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Shambhavi Upadhyaya'19

Sanger Summer Research Scholar

Major(s)/Minor(s): Studio Art and Mathematics
Hometown: Mumbai, India
Program Mentor: Dr. Erin Munro Krull, Assistant Professor

Share a little bit about your summer as a Sanger Research Scholar.

In our eight-week, full-commitment research program, we developed a collaborative model in which my mentor, two other peers (from the Summer Science and the Biomedical Scholars programs) and I played a significant role in the advancement of an ongoing research project, and in the dissemination of the new knowledge this research produced.

Predicting when an action potential can propagate in neuronal axons was always a long-outstanding problem in both mathematics and neuroscience. Using simulations and mathematical ideas, we provided evidence that propagation in neocortical cells can be predicted by looking at a key parameter: the sodium conductance of the axon. 

Our group held daily check-ins to discuss research progress and to raise questions, attended weekly meetings with the Summer Science researchers, presented work in the form of electronic posters and submitted a final, polished research paper after weeks of writing, receiving feedback from other research students, and refining!

What was the biggest takeaway from your experience?

Through this research program, I was able to appreciate the utility and power of mathematical software in modeling biological micro-behavior. My interest in the field of neuroscience did, in the process, increase by a lot! Someday, I hope I may be able to apply mathematical knowledge gained in the classroom to other fields and real-life situations in a similar fashion.

What sparked your interest in this topic?

Reading about my mentor’s work in the field of neuroscience and her contributions to this specific problem got me hooked! Prior to the program, we had several conversations about the particular research question and ways to think about it before we actually finalized it as our topic. With an active interest in the field of mathematics and enthusiasm for scientific models and procedures, I was confident that I would really enjoy it – and I did!

How did your mentor impact your experience?

[She] was great! It was in this process of deciding how to divide work among the members of our group that the project became truly collaborative. A lot of planning, discussions and trial simulations helped us make important progress in our work. For a project that so heavily emphasized quantitative methods and analyses, I think it was very helpful to have conversations together rather than to figure things out individually. The group setting also had a super positive effect on our thinking, mood and motivation!

After completing your program, what are you looking forward to most?

I definitely want to maintain a high academic performance in my courses at Beloit. But more importantly, I want to connect with more people! Talk to faculty members, international students, domestic students, alumni, the local community – anyone and everyone I can learn from and become a better person.