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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Student Q&A: Andrew Chiu, PhD, Medical Scientist Training Program

Andrew Chiu

Andrew Chiu, PhD, an eighth-year student in the Medical Scientist Training Program, is interested in molecular solutions to clinical problems. His doctoral research in the laboratory of Antonio Sanz Clemente, PhD, assistant professor of Pharmacology, led to a publication in Cell Reports, where Chiu and Sanz-Clemente reported a new mechanism to transport neuroreceptors.


Where is your hometown?

I grew up in Los Angeles and went to University of California-Los Angeles, where I majored in Biochemistry.

What are your research interests?

While I’m not entirely sure what I would like to medically specialize in yet, I’m really motivated by the concept of using molecular approaches to solving clinical problems. Going forward, I think I’d like to continue studying molecular neuroscience and to have a more active role in trying to translate findings from the lab to useful solutions for the clinic.

What exciting projects are you working on?

For my graduate work, I worked in the lab of Dr. Antonio Sanz-Clemente. My work focused on understanding how NMDA receptors, a type of neurotransmitter receptor, are localized in neurons. These receptors are crucial for normal brain function, but when they are activated in the wrong areas, it can lead cellular dysfunction. It’s now thought that this process might be involved in a number of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. My work identified the enzyme protein phosphatase 1 as a key player in controlling now neurons control NMDA receptors localization.

What attracted you to the Medical Scientist Training Program?

There were a few things I kept in mind during my medical school decision process. I knew I wanted to be at an institution that was strong both clinically and in research. At the time that I was starting medical school, Feinberg was in the process of overhauling their curriculum to make clinical education more integrated with traditional science-based education. This concept was pretty progressive at the time, and really intrigued me.

I also appreciated how important research was to the medical school. I knew that even though my peers might not be pursuing a research degree, because everyone would be participating in their own AOSC research projects, I would be able to share the experience of doing research with other students. Importantly, I also knew that I wanted to perform neuroscience research, which is something that Northwestern excels at.

Finally, I knew that I wanted to experience living in big city, so living in Chicago was an appealing opportunity.

What has been your best experience at Feinberg?

Without a doubt, my most rewarding experience at Feinberg has been earning my doctoral degree. It was the culmination of 5 years of work and I think is a testament of how perseverance pays off.

How would you describe the faculty at Feinberg?

I’ve found all of the faculty at Feinberg to be thoroughly collaborative and to be genuinely invested in the development and wellbeing of students. I’ve had no trouble reaching out to both clinical and research faculty and have always felt that, despite being a trainee, my thoughts and opinions were valued and respected.

What do you do in your free time?

I love exploring Chicago, trying new restaurant, and enjoying movies and concerts.

What are your plans for after graduation?

Following graduation, I’m planning to continue my medical education through a residency program.