“Radha has demonstrated unique talents and curiosity across several scientific disciplines. From the time she started as a freshman in the lab she has demonstrated an insatiable curiosity and is not afraid to ask questions, which usually bring further clarity and insight to others as well.” -Rainbo Hultman, Assistant Professor, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
• Hometown: West Des Moines, IA
• Faculty mentor/advisor: Dr. Rainbo Hultman
• What is your degree program and expected graduate date? B.S. Biomedical Sciences (Class of 2022); MPH Epidemiology (Class of 2023); note: I am in the Undergrad to Grad (U2G) program.
• Please describe your research: The research I am involved with concerns stress-related disorders, especially when considering differences in male and female brain networks. Using rodents as a preclinical model, we focus on a translational approach, studying the underlying molecular, cellular, neurophysiological, and behavioral bases for vulnerability to chronic stress. We study behavior and neurophysiology with multi-site in vivo electrodes to identify these disease states in efforts to ultimately promote healthy electrical activity.
• In simple terms, why does this research matter? The brain is incredibly complex, with regions interacting with each other to create diverse circuits and keep us functioning. Chronic stress yields a multitude of adverse effects that disrupt this complicated system, including the onset of depressive-like symptoms. This occurs because of variances in stress-effected factors like neuronal circuity and gene expression, and we study how overextension of these normal physiological phenomena causes prolonged problems. Although a little stress is a good motivator to be productive, especially for college students, too much can really overwhelm a person and lead vulnerability to chronic stress.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I joined Dr. Hultman’s lab within the first month of my freshman year and have stayed there ever since. Even during the pandemic remote-working period, I was able to work with Dr. Hultman on a manuscript and gain valuable experience while at home.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Through my research opportunities, I have met the most incredible mentors from my PI to the advisors at the ICRU office to the professor I have TA’d for. It has improved my critical thinking and problem-solving skills as well as encouraged me to go out of my comfort zone and communicate my work to peers and professionals. Finally, it provides a real-world application aspect to the material I learn in my coursework, providing another facet to my education.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? My aim is to obtain my MPH, attend medical school, and becoming a practicing physician scientist. Although I am still figuring out exactly what this path entails, I know that I am interested in keeping research in the forefront of my career.
• Does your research have connections to or implications for COVID-19? Please explain. Not directly, but my research does focus on vulnerability to chronic stress, something we all have faced on an increasing level of since the beginning of the pandemic.
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