Semester Abroad Student Spotlight

Doctors and scientists at the Texas Heart Institute (THI) have trained generations of leaders in cardiovascular medicine from around the world since THI’s founding in 1962 by Dr. Denton Cooley.

In our continued commitment to pushing the boundaries of discovery in cardiovascular care through research and education, our student engagement opportunities underscore THI’s global commitment to inspiring the next generation of leaders.

This spring, THI’s Molecular Cardiology Department hosted another bright exchange student as part of a Semester Abroad Program (SAP) at SRM University in Chennai, India. The outreach initiative offers students first-hand experience in a coordinated research training department.

“Our student engagement outreach tradition exposes young minds to real world experiences that demonstrate how various fields of study from science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are applied in experimental research to address questions in biology,” said Deenadayalan Bakthavatsalam, PhD, MBA.

Meet THI’s 2018 Semester Abroard Program (SAP) student, Shashikant Gupta

“It all started with an opportunity to apply to the Semester Abroad Program at SRM IST, Chennai. When I received the approval  from my supervisor Dr. Arul Jothi to join the SAP program, Dr. Deenadayalan Bakthavatsalam at THI, and my head of the department at SRM Institute of Science and Technology also encouraged me to complete the basic requirements for the SAP program. This was my first experience to travel abroad and learn new research techniques while experiencing a whole new culture and live among the scientific community.

I was welcomed and picked up by Dr. Deenadayalan Bakthavatsalam. I worked under his guidance in the Molecular Cardiology Research Laboratory at the Texas Heart Institute as an intern. During my visit, I spent several months in the lab and learned about various protocols and ongoing research and gained a new understanding of the basics of conducting experiments. The lab members were very friendly and fun-loving with a lot of celebrations and fun traditions, including the Chili Cook Off and Houston Rodeo.

Living in a multicultural team with members of different nationalities gave me the opportunity to learn more than just science, and there were also many Indians in THI who were always eager to help me in every possible situation. Dr. Deen arranged for me to learn about all the experiments going on in our lab as well as nearby labs. He helped me to work independently and always asked follow-up questions related to projects to boost my knowledge. When I made mistakes or an expected result did not come, my mentors always encouraged me to try again.

I learned that one of the most important qualities required for being a researcher is patience.

I also worked with Dr. Anna Kazansky on her ongoing experiments and picked up some tricks for the ELISA assay. I attended scientific seminars, workshops and function parties provided by THI, Baylor College of Medicine and several nearby hospitals in the Texas Medical Center.

It was an incredibly productive period for me as I learned a lot of new things and made new friends. This internship experience made my dream of pursuing a PhD even stronger, and I would surely consider this as my first step toward becoming a researcher. This has been a truly wonderful learning experience for me, and it will surely help me further my career. I am grateful and thankful to all the THI Lab members and supporting team for providing me the opportunity to be with them.”