Arushi Kotru, an alumnus from the KURE program, is a current post-baccalaureate IRTA fellow at the NIH. We reached out to her to gain more insight into her experiences as an emerging scientist.

Q: Do you have any particular experiences, interests, or passions that have shaped you as a researcher?
A: I’ve discovered that I find myself more passionate and motivated when there is an end goal of my research relating to helping others. Here at the NIH, the collaborator for my project studies sickle cell disease, and a large motivation for me is knowing that what I work on will help him with his studies and research questions that will hopefully advance the field of sickle cell research and treatments.

Q: What do you hope to achieve with your current research? How did you come to specialize in your particular field of research?
A: After being a part of projects involving microfluidics in undergrad, I wanted to continue that when I joined the NIH for my postbac. The project that I am currently on was assigned to me rather than me picking it, but I chose something that had overlap with a bit of the research I did in undergrad, but with different techniques and methods that I had not done before.

Q: What advice would you give to undergraduate students who want to get more experience with research?
A: I am lucky in that I was a UAB CORD Summer Science Institute intern during the summer after I graduated from high school. After the summer ended, Dr. Sethu offered for me to continue working in his lab once I began at UAB as a freshman. While I did not have to seek out a lab myself at that time, I did have to go through the process when I began looking for labs at the NIH. My biggest piece of advice would be to reach out to as many people as possible, because you will eventually find the right PI/lab that will take you on and train you while also helping you grow as a researcher.

Q: What is one thing you wish you could tell your younger self about academia/research/life in general?
A: It sounds a little silly, but I don’t think I realized how much one ends up reading papers!

Q: How has your time in India shaped you as a researcher?
A: One part of my study abroad experience that made it so unique is that I lived with a host family and was fully immersed into the community that I was living in for the 10 weeks of the program. I adapted to their ways of life, and this provided me with a different perspective of how a society operates outside of the US. I think that this eye-opening experience of understanding how a society and community differ from my own can provide a new level of open-mindedness, which can then translate into becoming beneficial in research when one is thinking of new methods or approaches for a project/experiment.

Q: Could you expand upon the way your research will impact public health/healthcare accessibility across these countries?
A: The PI for the project that I am working on is a part of many international collaborations in countries where the areas he is in do not have access to high tech equipment. This results in either the experiments taking longer to perform, which decreases the amount of experiments that can be done, or the experiments being unable to be performed. I hope that through my research, the products that I create can be taken along on these collaborations and help contribute to the field.

Q: What’s the greatest thing you’ve gained from your KURE experience?
A: The greatest, but also most terrifying part of my KURE experience was the final symposium at the end of the program, where we presented our summer’s work to the Division of Nephrology, our fellow KURE scholars, and KURE PIs. This was the only time in my undergraduate experience where I had an opportunity to give a presentation of this caliber. At first, it was intimidating and nerve-wracking, but the journey of working on something for many weeks and then turning it into an informative presentation was an extremely rewarding exercise. I carried the skills that I learned during this process and implemented them when it came time to begin creating mini presentations to briefly explain my research while I interviewed with labs at the NIH.