An Eye on Science

Anna Silverman ’13 came to Scripps College knowing that she wanted to study science. What she didn’t know was that by the end of her sophomore year she’d have parlayed that interest into a deep appreciation for neuroscience – and early acceptance into the highly selective George Washington University Medical School through Scripps’ linkage-program.

“Although I came to Scripps with a long-term goal in mind, I had an open mind regarding my specific major,” says Anna. Faculty at the W.M Keck Science Department encouraged neuroscience as a possible course of study, but one demonstration by biology professor Emily Wiley really struck a nerve. “She asked us to stare at our fingers as they moved. As I did, professor Wiley listed all of the molecular signaling from my brain through my body that was necessary for this seemingly effortless motion to work. I was a sucker for exercises like this.”

Anna’s love of neuroscience led to a senior thesis focusing on the eye. “I was fortunate to join with Phoenix glaucoma surgeon George Reiss on a study that examines cross-over allergic sensitivity in Glaucoma medications, specifically oral Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors (CAIs). The study seeks to assess the safety of CAIs in treating sulfa-allergic ophthalmic patients.”

Why? Because while oral CAIss are used to treat a variety of medical conditions — including vision-threatening glaucoma — and stabilize the pressure inside of the eye in the hopes of stopping further retina damage, there’s also a common allergic reaction to this type of drug. “Patients with a history of allergic reaction to [sulfanomides] are often prevented from using oral CAIs for fear of a reaction,” says Anna. “Our study collected data from patients who had taken oral CAI and were sulfa-allergic.”

The findings of the study were significant. “Preliminary analysis suggests many sulfa-allergic patients can still safely benefit from CAI. It’s exciting that more patients might safely use this treatment.”

Anna advises other students to not be afraid to ask to work in a profession that interests you. “Not one of my internship experiences existed before I asked for them, but people are wonderfully supportive of college students who demonstrate genuine curiosity and excitement,” she says. “Be proactive about finding out what you are really interested in. People love to share their expertise, particularly if you offer to help them in return.”