Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Interest in Biomedical Research in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering

The Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (formerly Department of Nuclear Engineering) at MIT has a longstanding tradition of teaching and research in the field of nuclear medicine, that branch of clinical and biomedical studies which involve the uses and effects of nuclear radiations. In the early days, Positron Emission Tomography was a particular interest in the department, later it was Boron Neutron Capture Therapy and Neutron Capture Synovectomy using the MIT Research Reactor and an in-house accelerator. Another area where the Department is very active is Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, including f-MRI for neuro-imaging. The Department offers a Joint Program in Radiological Sciences with the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology. Currently three faculty members plus an emeritus professor devote full time to an area which the Department has designated as Bio-Nuclear Science and Engineering. For further information about the Department, please see MIT Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.

Historical Perspective on Freshman Advisor Seminar 22.A09, Career Options in Biomedical Research

The Freshman Advisor Seminar at MIT is a unique program that connects a small group of freshmen, typically 6 to 8, with an advisor in a weekly seminar arrangement. The Seminar could be on any topic that pertains to research and informal learning experience, for the purpose of introducing the students to aspects of life at MIT beyond the traditional classroom teaching. For further descriptions, see Freshman Advising Seminars.

The seminar 22.A09 Career Options in Biomedical Research is led by Sidney Yip, a Professor at MIT, and Bruce Rosen, a Professor at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Martinos Center at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital, with Xin He, a sophomore in Course 10, as Associate Advisor for 2006-2007. It meets at the same time with 22.013 Undergraduate Seminar in Nuclear Science and Engineering.

Following is a description of the seminar:

  • We have designed this seminar to give students an understanding of how scientists with medical or scientific degrees conduct research in both hospital and academic settings. There will be interactive discussions with research clinicians and scientists about the career opportunities and research challenges in the biomedical field, which an MIT student might prepare for by obtaining an MD, PhD, or combined degrees. We will hold the seminar in a case presentation format, with topics chosen from the radiological sciences, including current research in magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography and other nuclear imaging techniques, and advances in radiation therapy. With the lectures as background, we will also examine alternative and related options such as biomedical engineering, medical physics, and medical engineering. We'll use as examples and points of comparisons the curriculum paths available through MIT's Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering. In past years we have given very modest assignments such as readings in advance of or after a seminar, and a short term project.
    • Sid Yip has been an MIT faculty member in Nuclear Science and Engineering since 1965, and in Materials Science and Engineering since 2000. He is interested in working with colleagues in and outside of MIT to develop an effective undergraduate program with a biomedical or pre-med orientation. In research he is engaged in the theory and simulation of materials at the molecular level.
    • Bruce Rosen holds both MD and PhD degrees. He is on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School in the Department of Radiology, and director of the Athinoula A. Martinos Center, MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown.

22.A09 Class Projects Through 2004

The spirit of the Freshman Advisor Seminar is to encourage exploration of various ways a student can learn and grow outside the class room during the first year at the Institute. The small group size and opportunities for personal interactions are designed for free-style exchange with fellow students and mentors of all kinds. 22.A09 meets concurrently with 22.013, an undergraduate seminar on the same topic, which typically draws only a few students. At each class meeting an outside speaker is invited to come and meet with the students in an informal discussion of a topic in biomedical research, along with remarks on career trajectories, using the speaker's own paths as example. The students get to meet two types of speakers, faculty and staff at MIT involved in various programs pertaining to biomedical studies, and MDs and PhDs from the Massachusetts General Hospital with experience in clinical studies and grant-sponsored research. Part of the discussions invariably will touch on the issue of what resources are required in order to carry out a research project. The students are made aware of the fact that every research study will have to funded, thus someone would have to write a proposal. The question of what does it take to write a successful proposal is one that is frequently asked, discussed, and answered in various ways.

Prior to this year, the class project is a proposal which each student presents on the last day of class. While the topic of proposal is left up to the student, each proposal must have the same basic parts - Introduction, Statement of Proposed Study, Approach to be Taken, Results Expected, Personnel, Budget. In writing such a proposal the student gains appreciation of what is involved in a research study, from conception to implementation to conclusion. The student also learns that proposal writing (and later evaluation) will always be a part of the professional life of a research scientist.

Instructor's Perspective

Sidney Yip (Seminar Advisor)

This is not so much a biographical sketch as a few words about one of the two Seminar Leaders of 22.A09 and 22.013. This is how I see the value of the seminars and why I am still excited about working with the students.

After forty years (last June) of being on the faculty at the Institute I find that the current events at this place are as refreshing as ever. MIT remains a terrifically exciting and very privileged place for anyone. There is an amazing list of possibilities and opportunities for personal growth and fulfillment at all levels. In such a dynamic environment, it is important to understand the context in which events are continually evolving. To say that MIT is in transition implies that in some particular aspects things are about to change very quickly, or some major decisions are being made very shortly. What happened in 2005 was that the new President announced that MIT will undertake a major new Institute-wide initiative on energy. MIT will do so by forming an Energy Council to lead the planning for this initiative, which is intended to foster new research in science and technology aimed at increasing the energy supply and bringing scientists, engineers, and social scientists together to envision the best energy policies for the future. Notice that prior to this focus on energy and the environment, for several years the major thrust at MIT has been neuroscience. Since MIT, understandably, will never stand still, for anyone to thrive in this place the ability to assess, decide, and act is as important as ever. In this respect, the seminar is an exercise in sharpening this ability. To anyone who is listening, I say, don't wait to be empowered (or told what to do), be a stake holder at MIT on your own, the sooner the better. Once you realize that the power to envision and to achieve lies with you, doors will open for you to walk through. Enjoy the moments and the actions while you are at it, years from now I hope you will look back (as I see myself doing) and take pride in knowing that you didn't hold anything back.

Bruce Rosen (Seminar Advisor)

As the "junior partner" to Professor Yip in organizing our Freshman Seminar, it has been a great source of fun to participate in these groups for many years. Coming from a hospital-based research laboratory, I get to focus my work on things that are often close to, if not already part of, the clinical care of patients. The upside of this is that I get to think about and work on ideas that might really make a difference in the lives of people. Sometimes this even happens -- just the other day I learned that the imaging tools that some of our MIT students have worked on have just demonstrated that a new treatment for brain tumors might be the first to actually reverse the growth of the most deadly kind of these cancers, which has never been seen before. The downside is that by focusing on new ideas that are ready to be specifically applied to today's problems, you can lose sight of how more basic research concepts can be pursued for their own sake. Of course, such research may never have "real world" applications; but on the other hand, this kind of work is exactly what leads to entirely new fields that haven't been previously envisioned.

Staying connected with MIT has become my best way to keep these opportunities in view. The fact that freshman are just beginning their educational journey means that they have the fewest prejudices on what others may think is possible or practical, and getting a sense for what they are attracted to in the way of research questions and opportunities is an exciting and interesting way to keep my own ideas from getting too ossified (or, more colloquially, me from becoming too bone-headed!) Hearing new questions and new concepts from the smartest students on the planet is also just plain fun.

At the other extreme, working with a veteran scholar like Professor Yip continues to be a "grounding" experience. Mentoring is something that is critical for new students - it's just as critical for you at other stages of your career. Finding good mentors can be the most important part of your educational experience, and Professor Yip has been one of my most important mentors for many years. Professor Yip continues to amaze me with his wisdom, and his life and career lessons are just as important for me as I suspect they are for the freshmen in our seminar. He is an extraordinary role model for keeping excitement and energy directed at new opportunities and challenges, and for understanding how to build a balanced universe of scholarship, family and friends. Many of the lessons that he has taught to our seminar students have become lessons that I try to keep in mind for my own life, and for me to teach my young children. The freshmen in our seminar are extremely lucky to have had the chance to work with Professor Yip, and I expect that they will appreciate this even more as their careers progress.