Briaira Geiger Studies Diabetes through Harvard Research Program

Briaira Geiger, a senior Chemistry major, was one of 10 students in the country accepted into the Harvard Catalyst’s Summer Clinical and Translational Research Program this summer. The undergraduate program gave her the opportunity to spend 10 weeks researching diabetes with experts at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.

A native of Chesilhurst in Camden County, Geiger worked with Dr. George L. King, director of research at the Joslin Diabetes Center, and Dr. Sonia L. Hernandez, a researcher at Columbia University, on the 50-year Medalist Study, which is looking at how patients who have lived with Type I Diabetes Mellitus for 50 years or more have overcome the disease.

Briaira Geiger

“The goal of this study is to identify protective factors in these patients that protect them from developing complications due to long-term diabetes,” Geiger explained. “This research can lead to identifying those protective factors in these Medalists which can lead to novel therapeutic developments.”

Dr. Ellis Benjamin, assistant professor of Chemistry, encouraged Geiger to seek out research opportunities.

“This summer was an amazing opportunity, and I learned so many new things that I will able to use in my research here at Stockton. I enhanced my laboratory techniques and was exposed to different and exciting new research developments,” she said.

Dr. Louise Sowers, associate professor of Chemistry, first met Geiger in her Chemistry I class and later became her preceptor. “Briaira is a bright young woman. This was such a phenomenal opportunity for her as she builds her credentials for medical school,” Sowers said.

“So many people have supported me including Dr. Sowers, Dr. Earl and Ellis Benjamin and Shanthi Rajaraman,” said Geiger.

Researching neuroscience as a physician-scientist is Geiger’s ultimate goal, but in the meantime, her triple minor in Biology, Mathematics and Studio Arts will give her plenty of options to explore. “I enjoy graphic design and want to look into medical illustration,” she said.

Geiger is a science and math tutor at the Stockton Tutoring Center and is working to create a club on campus to bring together like-minded students who want to pursue research in the sciences.

“Go after your dreams and do what you want to do. Networking has helped me. I still keep in contact with my mentors,” said Geiger.

According to its website, the Harvard Catalyst’s Summer Clinical and Translational Research Program is “designed to enrich the pipeline of college students’ understanding of and interest in pursuing clinical and/or translational research.” Participants attend seminars taught by Harvard faculty and graduate students and discuss career paths and the medical school application process.