Her goal was to get research experience before she graduates from —and she has gotten that in a big way.
High school senior Shradha Mamidi spent her summer at the Liberty Science Center, interning with the Rutgers Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the Nitric Oxide lab, through the museum’s “Partners in Science” program.
“My research focuses on macrophages, cells that are integral to the immune system and protect the human body by engulfing foreign materials like viruses,” she said.
Mamidi said she was initially looking for summer internships in December 2011, and she heard about this one through recommendations.
“Not only would it help me to work on an independent project, but it would also provide an opportunity to learn and improve my laboratory skills and techniques,” she said.
The Liberty Science Center program is in its 26th year, and serves to provide research experiences for high school students by allowing them to work with professional scientists.
The students are able to get hands-on research experience and presentation skills, while also developing advisors and connections.
In her research, Mamidi said, she is looking at a protein, Dectin-1, that is indispensable for fighting fungal material, but if it falls off the macrophages, where it is found, it cannot combat those infections.
“My research focuses on one of the possibilities of why Dectin-1 falls off the cell,” she said.
Aside from the specifics of the cells, Mamidi is studying the relationship of nitric oxide—which is important in the human body— and an injury induce by bleomycin, a drug that is used to fight lung cancer.
Mamidi said she has a current hypothesis that she is testing, which involves an amino acid that can cause the Dectin-1 to fall off the cells.
"This program gives me lab experience in a research setting and knowledge about the immune system, and it also allows me to develop a network of advisers and connections that will be instrumental in my success later on in life,” she said. “This program has reassured my interest in the field of science, and the work that I do in the lab is closely related to the majors I am interested in, medicine or pharmacy.”
Mamidi said she has fostered that love of science as a student at the high school, taking AP biology, which gave her an advantage before walking into the lab because she knew about the cells she was going to be working with.
“The courses offered in our high school prepared me extensively for this rigorous program,” she said. “Because I work mainly with the immune system and innate immunity, I can definitely attribute a part of my knowledge in the lab to the courses I took in school.”
Throughout the summer, Mamidi said, she worked with renowned scientists in the lab—Dr. Chang-Jiang Guo, Dr. Alba Rossi-George, Dr. Helen Abramova and Dr. Andrew Gow—who all helped her with problem-solving skills in research and laboratory techniques.
“In addition, this program, has given me the first hand experience in working on a research project, and has taught me the process of experimentation,” she said. “This internship has exemplified the preciseness and patience that researchers require in order to correctly execute the given protocols, and it has taught me valuable skills that I can apply to other aspects of my life.”