MGRI Image Contest: Meet Our Winner and the Top 10!

A collage of the top 10 entries from our 2018 image contest.

A few weeks ago we held our first image contest, and we were thrilled to see how many people were excited about Mass General research.

We received 50 images from researchers of all disciplines—from high resolution images of kidney cells, neurons and cell membranes, to a group shot of researchers from the Ragon Institute with their scientific counterparts in South Africa at an AIDS workshop.

We are so proud of the cutting-edge science that happens here, and are so thankful for all of your support.

In the spirit of keeping the science alive, and to congratulate our winner and the top 10, we spoke to our researchers to get to know them and their work a little bit better.

And the Winner is…

What drew you to this field of research?

What really drove me to study head and neck pathology was a wonderful class given by a former professor in Brazil, when I realized that this malignancy was a huge and often overlooked problem. As a dentist, I could see some of the issues a cancer patient might have, and this need for new therapeutic strategies and basic research drove me to this field.

What goal are you working toward?

We are working towards a better understanding of how we can stratify head and neck patients into more homogeneous groups, regarding how they respond to conventional treatments and immunotherapy treatments. Although we have seen great results with immunotherapy agents, it is still not clear how to identify patients which patients with benefit from which therapies. Our efforts are focused on answering these critical questions.

What do you enjoy most about research at Mass General?

What I like most is the real integration between clinicians and researchers, fostering an amazingly cooperative environment. I also enjoy being surrounded by many researchers who are not are leaders in their respective fields but are always willing to collaborate and help in many ways. I feel very fortunate to be part of this highly collaborative environment.

What’s your favorite activity/hobby outside the lab?

I’m a huge sports fan so outside the lab, it is easy to find me watching any sport at any given time. Of course, I also like to practice many sports, but as a Brazilian, I mostly enjoy playing soccer.

The Contenders

What drew you to this field of research?

As a nephrologist consultant in Brazil, I realized the importance of the metabolic and skeletal implications for patients with chronic kidney disease. Thus, in addition to obtaining a PhD in bone pathology, I gained expertise in performing, processing and analyzing human and murine models of non-decalcified bone biopsies.

What goal are you working toward?

My interest in skeletal biology extends beyond that which is seen with chronic kidney disease. Working at Mass General, I have the opportunity to dissect the molecular basis underlying complex bone phenotypes and many mineralized tissues.

What do you enjoy most about research at Mass General?

The people for sure. They support and challenge us each day while encouraging us to go further and pursue new treatments for human diseases.

What’s your favorite activity/hobby outside the lab?

Playing with dogs, even if they are not mine!


What drew you to this field of research?

Having a strong background in image processing, I felt the need to apply my skills to real-life medical applications. I wanted to challenge myself with unsolved imaging problematics, and understanding the complex relationship between neuronal activity and its hemodynamic mechanisms came with a lot of image-related problems to solve.

What goal are you working toward?

Over the years I specialized in the segmentation of cerebrovascular structures, and produced a publicly available tool and cerebro-macrovascular atlases for clinical and fundamental research.

I am currently extending these to the micro-vasculature, which are almost impossible to see in vivo. More importantly I want to apply these results to clinical research involving diseases related to hemodynamics (i.e. strokes, Alzheimer’s, concussions, ALS, etc.) and fundamental research involving the complex coupling between brain function and blood supply.

What do you enjoy most about research at Mass General?

I enjoy the collaborations between fundamental and clinical studies and the very strong accessibility of lab resources. Most of all, I believe the researchers here are at the first line and really pave the way in terms of neuroscience research.

What’s your favorite activity/hobby outside the lab?

I am an avid volleyball player (and coach some time ago!), I’ve been playing competitively since high school. I also enjoy soccer and as a Québecois I, of course, enjoy playing hockey! Aside from sports, I must say I binge watch way too many TV series ;).


What drew you to this field of research?

Psychiatric disorders place a huge burden on patients and their families, and I wanted to contribute towards helping these patients in some way. With a major in Biochemistry and a minor in Psychology from Eckerd College, I sought research opportunities that blended both of these academic interests.

I was lucky to find this combination at Mass Geneal, and after interning in Dr. Stephen Haggarty’s lab during the summer of 2014, I was hooked on neuropsychiatric research. In the spring of 2016, I joined the Haggarty lab as a research technician.

What goal are you working toward?

Despite the promise of recent advances in psychiatric treatments, many individuals with psychiatric disorders respond poorly to drug therapies. The exact mechanisms of both neuropsychiatric/neurodegenerative disorders and the drugs used to treat them are not well-understood, and there is a huge need to develop new medicines with improved efficacy. Our lab’s goal is to better understand these cellular mechanisms and develop new mechanism-based small-molecule drugs for patients.

What do you enjoy most about research at Mass General?

Mass General fosters collaboration between a wide range of disciplines, each using cutting-edge technology specific to their fields, all within one institution.

What’s your favorite activity/hobby outside the lab?

Powerlifting and playing the drums.


What drew you to this field of research?

,Adult mammalian tissues can undergo self-repair and regenerate following injury. However this capacity is not inexhaustible and severe or chronic tissue injury can lead to the development of scar tissue or subsequent organ failure. The biological mechanisms that balance tissue regeneration and fibrosis (or scarring) following injury are poorly understood.

While looking for PhD projects, I got the opportunity to work at Mass General with Dr. David Lagares in the Division Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. He shared the emerging topics within the field, as well as the rapid advancements in the industry towards clinical treatments and I was immediately hooked and decided to complete a PhD.

I am currently investigating how biophysical cues (e.g. matrix stiffness) of damaged lungs regulate regenerative vs fibrotic responses in Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a human fibrotic disease characterized by progressive lung scarring.

What goal are you working toward?

My short-term goal is to complete my PhD in 2020, and my overarching goal is to contribute to the major advancements in the field by developing novel anti-fibrotic therapies for human diseases as an independent research investigator.

What do you enjoy most about research at Mass General?

Research stretches your mind; challenging and testing you to think of new ideas and new strategies. Often, many of these ideas and strategies are a result of collective brainstorming and collaborations within a group of similarly passionate people. Being part of Mass General provides access to one of the top communities of these people in the world–from groundbreaking and experienced mentors to emerging new leaders.

What’s your favorite activity/hobby outside the lab?

I enjoy reading, swimming, cooking and traveling. I also enjoy entrepreneurial scientific books and building things with my hands.


What drew you to this field of research?

Kidney disease has a massive negative impact on human health that is often underappreciated by the public, by the press, and by policy makers. We were excited by the possibility of using advanced techniques such as helium ion microscopy and high resolution cellular imaging, combined with the latest molecular approaches, to dissect and understand the complex relationship between cell structure and normal and abnormal cell function in the kidney.

What goal are you working toward?

The goal of our program is to use fundamental scientific information arising from our studies to develop new strategies to alleviate the epidemic of kidney disease that affects over 10% of the population in the USA alone.

What do you enjoy most about research at Mass General?

Mass General is a wonderful environment because of the close proximity of outstanding basic researchers in many different fields who work alongside the world’s best clinicians. This allows basic scientific studies to be informed by important clinical questions, and allows fundamental research data to be more readily translated to the bedside.

What’s your favorite activity/hobby outside the lab?

My favorite hobby outside the lab is photography. I am unsure whether my passion for microscopy and cell imaging was derived from this interest, but I have had a camera for almost all of my life, beginning at a very early age.


What drew you to this field of research?

My current research focuses on how microbes may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease. This interconnection of areas that were previously isolated from one another offers great promise in deciphering as yet unknown mechanisms leading to the progression of the disease.

As a lifelong microbiology enthusiast, I believe this new field of research, neuro-microbiology, can accelerate progress in therapeutic design and treatment.

What goal are you working toward?

The role of infection in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is relatively new to the field of neurology, and has been gaining traction lately. My previous findings showed amyloid-β (Aβ) protein possessed antimicrobial activity. My current research extends this to other human amyloids such as amylin of type 2 diabetes and its link to AD, as well as the role of gut microbiome and their metabolites in early progression of AD.

What do you enjoy most about research at Mass General?

Excellent work environment, sufficient research funding, and unparalleled networking and learning opportunities.

What’s your favorite activity/hobby outside the lab?

Movies and photography.


What drew you to this field of research?

After working for four years in the industry as a software developer for supermarkets, banks, etc, I decided to find a job I can feel passionate about.  Neuroimaging can help detect diseases or better understand our brains, which is both exciting and helpful.

What goal are you working toward?

I build software to better understand and analyze brain white matter. Not every connection is the brain is well known, and often they are hard to analyze. My software AnatomiCuts groups and maps across subjects every connection in the brain estimated from diffusion MRI.

What do you enjoy most about research at Mass General?

Certainly the environment. Everybody is very friendly, very motivated and always willing to help.

What’s your favorite activity/hobby outside the lab?

My hobby is to have hobbies. I play piano, I’m in a circus school, I love painting and film photography. My favorite camera is from 1960.


What drew you to this field of research?

When I came to Mass General, my main research field was in renal pathophysiology of long-term lithium (Li)-induced modifications and chronic kidney disease. Part of this research is focused in the immunological relations of Li-induced nephrotoxicity that happens in a subpopulation of patients ingesting Li.

In this lab, I came to know about the remarkable similarity and protein expression pattern of many epithelial cell types between that kidney and epididymis, a male sex organ that matures and quality-controls sperm.

For me, this was an optimal opportunity to study functional similarity and difference of cells and proteins from two different organs that have a similar developmental origin.

What goal are you working toward?

Unlike in other mucosal organs, the role of the mononuclear phagocyte system in this male reproductive system is largely unknown. Understanding the interplay between the epithelium and immune cells will help to understand many of the unknown reasons behind male infertility that is on the rise in the US.

What do you enjoy most about research at Mass General?

I can collaborate with researchers that are experts at the molecular level to the systems level with ease. The bench to bedside approach to research is well supported, and accessibility to human research data is another plus point.

What’s your favorite activity/hobby outside the lab?

My main activity is photography and painting. Of course, my love for landscape photography came from my enthusiasm for travel.


About the Mass General Research Institute
Massachusetts General Hospital is home to the largest hospital-based research program in the United States. Our researchers work side-by-side with physicians to develop innovative new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent disease.
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