Fayez Safadi, Ph.D., wants to find a treatment for osteoporosis and inflammation—and a way to accelerate bone fracture healing. Now, he has six extra hands to help him achieve this goal at Northeast Ohio Medical University’s Musculoskeletal Research lab. Three seniors from Bio-Med Science Academy started interning with him last August at what Dr. Safadi calls the osteolab—his bone lab. Anjali Agarwal, Ava Lonneman and Josh Saxton are interning with Dr. Safadi for their APEX project, during which Bio-Med seniors gain experience in their desired field through an internship or by doing research.

Junior year at the Academy is spent looking into fields and potential internship sites. That’s when the students took a field trip to Dr. Safadi’s bone lab. The juniors toured the research area and had a Q&A session with Dr. Safadi about what it means to be a researcher. Agarwal, Lonneman and Saxton all point to this experience as pivotal: It made them want to intern in the musculoskeletal research lab during their senior year.

For Agarwal, the Q&A session in the lab revealed what research looked like in a real-life setting, and she decided she wanted to try it for herself. She spends her days taking detailed notes on the techniques used in the lab and learning to count osteoblasts, assisted by College of Graduate Studies student Fatima Jaber. Agarwal had been thinking of becoming a cardiologist, and after these past months of working in the lab, she believes research may be in her future, too. 

From her time in the lab, Lonneman has learned about the process to become certified to work there, and gotten a taste of what it would be like to study at a medical university. Watching graduate student Nazar Hussein and taking notes on his technique, or just hearing about student life from him, has been valuable to Lonneman. As she points out, “This could be me one day.”

Saxton, who wants to become a thoracic cardiac surgeon, was looking for a jump start to learn about the medical field when he asked Dr. Safadi about an internship. His work in collaboration with Dr. Richardson’ lab–sectioning mice brains to look for dopamine neurons—has opened a door that Saxton had never considered: neuroscience. College of Graduate Studies student Kevin Budge helps Saxton with sectioning and also shares his insights into the neuroscience field. Saxton says his plans to become a cardiac surgeon haven’t changed, but now he is more aware of neuroscience.

Not only are the Bio-Med students benefitting from interning; the whole lab is.  “There are three of them and only one of me, so connecting each of them to a graduate student not only gives them one-to-one instruction in the lab, but also encourages the graduate students to know and explain the why of what they are doing,” says Dr. Safadi.

In the process, everyone learns.

Amber Cocchiola, a senior at Bio-Med Science Academy and an intern in the Office of Public Relations and Marketing, contributed this report.  

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