Month: December 2019

MD/PhD Student Spotlight: Gianluca Arianna, G2

Gianluca Arianna smiling, seated in front of biophysics equipment
Gianluca Arianna, G2

MD/PhD Spotlight Series by Nathan Gasek

Welcome to the UConn Health MD/PhD student spotlight! Our program abounds with exciting achievements and even more exciting people. This week, I had a chance to talk with Gianluca Arianna, a G2 student in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (MBB). Gianluca’s research in Dmitry Korzhnev’s lab uses a structural biology approach to investigate how cells replicate in the context of DNA damage. Specifically, he is researching DNA damage tolerance pathways, which are implicated in tumorigenesis and may provide key insights to future chemotherapeutics. He became involved in this research as it appealed to both his chemistry background and his medical interest in cancer therapy. The MBB program was particularly appealing to him as it provided “a strong sense of family.” With regard to his research, he is particularly thrilled to have written the specific aims for his preliminary exam, mentioning that “it’s exciting to have something from your own mind come to fruition [which is] the reason why I enjoy science so much in the first place. There’s so much creative control over your experience.”

In addition to his graduate work, Gianluca is maintaining his medical chops through the Clinical Longitudinal Immersion in the Community (CLiC) program and shadowing UCHC providers. With CLiC he is able to hone his clinical skills at an internal medicine clinic throughout his graduate phase. Outside of school he enjoys playing piano, learning guitar, and has recently taken up an interest in archery.

For future applicants, he voiced that “There is a lot of opportunity here. [From] clinical experiences to education opportunities, faculty are approachable for anything from research and shadowing to curriculum design.” When asked about his favorite aspect of UConn’s MD/PhD program, Gianluca pointed to the collaboration, support, and camaraderie. From the program directors to fellow students, he notes that “Your success is important to your peers”.

At the end of our talk he also offered advice to student’s in the earlier phases of the program. “You need to approach your career with some degree of planning and some degree of risk. Have an action plan, but realize that you’ll always learn something new. You’ll end up in new situations you might not have anticipated in the first place [but] don’t take things too seriously and enjoy your experience.”



MD/PhD Alum Returns to Discuss Physician Scientist Training and Career

UConn MD/PhD Class of 2013 alumnus Eric Gaier and Ophthalmologist at Harvard Medical School returned to give Alumni rounds at UConn’s weekly MD/PhD Research club. (Or “Nerd Club”, as he says it used to be called).

Headshot of Eric Gaier wearing a dark suit, red tie, and lavender shirt
Eric Gaier MD, PhD, UConn MD/PhD Class of 2013, Ophthalmologist, Harvard Medical School

Following his graduation from UConn’s dual degree program, Dr. Gaier began his Ophthalmology residency at the preeminent Mass Eye and Ear through Harvard Medical School. With his training, he was able to secure highly competitive fellowships in both Neuro-Ophthalmology and Pediatric Ophthalmology/Adult Strabismus through Boston Children’s Hospital. Currently, Dr. Gaier complements his clinical work with NIH K08 funded basic and translational research investigating how principles of synaptic plasticity can be used to elucidate therapeutic strategies in the treatment of amblyopia. His research has led him to patent a novel approach and medical device for treating pediatric amblyopia and he currently serves as a scientific advisor with the company Luminopia. Beyond this, he engages in several teaching roles at Harvard Medical School spanning from resident education to undergraduate and graduate student research mentorship.

During his visit Dr. Gaier had lunch with current MD/PhD trainees, explored additions made to the program since his graduation, and gave a seminar reflecting on his own time in medical school. In discussion, he noted how his continuity clinic experience, now called “CLiC”, provided him with exposure, motivation, and training that set him on a successful career in Neuro-Ophthalmology. Furthermore, he highlighted the myriad of opportunities UConn’s physician scientist training program provided him, and urged every student to explore all that the institution has to offer.

Article by Nathan Gasek