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Inspired by his father, a Boston Municipal Court judge, MD/PhD student studies addiction

Before pursuing medical school, MD/PhD student Nick Bolden planned to attend business and culinary school and launch his own restaurant. He traded a chef’s hat for a white coat to study addiction recovery after witnessing his father, Michael Bolden, a retired first justice for the Boston Municipal Court, lead drug court sessions in his courtroom.  

“My father taught me empathy and compassion for people suffering from addiction and other mental health disorders,” said Bolden. “I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to help that community.”

Born and raised in Milton, Bolden studied biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore Country. His decision to pursue an MD/PhD at UMass Chan Medical School stemmed from his favorable clinical and research internship experiences at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital and Tufts Medical Center.

“I enjoy science and wanted to study it as broadly as I could,” said Bolden. “I was torn between which path to pursue until I found there was the option to pursue the MD/PhD. I realized that would be the best option for me to answer clinical and research questions.”

Bolden’s research targets peptide receptors in mice with a drug that blunts cocaine-associated reward. His mentor is Haley E. Melikian, PhD, professor of neurobiology.

“Nick has found a signaling pathway in the brain that, when stimulated, completely blocks addictive behavior toward cocaine,” said Dr. Melikian. “This is potentially a powerful method to therapeutically stop addiction or to understand how the brain is able to turn addictive behaviors on and off. His research is going to be a landmark.”

“My biggest hope for my career is to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction,” said Bolden. “I think we’re making good progress in society now, but there's still a long way to go. There are still a lot of people who believe that addiction is a lack of discipline or for people who are weak-willed. People need to understand that it's actually a disease that people are suffering from.”

The Student Spotlight series features UMass Chan Medical School students in the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing and T.H. Chan School of Medicine. For more information about UMass Chan Medical School and how to apply, visit the Prospective Students page.