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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Research

Student Q&A: Kosta Nicolozakes, Medical Scientist Training Program

Kosta Nicolozakes

Kosta Nicolozakes, a fourth-year student in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), studies shoulder instability in the laboratories of Eric Perreault, PhD, professor of Biomedical Engineering and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Amee Sietz, PT, PhD, associate professor of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences.

Q&A 

Where is your hometown?

Wooster, Ohio.

What is your research focus?

I conduct my research in the Neuromuscular Control Laboratory of Eric Perreault, PhD, at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. I’m also fortunate to train under Amee Seitz, PT, PhD, a clinician-scientist herself, and take advantage of a collaboration between Eric’s position in Biomedical Engineering and Amee’s in Physical Therapy. Both of these mentors offer their own valuable training and have given me immense freedom to design an independent project balancing their engineering and clinical expertise.

In my current research, I’m looking at ways to determine why certain individuals with loose shoulders are in pain and some stay asymptomatic. This project has taken me down the road of developing some instrumented techniques to try and improve the assessments physicians and therapists are able to utilize when evaluating how loose a patient’s shoulder is.

My research background is rooted in sports medicine, so I’m thrilled to have been able to design a sports-inspired project in a more rehabilitation-focused environment at the SRAlab.

Why did you choose Feinberg?

When I was applying to MSTPs four years ago, my “ideal” landing spot was a prominent Midwestern academic institution (as I was born and raised an Ohio boy); Northwestern immediately vaulted to the top of the list. 

The advice I received from colleagues and mentors about where to attend had a unifying message: Choose a program that wants you as you. During my admissions interview, I found that interactions with the current MSTP students were remarkably natural. The additional conversations with faculty, including my current research mentor, contained sincere interest in my skill set and research goals. These connections with students and faculty sold me on Feinberg.  

Additional resources at Feinberg — such as the close connection to the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago) and the outstanding Chicago community Feinberg lives in — added substantial reinforcement to my decision.

What have you found most rewarding about Feinberg?

I truly believe an institution is a product of its people, and Feinberg has some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure to work with. When applying to schools, institutions can become objectified behind a cloak of rankings, hospital statistics and research infrastructure. The incredible individuals at Feinberg were a welcome addition to my training that I already knew was going to be medically and scientifically sound.

My participation in multiple initiatives at Feinberg has allowed me to not only meet but cultivate relationships with deans, directors, students and staff; every individual has uniquely impacted my experience. I often reflect on Dean Wayne’s words surrounding the impact our graduates make as residents at other institutions: They are coveted as much for being exceptional people as they are for being exceptionally trained clinicians. Her sentiment summarizes my time at Feinberg, and I’m excited for class after class that gets to experience this culture.

How do you maintain balance with interests outside of the laboratory?

I love the Chicago community and have been lucky to involve myself in organizations both within and outside of Feinberg. I have an extensive music background, so the recent formation of the Northwestern Medical Orchestra offered a beautiful opportunity to continue my participation in a musical ensemble. Relationships at Feinberg have also connected me with medical volunteering for the Chicago Marathon, and that work has been an exciting and unique opportunity to realize some of my sports medicine clinical interests.

I’m very active in the large Chicagoland Greek Orthodox community. Recently, I’ve been working with some national initiatives to research and improve young adult involvement and connection within the church. Finally, my Ohio State and Pittsburgh fandom is no secret here in Chicago, and I’ve loved the opportunity to see my “home teams” play in my new “home town.” I’ve seen the Buckeyes repeatedly play at Northwestern, and while I’ve never actually seen the Pirates victorious at Wrigley (0-7), a trip to Milwaukee this summer helped temporarily satisfy that void with a win.

What are your plans after graduation?

After completing my PhD and MD training, I plan to apply to a residency program in either physical medicine and rehabilitation or orthopaedic surgery. Both offer unique routes towards my long-term goal of clinical and scientific work in sports medicine. The location of my laboratory in the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and the subsequent exposure to PM&R clinicians has absolutely biased me towards this route, but I believe both specialties fit quite well with my interests. Hopefully, in a decade or so, I’ll have a position at a big academic center where I can seamlessly continue my musculoskeletal research and begin treating athletes.