NIH-NIDDK/KUH Yale Summer Undergraduate Medical Research Fellowship: Sanidhya (Sani) Tripathi

Sani Tripathi is a second-year biomedical engineering student. This past summer he earned a fellowship to participate in Yale’s Undergraduate Medical Research Program. Below he recounts his experience, including application process and eventual acceptance, as well as plans post-graduation.

As a freshman attending the University of Arkansas, I was initially unaware of the countless opportunities that students have. Having completed many research projects in high school, I wanted to continue that during my undergraduate career. Being part of the First-Year Engineering Program (FEP) and taking the Honors Research Experience course, I was fortunate enough to start working in a lab (Rajaram Lab) about a month after I moved-in on campus. Having heard about REUs and other summer research fellowships pursued by previous honors students, I was motivated to begin my search.

I vividly remember sitting on my bed working on homework when I received an acceptance letter from the Yale School of Medicine inviting me to participate in their summer undergraduate medical research program. I was beyond ecstatic to be in the position I was and ultimately chose to spend my summer in New Haven, CT for 11 weeks. The program, funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), was designed to give students a “hands-on” research experience in clinical and basic science labs focusing specifically on kidney, urological, and hematological diseases.

For 11 weeks, I was placed in Dr. Lloyd G. Cantley’s lab in the Section of Nephrology where the research focus was to look at the most intrinsic renal cause of Acute Kidney Injury (AKI): Acute Tubular Injury (ATI). The lab’s current work is dedicated towards determining mechanisms of renal tubular development and repair following ischemia/toxin exposure. Being intimidated at first, I was mentored closely by a Postdoc Fellow (Nikhil Singh, M.D., Ph.D.) and a 4th year medical student (Zachary M. Avigan) who helped me learn the ropes of important techniques I would need for my project. My daily schedule consisted of arriving to lab around 8:30 AM every morning and on some days attend meetings in the middle of the day and typically leave at 5:00 PM. I had the opportunity to attend weekly Internal Medicine and Nephrology Grand Rounds which lasted 1 hr. each where physicians, medical students, residents, fellows, and other faculty members all met to discuss cutting-edge research in the field and talk about cases seen at the Yale New Haven Hospital during the previous week. In some of the meetings, physician-scientists from other notable schools would come to discuss their research. Through these meetings, I saw how some of the research in labs at Yale were directly translated to the hospital setting and used to treat patients. Outside my work hours, I was also able to shadow a nephrologist and witnessed the physician-patient interaction. Finally, I also attended our lab group meetings to stay up to date on what others were working on as well as met with Dr. Cantley 1 on 1 to update him on my progress. He was always willing to help me grow scientifically as well as personally by giving me valuable advice!

My project was about looking more closely at cellular senescence, a mechanism linked to AKI, and studying the expression of a specific marker (p21). By performing immunostaining on Human Kidney-2 (HK-2) cells, I utilized immunofluorescence qPCR, and Imaging Mass Cytometry (IMC) to perform tests on my samples. IMC was an exciting technology that I got a chance to use which allows for the detection and quantification of more than 40 protein markers on a tissue section. The Cantley Lab is the first lab in the country to use IMC to look at kidney biopsy specimens specifically and answer basic questions regarding injury and repair.

At the end of the program, I along with 15 other students presented our posters at the KUH Summer Undergraduate Research Conference at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Our program along with 10 other KUH programs from Harvard, Mayo Clinic, Emory, Wake Forest, UT Southwestern, and others also presented their projects.

All in all, I am thankful for this experience and would like to express my gratitude to my mentors here at UARK as well as Yale School of Medicine for their consistent support. Looking forward, I am now leaning towards pursuing a Ph.D. degree after graduation due to the excellent experience this past summer and am hoping to possibly participate in another research program this summer!