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An Internship At St. Jude
It was the summer after his sophomore year, and Eshan was one of two students chosen to conduct research on the effect of occupational levels of environmental toxins—specifically cobalt and nickel—on human lung cells.
Eshan and Victoria Ruff ’14 were continuing the work of Christine Lynch ’11 (now pursuing medical training with the U.S. Army) who, under Professor Reynolds’ supervision, had conducted the pilot studies during two previous summers. “Christine clarified the protocols and determined that the elements caused cytotoxicity,” Eshan explains, “so now we began looking at western blots for protein expression, which show how cells are dying when exposed to the metals. We saw high levels of reactive oxygen species, or oxidative stress.”
Eshan, a double major in biology and psychology in the premedical program, wrote up his research findings as first-author on a paper titled “Co-exposure to nickel and cobalt enhances cytotoxicity and oxidative stress in human lung epithelial cells,” which Dr. Reynolds submitted to the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. Eshan presented the research at the annual meeting of the Society of Toxicology (SOT) in San Francisco, and secured funding for the trip through the Cater Society of Junior Fellows.
“Through the Undergraduate Toxicology Education program at SOT, I was able to network with scientists in the fields of academia, industry, and government while learning more about the field of toxicology itself,” he says. “When I was presenting my published research, I was approached by a man from the Federal Drug Administration in Silver Spring, MD, who requested that I give a seminar presentation on mixtures toxicology to the Center for Devices and Radiological Health at the end of the semester.”
His participation in the toxicology meeting also helped him land a summer internship in the Pediatric Oncology Education program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN.
“I was thinking about returning to campus for the summer to continue working in Dr. Reynolds’ lab, but she also encouraged me to explore toxicology at an off-site program,” Eshan says. “I developed a list of research programs I was interested in, and we narrowed it down to programs that could broaden my scope of studies. I wanted exposure to pediatrics, and toxicology could easily be applied to cancer biology, so this seemed like a good fit. I already knew how to perform cell culture and western-blot analysis because of my experience in Dr. Reynolds’ lab.”
At St. Jude, Eshan worked in the Department of Chemical Biology and Therapeutics in the lab of Dr. Taosheng Chen. “A component of Dr. Chen’s research focuses on drug resistance, which is one of the main causes of chemotherapeutic failure,” Eshan notes.
In addition to his bench work, Eshan took part in a “Lunch and Learn” series with fellow research assistants at St. Jude. It was a great opportunity to share knowledge among colleagues, he says, so when Eshan returned to campus he organized a monthly Journal Club to host faculty and student presentations on recently published research.
Another highlight of his experience at St. Jude was interacting with pediatric patients as a volunteer in the Happy Cart program. He would deliver books, toys, and games to youngsters in treatment.
“This experience definitely solidified my decision to pursue a career in medicine. The patients at St. Jude were beyond inspiring.”
In February, Eshan learned that he is one step closer. He landed a Postbaccalaureate NIH Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA). As a two-year Postbac IRTA fellow, he will be studying molecular-based international HIV epidemiology at Johns Hopkins under the mentorship of Thomas Quinn, MD, MSc. Dr. Quinn is the Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health and Chief of the International HIV/STD Section at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Eshan will begin his fellowship this summmer.
Read more stories of Purpose and Passion here.