with the public by revealing the human side of scientists.

If you are interested in contributing to or nominating someone for the Humans of Sackler blog, contact Andrew Hooper (, Subject: Humans of Sackler) to set up a brief interview at your convenience.  We look forward to hearing your story!

Read the first issue here: Humans of Sackler, 25 July 2016

On the Shelf…

For work…


Electronic resource: BrowZine

Location: Download from Apple or Android app store, or access online at:

BrowZine provides direct access to the library’s electronic journals, allowing you to browse full contents of current and older issues, create a personal bookshelf, and save and download articles for offline reading.

To get started:

  1. Download and open the app on your Apple, Android or Kindle Fire device, or go to
  2. Choose Tufts University from the list of available libraries.
  3. Enter your Tufts username and password.

And leisure…

Stories from the Shadows

Stories from the Shadows: Reflections from a Street Doctor, by James J. O’Connell

Location: HHSL Book Stacks, Sackler, 5th Floor, WA 300 O18s 2015

A collection of stories and essays by the president of Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program; this year’s common reading book for the School of Medicine. The author will speak at 4 PM on Monday, September 12th in the Sackler Auditorium.

ICYMI: Dr. Rafael Luna & Telling Science Stories

Hi, Sackler! I’m a fourth year student in CMDB who is terrified of the fact that she just called herself a Fourth Year. Like some of you out there, I am surprised at how quickly my time at Tufts is passing by, and I am panicking about my career and life objectives. That is why I have made the conscious decision to start attending as many PDA and GSC seminars as I can, to better understand my options and to expose myself to the people who can best explain them to me. For your benefit I will be writing up an “ICYMI” (in case you missed it), a take on what went down and what I learned that you will be able to find in this newsletter. My first piece recaps a seminar hosted by the Tufts PDA titled “The Art of Scientific Storytelling,” given by Rafael Luna, Ph.D. Happy September, everyone!

Would The Lion King still be as exciting if Scar weren’t in the picture? How about if “the circle of life” weren’t really critical to survival in sub-Saharan Africa? Pride rock would be meaningless and Simba would have nothing to fight for, right?

Fortunately for all you kids of the 90’s who like to occasionally belt out a little song called “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” Walt Disney’s classic film incorporates a dire antagonist to challenge Simba and thus creates stakes to fight for, making The Lion King the compelling tale we know and love.

On August 18th, Rafael Luna, Ph.D. came to Tufts to talk about how basic storytelling elements—a protagonist, antagonist, conflict, scene, resolution, and stakes—make not only for a great Disney plotline but also an impactful and powerful title for a scientific manuscript. Dr. Luna is a biomedical research fellow at Harvard who has applied this method to the design of dozens of his own manuscripts, as well as those of his clients and collaborators. He explained that, by weaving together the above listed elements, you not only construct a more informative and intriguing title, but you also inform the structure and progression of your manuscript’s contents.

Dr. Luna began his seminar by having the attendees name all the specific storytelling elements from The Lion King: the protagonist = Simba, antagonist (or a secondary, supporting role) = Scar, conflict = regency, scene = Africa, resolution = reclaims, stakes (i.e. research impact) = the circle of life. No matter how you combine these characters and themes, you are able to wholly summarize the story. For example: “Simba defeats Scar in a battle for regency in Africa and reclaims the circle of life.” Or: “The circle of life in Africa is reclaimed by Simba as he defeats Scar in the battle for regency.” The possibilities go on and on.

Having established this, we moved on from cartoons to something slightly more relevant to our purposes, like Dr. Luna’s 2012 Cell Reports publication, C-terminal domain of eukaryotic initiation factor 5 promotes start codon recognition by its dynamic interplay with eIF1 and eIF2β. This title prepares us for a story that is primarily about the “protagonist,” C-terminal of eIF5, supported by the “antagonists” eIF1 and eIF2β. The “scene” is set at the start codon, and the “stakes” are start codon recognition. Finally, dynamic interplay summarizes the “conflict,” and we find ourselves with a complete and all-encompassing title. Throughout the seminar, we continued to analyze several other manuscript titles in order to identify how they were successful and how they could be improved.

The manner in which the title is structured can also help determine how the rest of the manuscript is written. If, for example, you are researching how a drug interacts with a certain protein, you can either structure your title such that the drug is the protagonist and the protein is the antagonist, or vice-versa. Depending on your findings, one should make more sense than the other. The implications go even further, since whether the drug or the protein plays the protagonist determines if your paper should be submitted to Nature Pharmacology or Nature Biochemistry.

Incredibly, Dr. Luna’s method is a tool with which any story can be titled and thus, organized. In just one hour, he provided us with a technique to help create accurate, informative, and complete titles. From there on out, it’s hakuna matata: no worries, for the rest of your days…

If you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Luna’s method, his book The Art of Scientific Storytelling is available for purchase on!

Sackler Award Announcements

Dean’s Fellows: Four students are recognized as Dean’s Fellows each year. This award recognizes outstanding achievement in research and scholarship during a student’s first two years at the Sackler School. The award provides one year of stipend support for the student.  At the completion of the fellowship year, each student also receives a $500 prize to be used in support some aspect of his or her education.”

     Chris Bartolome (Neuroscience, Dr. Dong Kong)
     Keith Eidell (Immunology, Dr. Stephen Bunnell)
     Giang Nguyen (Immunology, Dr. Joan Mecsas)
     Suray Sharma (Biochemistry, Dr. Karl Munger)

Rosenberg Fellow

     Lauren Shull (Molecular Microbiology, Dr. Andrew Camilli)

Sackler Family Translational Cancer Awards: The Sackler Families Collaborative Cancer Biology Award was established in 2010 by a generous gift from the Sackler families. The awards are designed to provide support for innovative studies in cancer biology that will advance our knowledge of this disease and have the potential for translation and an eventual impact on patient care.”

     Christina McGuire (Biochemistry, Dr. Mike Forgac) – “Elucidating the role of V-ATPase assembly during autophagy”

     Nil Vanli (Biochemistry, Dr. Guo-fu Hu) – “RNASE4 and AXL constitute a novel pathway that confers drug resistance and offers a therapeutic target for prostate cancer”

Sackler Student Enrichment Fund

Applications for the Sackler Student Enrichment Fund for the fall cycle are due on October 6, 2016. Awards from this fund provide students the opportunity to travel to a conference to present scientific achievements, to enroll in additional courses, to attend career development seminars, and/or to participate in research/technical skill workshops. It is supported by contributions from the Provost’s Office, the Sackler Dean’s office, the Sackler Relays, outside corporations, and private donors.

For more information about the award and the application requirements, please visit the award page on the Sackler website.