Avi J Adler

Student, Columbia University
  • Columbia University
  • People
  • United States of America

I am a/an:

Undergraduate Scholar

Area of Expertise

Biomedical Sciences Science Technology

Research Topic

Biochemistry Biological Sciences Biomedical Sciences

Laidlaw Cohort Year

2021

University

Columbia University

I am from:

United States of America

I speak:

English

My hobbies/interests are:

Cycling Design Gym Outdoor sports Photography Podcasts Politics & current events Reading Running/jogging Swimming Table tennis Technology Tennis Travelling Volunteering

I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes

Yes

Influencer Of

Topics

Channels contributed to:

STEM

Rooms participated in:

Columbia University

Recent Comments

Jun 11, 2021
Replying to Ariella Lang

Great job framing your research in a global -- and interdisciplinary -- context, Avi! 

Thank you very much! and thank you for everything you have done, and continue to do, to make the Laidlaw program the success that it is. I have thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the program this summer, and can't wait to see where it takes me next!

Jun 03, 2021

What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

One challenge I have faced over the past weeks is time constraints. My project requires protocols that can sometimes take three to four days to carry out. Considering the limited timeframe of the Summer A semester, fitting in all the data collection that needs to be accomplished has proven to be challenging. This has forced me to focus the scope of my project. In addition, it has forced me to be highly organized and forward thinking about when experiments will be started and carried out. In addition, taking clear and useful images of my samples has proven to be a challenge. By the nature of the samples (often only a few microns wide) generating intact samples with correct fluorescence and morphology is arduous.

These challenges, among others, only enhance the ambitions of my project. Thinking about the bigger picture, the time constraints and technical challenges have only furthered my conviction that more work is needed on this topic. Although this is not surprising to me, I am more convinced now of how crucial it is to keep learning, working and progressing. I hope to be a part of future studies of this nature.

What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

Online databases and websites devoted to academic sources have been crucial to my research. Even though my work does focus on researching databases, they have proved to be an invaluable resource. These sites give me insight into what is known in my field, what work others have done, what techniques have proven successful, among many other things. Overall, probing these websites has provided a framework by which I can begin to ask questions.

Jun 03, 2021
Replying to Jeffrey Xiong
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

The primary challenge I have encountered is sorting through the diversity of experience in the trans/nonbinary Chinese-American community; realistically, it would be impossible to get a representative sample, especially during the pandemic. These challenges have shifted my project away from an attempt at an overarching picture of experiences towards a "case study"-esque approach, examining how these lived experiences challenge dominant narratives on an individual level.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

Reaching out to community leaders and figures has been particularly useful. Especially in sociological research, there is so much knowledge available outside of academia in the voices of those who have worked or lived in particular conditions for years. Even if someone does not have formal academic training, they can provide valuable insight -- often more useful than plain academic literature, in my experience.

Hey Jeffrey. In regards to resources, I am really intrigued by what sources have been useful to you. In my work, I have almost entirely focused on academic and peer reviewed work. I've been mostly searching through science databases and article directories to find what I am looking for. However, your sources seem much more engaging! Although I personally have not reached out to people outside of academia, from the way you describe it, it appears that it will be very fruitful. I am really curious to see what insites it yields for you.

May 27, 2021
Replying to Dennis Zhang
  • While all Laidlaw Scholars will be presenting their research at the Columbia Undergraduate Research Symposium in the fall, what are the more immediate expectations that you have for your research? Are you writing a paper you hope to get published? Will your research be part of a larger scientific study? Is your research now the first phase of a project you’ll continue to work on throughout the year, and/or next summer? Now that we are nearing the one month mark of the program, please write about your expectations for your research.

My research is a part of a larger study, but is also something that could be published in a journal as its own discrete paper (depending on how things progress the rest of this summer). In regards to the former, part of my project is the drawing out of “themes” and “codes” that can be useful in other sociological sub-studies that rely on interviews; I hope to contribute to the "larger" study in this way. In regards to the latter aspect, I’m currently exploring where my work is theoretically situated in the current literature (in the hopes of writing up a paper) and am excited to see where the next couple of weeks will take me research-wise.

  • Why does your research matter? Explain the significance of the question you are investigating, and why you are interested in it.

The specific question I am investigating is how the All of Us research program (a major NIH-funded precision medicine initiative) rhetorically frames participation in the program through its social media presence. Some well-established rhetorical frameworks that I’m considering in this investigation are that of “biocitizenship” and “personalization.” However, these frameworks do not heavily consider recent genomic medicine initiatives and, specifically, the All of Us research program, which uniquely returns clinically-relevant research findings to participants at a massive scale. Thus, the significance (and theoretical contribution) of my work is how current theory resonates, or fails to fully account for, a unique case study in not only biomedical research but also precision medicine research (a more specific sub-field). This is super interesting to me because precision medicine is something that will literally shape (and already has been shaping) the health care that we and our families receive; to see the dynamics of how it plays out live, albeit virtually, is fascinating.

Hey Dennis! That sounds really interesting. I never think of something like health care to be framed or influenced by social media presences. However, it sounds like from your research that the two are very much connected. It is really incredible to think about the vast implications of minute influences on something like health care. Considering it's such a crucial part of so many aspects of our lives (as is social media), it is overwhelming to think of the implications. I can't wait to see how you're research goes, and I hope to read your article/publication in the near future!

May 27, 2021

While all Laidlaw Scholars will be presenting their research at the Columbia Undergraduate Research Symposium in the fall, what are the more immediate expectations that you have for your research? Are you writing a paper you hope to get published? Will your research be part of a larger scientific study? Is your research now the first phase of a project you’ll continue to work on throughout the year, and/or next summer? Now that we are nearing the one-month mark of the program, please write about your expectations for your research.

Over the past few weeks, I have worked with other members of the Barnhart Lab to develop a protocol for whole-brains imaging. This has involved testing different staining techniques, varying incubation periods and changing the concentrations of specific chemicals. Although the trial-and-error format can sometimes be frustrating, developing this protocol has given me insight into the basics of scientific research. In addition to being crucial to my project, this protocol will also be used by other members of the Barnhart lab. It will assist ongoing research into morphology of the Drosophila visual system and other related studies.

In the coming weeks, as Summer A draws to a close, I am expecting to review initial data. I currently have experiments in the works that will hopefully provide images that quantitative data can be extracted from. Although limited, these data should point us towards a more definitive conclusion. Although I have no set plans, I hope to continue my work from this summer in the near future.

Why does your research matter? Explain the significance of the question you are investigating, and why you are interested in it.

My research will add to a growing body of knowledge about proteins and genes implicated in Parkinson's Disease, a widespread neurological condition that millions suffer from around the world. In trying to understand the cellular functions and implications of two specific proteins (PINK1 and Parkin), my research will be able to shed light onto Parkinson's at a cellular level.

In addition to the practical applications of my research, I believe that knowing more about the things and processes happening around oneself is always insightful. Often viewed as esoteric distractions, it is these random pursuits of knowledge that drive the world forward. For example, we have recently witnessed this exact phenomenon with mRNA and COVID-19 vaccines. Only through research and investigating the mechanisms of cellular function were scientists able to produce vaccines at such a rapid pace.

May 20, 2021
Replying to Angel Rose Latt

What are some of the ethical issues that you are grappling with in your research? What are some of the ways in which you are responding to these questions?

As I learn more about the topic of memory through a psychological and neurological lens with a possible end goal to test the method of loci (MoL) technique for more practical usages, there is the possibility that this technique could change the way we approach learning, for better or worse. MoL can change our engrained understanding of memorization, which is purely memorizing things and perhaps forgetting about it after we have been tested on memorization. Through MoL, standards for how we learn may change in our modern-day education or examination procedures. In a society already saturated with disparities that come with privilege and wealth, tapping into this new method of learning has the possibility of, like many things, becoming privatized and profited.  Although there is still much to learn about the MoL technique itself, it has the potential to break ground in areas of education and learning. Through better understanding and research on this technique, we can ensure that everyone has equal access to new information on this technique and how to utilize the MoL wherever people may find fit. 

As you continue your research, have you considered alternative viewpoints in your investigation? If so, how have these alternative viewpoints enriched or changed your project?

Looking over recent data from our study with control subjects who are learning the MoL for the first time and using it to remember a set of words, it is interesting to see how the MoL can be implemented in those with degenerative memory. I am curious to see if using this technique for basic but important personal information can help those with Alzheimers or dementia before the onset of their memory loss symptoms or in more common cases of natural memory loss as a result of aging. 

I think it is really interesting to think about how are our research is going to be used in the future. Why and how varying research changes people's thoughts or actions is daunting, but also crucial to consider when conducting research. This is something that I have not personally done yet, but after reading your comment I am certain it will now sit in the back of my mind. This sounds like something you have thought through, and I can't wait to see where your research goes!

May 20, 2021

What are some of the ethical issues that you are grappling with in your research? What are some of the ways in which you are responding to these questions?

My research focuses on fruit flies, but over the past few weeks I have begun to think about how animals in general are used in scientific research. Although many will object, I strongly believe that the cost is often worth the reward; we cannot rule out using animal subjects in scientific studies. The advances in scientific research accomplished utilizing animal testing are profound and undeniable. Most everything in the world today is implicated; from vaccine and drug development to the foods we eat. The world as we know it today would simply not exist without live testing.

More in line with my research, some animals, called 'model organisms,' are of particular use to science because of their simplicity as well as a vast body of literature on them. I will be using one of these such animals, Drosophila Melanogaster (also known as fruit flies). The Genome of Drosophila is well characterized and highly manipulable, making it a perfect system to examine the effects of the proteins I am interested in.

As you continue your research, have you considered alternative viewpoints in your investigation? If so, how have these alternative viewpoints enriched or changed your project?

I try at every stage in my research to consider alternate viewpoints. This is the hallmark of all basic science research: approaching results and data from a variety of vantage points. This ensures one is not trapped (often unknowingly) in an array of biases, all of which can affect results. Although I am not at this stage, when one is drawing conclusions, it is most critical to think about, and sometimes be able to argue for, an alternate viewpoint, especially when it is in contrast to your own. Doing so strengthens the conclusions you draw and ensures a more precise and accurate description of what one is researching. In specific to my research, I find myself often assuming previous literature is correct and has assumed all the possibilities. In the spirit of considering alternative viewpoints, this habit is something I am hoping to break.

May 14, 2021
Replying to Eva Brander Blackhawk

I think it's interesting to see the ways in which even across very different topics I can still see similarities between other people's projects and my own. I think there are some things such as identity, community, and ethics that seem to be general enough that they can relate to most people's project. I also think it's interesting to see the ways in which different disciplines approach these topics and questions differently and then be able to put the conclusions in conversation with one another. 

One thing I've started to struggle with is balancing the insider/outsider perspective when it comes to Native American topics but especially around specific cultural practices. People tend to be private and for good reason when it comes to sharing things. Because of my connection to the community it hasn't been difficult for me to do my research but I'm thinking a lot about what's appropriate in terms of sharing to a broader community and how to go about doing that. Specifically there's a lot of tension around whether people who are non native should be allowed to learn the language and how to go about doing this. I guess I hadn't really anticipated all the complicated tribal and identity politics and am struggling in thinking about where I stand on the issues. 

Hi Eva!

I really like you idea about seeing the similarities across different disciplines. In writing my post I went perhaps the exact opposite way (learning because of differences). Rethinking it now, I think there is so much truth to both. Learning from the differences and the similarities that run through our projects.

I also couldn't agree with you more in regards to how different disciplines approach questions and ideas. What I have really come to love about the Laidlaw program is exactly this: putting our diverse collection of ideas, thoughts, and projects in conversation with each other.