Radha Velamuri

Radha Velamuri, Undergraduate student, Biomedical Sciences; M.P.H., Epidemiology

Investigates stress resilience

“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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