Skip to Content Skip to Footer

WesternU COMP symposium provides research experience and inspiration to students

by Rodney Tanaka

December 22, 2023

Read 1 mins

COMP held its second annual Student Research Symposium on Dec. 20, 2023 in HEC on WesternU’s Pomona, California campus. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific held its second annual Student Research Symposium on Dec. 20, 2023 to provide valuable learning experiences and networking opportunities for students.

COMP organized the symposium during Conference Week when students from all four classes are on campus. This symposium provides students with the opportunity to network and exchange information, said COMP Professor Hendrik Szurmant, PhD.

“Research is incredibly important to our students to match into their desired residencies, and we’re making every effort we can in order to support them in their endeavors,” he said.

COMP Associate Professor Thierra Nalley, PhD, (right) discusses research with student Natasha Holden. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

Students submitted 65 abstracts, and all of them presented posters at the symposium. In addition, six students were selected to give oral presentations. Students, faculty and staff filled the Recital Hall in the Health Education Center on the WesternU California campus during the poster presentations. COMP student Emerson Fisher said she enjoyed talking with her classmates about their research.

“A lot of students are going on to present at other conferences,” Fisher said. “This is a great practice run, to show what we’re working on and to prepare for future conferences.”

Second-year COMP student Jalal Saghaeidehkordi said conducting research provides insight into the thought process behind the research, as well as important lessons in failing.

“You learn when you fail. And you will fail,” he said. “You learn how to get back up and how to work with others, how to change the design of the experiment, how to learn from other people’s mistakes, and how to persevere and keep going to get optimal results so you can publish your work.”

COMP student Ali Badaoui, middle, talks with colleagues Rachel Oshay and Karim Hajjar about his research. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

The symposium is a great way to raise awareness about the research projects going on in COMP.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn about the frontiers of medicine and different aspects of future medical care for patients,” Saghaeidehkordi said. “It’s been a great opportunity to meet different people and talk to them about their projects and become familiar with groundbreaking aspects of the research being done here.”

Kevin Nguyen, now a fourth-year COMP student, proposed holding a college-specific research symposium and helped organize the first symposium in December 2022. Third-year student Ira Glassman served as chair for the 2023 symposium, and he is preparing second-year student Abraham Chorbajian to take over next year to ensure continuity of leadership. The chair sends out the call for abstracts, organizes the student team to review the abstracts, and organizes the itinerary.

“We put on this conference so all COMP students have a platform to share their research,” Glassman said. “Students will go on to present at conferences around the country. They need practice in presenting and getting feedback. This is why I’m passionate about this conference and ensuring it continues in future years.”

COMP student Nadine Kadri (left) describes her research to classmate Heather Berndt. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

Second-year COMP student Nadine Kadri conducted her research on the “Impact of Encampment on Dementia and Cognitive Aging Perceptions among Refugees.” Refugees spend an average of 15 to 20 years in camps, which is not widely known, she said. They may lack continuity of care and they may not understand the U.S. health care system, she said.

“(This research) allows me to be more empathetic to what patients are going through. I want to be advocating for my patients and for better public and mental health, especially for refugee populations,” Kadri said. “I’m passionate about working with people who are marginalized and underserved. We need to understand as health care providers how to better serve them.”

It’s important for future physicians to be up to date on research so they can make informed decisions for their patients, Kadri said. She enjoyed looking at others’ research posters, and she felt it was important for her to be in this space talking with her peers.

“Sharing what we’re passionate about and learning about is so important for WesternU,” Kadri said. “I love to see what other students are getting inspired from. When you look at these posters, you see where a lot of us as future physicians derive our inspiration from.”



WesternU Senior Vice President for Research and Biotechnology Andrea Giuffrida, PhD, sponsored awards for the two best-scoring talks and five best scoring posters. The talks were evaluated by a panel of two students and two faculty: Abraham Chorbajian, Ira Glassman, Sebastien Fuchs, MD, PhD, and Hendrik Szurmant, PhD.


First speaker prize ($300): Candice Lao, OMSI, “Effects of Electronic vs. Tobacco Cigarette Exposure and Gender on Cardiovascular Health in Mice.”

Second speaker prize ($200): Hanien Samara, OMSII, “Exon Skipping in Lipase Maturation Factor as a Cause of Familial Chylomicronemia Syndrome.”


The posters were evaluated by an 18-student panel (Michaela Pletsch, Gregory Ayzenberg, Shaira Gail Santos, Ashley Berberian, Cameron Ansari, Carson Louie, Timothy Chuong, Stephanie Cho, Ananta Srivastava, Simran Soman, Christina Trinh, Zachary Hall, Kayvan Sasaninia, Bahram Saber, Cheldon Ann Alcantara, Rebecca Shaneck, Roopsha Chatterjee, Akshay Som) with at least two reviewers assigned to every poster.


The students chose the following five posters (in alphabetical order by last name of presenter) for equal awards of $200:

Aaron Bautista, OMSIII, “A Case of Raoutella planticola in the Pediatric Population.”

Heather Berndt, OMSII, “Intranasal Administration of Na-112, a Selective Calpain-2 Inhibitor Prevents Seizure-Induced Hippocampal Calpain Activation.”

Tony Eskander and Quan Dag, OMSI, “Swine Shoulder Tenocyte Protein Expression under Hypoxic Conditions.”

Nora Lyang, OMSI, “Exploring the Feasibility of Cataract Surgerywithout Routine Monitored Anesthesia Care.”

Jacklyn Vainshtein, OMSII, “WalR Protein-DNA Interactions as a New Antimicrobial Target Suggested by Characterization of DNA-Binding Site Mutants.”

Recommended Stories