Karen Symes, PhD Hear my name
Associate Professor
Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine
Biochemistry & Cell Biology

PhD, National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR)
BSc, University of Sussex

I lead the educational mission of the Department of Biochemistry. I chair the Department’s Curriculum Committee and am involved in curriculum development and research, course direction and teaching across the medical campus. In co-Chairing the committee appointed to redesign the GMS first year Ph.D. curriculum, input was sought from across the medical campus with representation from the nineteen Programs and Departments to create a completely new interdisciplinary modular curriculum, Foundations in Biomedical Sciences (FiBS). The educational structure was set up to encourage students to think in a rigorous and interdisciplinary fashion and involved reducing lecture hours and incorporating weekly small group discussions to critically evaluate scientific literature and workshops to practice the use of emerging technologies. Small groups are “near-peer” facilitated and composed of students with different scientific interests to provide a range of perspectives and to promote collegiality among doctoral students. In addition, to provide essential foundational skills required for lifelong learning and career development, critical thinking, problem solving, class participation and scientific writing are included in the evaluation process. Individualized oversight and help for students is provided through faculty accessibility, monitoring of performance, and tutoring. I am currently co- Chair the Steering Committee that oversees the FiBS curriculum, monitors student evaluation of the modules and conducts peer reviews. My laboratory focused on elucidating the molecular mechanisms of cell motility, an essential component of normal biological processes such as embryonic development and wound healing, as well as critical in disease development and progression, and I am now co-Course director for the fourth core FiBS module, Mechanisms of Cell Communication.

In addition to being an Assistant Dean in the medical school’s Office of Student Affairs, I am responsible for coordinating the Biochemistry Departments teaching of medical students. Currently course director of the core first year course Biochemistry and Cell Biology, I am actively involved in the committee charged with the integration of the first year medical curriculum, which is evolving into an interdisciplinary modular design similar to FiBS.

Assistant Dean
Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine
Student Affairs

Graduate Faculty (Primary Mentor of Grad Students)
Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, Graduate Medical Sciences

Cell Movement During Xenopus Development: A Model for Metastasis
07/07/2000 - 06/30/2006 (PI)
NIH/National Cancer Institute
5 R01 CA87375 05

Molecular Effectors That Control Cell Migration During Gastrulation of the Frog Embryo: A Model System for Breast Cancer Metastasis
01/03/2000 - 12/31/2002 (Dept Sponsor)
Comm. of Mass./Department of Public Health


Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Faculty can login to make corrections and additions.

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  1. Simmons JM, Franklin DS, Dahlman KB, Symes K, Viselli SM, Diaz-Cruz ES, Fong SFT, Spicer DB. Teaching Biochemistry to Students of Dentistry, Medicine, and Pharmacy: 8th International Conference of the Association of Biochemistry Educators (ABE) Virtual Conference, May 3-7, 2021. Med Sci Educ. 2021 Dec; 31(6):2125-2128. PMID: 34567835; PMCID: PMC8452131; DOI: 10.1007/s40670-021-01402-y;
  2. Cline SD, Simmons JM, Niederhoffer EC, Cruthirds DL, Arbor SC, Franklin DS, Abali EE, Bateman RC, Fontes JD, Lindsley JE, Rubenstein PA, Symes K, Viselli SM. Teaching Biochemistry to Students of Dentistry, Medicine, and Pharmacy: 7th International Conference of the Association of Biochemistry Educators (ABE) Tucson, AZ, USA, May 5-9, 2019. Med Sci Educ. 2020 Mar; 30(1):585-589. PMID: 34457706; PMCID: PMC8368449; DOI: 10.1007/s40670-019-00851-w;
  3. Park HY, Berkowitz O, Symes K, Dasgupta S. The art and science of selecting graduate students in the biomedical sciences: Performance in doctoral study of the foundational sciences. PLoS One. 2018; 13(4):e0193901.View Related Profiles. PMID: 29614110; PMCID: PMC5882097; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0193901;
  4. Gallan AJ, Offner GD, Symes K. Vertical integration of biochemistry and clinical medicine using a near-peer learning model. Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2016 Nov 12; 44(6):507-516.View Related Profiles. PMID: 27123831; DOI: 10.1002/bmb.20972;
  5. Dasgupta S, Symes K, Hyman L. Leading change: curriculum reform in graduate education in the biomedical sciences. Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2015 Mar-Apr; 43(2):126-32.View Related Profiles. PMID: 25735833; DOI: 10.1002/bmb.20862;
  6. Abali EE, Osheroff N, Buxbaum E, Niederhoffer EC, Symes K, Sanders M. Evolving Role of the Basic Science Course Director in an Integrated Curriculum. Medical Science Educator. 2014. View Publication
  7. Liu KW, Feng H, Bachoo R, Kazlauskas A, Smith EM, Symes K, Hamilton RL, Nagane M, Nishikawa R, Hu B, Cheng SY. SHP-2/PTPN11 mediates gliomagenesis driven by PDGFRA and INK4A/ARF aberrations in mice and humans. J Clin Invest. 2011 Mar; 121(3):905-17.View Related Profiles. PMID: 21393858; PMCID: PMC3049395; DOI: 10.1172/JCI43690;
  8. Symes K, Smith EM, Mitsi M, Nugent MA. Sweet cues: How heparan sulfate modification of fibronectin enables growth factor guided migration of embryonic cells. Cell Adh Migr. 2010 Oct-Dec; 4(4):507-10.View Related Profiles. PMID: 20562530; PMCID: PMC3011263; DOI: 10.4161/cam.4.4.12427;
  9. Smith EM, Mitsi M, Nugent MA, Symes K. PDGF-A interactions with fibronectin reveal a critical role for heparan sulfate in directed cell migration during Xenopus gastrulation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Dec 22; 106(51):21683-8.View Related Profiles. PMID: 19966216; PMCID: PMC2799789; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0902510106;
  10. Wu H, Symes K, Seldin DC, Dominguez I. Threonine 393 of beta-catenin regulates interaction with Axin. J Cell Biochem. 2009 Sep 1; 108(1):52-63.View Related Profiles. PMID: 19565571; PMCID: PMC3398408; DOI: 10.1002/jcb.22260;
Showing 10 of 34 results. Show More

This graph shows the total number of publications by year, by first, middle/unknown, or last author.

Bar chart showing 34 publications over 24 distinct years, with a maximum of 3 publications in 2004


Contact for Mentoring:

72 E. Concord St Silvio Conte (K)
Boston MA 02118
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