She’s getting her start by working in research labs in the Integrated Science and Engineering Laboratory Facility (ISELF) and Wick Science Building at St. Cloud State University.
“The rewards I’ve gained by being an undergraduate researcher have boosted my resume, but also my interpersonal and personal skills,” said Shankar, who is slated to give the student address at the 3 p.m. May 4 Commencement ceremony.
Her summer will center on moving to Minneapolis where she’s enrolled at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Shankar began working with Professor Latha Ramakrishnan, interim dean of the School of Graduate Studies and associate provost for research, studying the effects of anti-epilectic drugs on planarian flatworms during the summer before her freshman year.
These flatworms are considered as ancient precursors to the human brain and the eventual goal is to understand how specific neurotransmitters evolved from these tiny worms to those found in human brains. Their research focused on GABA, an important inhibitory neurotransmitter whose function is imbalanced in epileptic and seizure disorders.
“Undergraduate research can be found at most universities in today’s world, but I think what really sets apart St. Cloud State from any other university is the amount of contact that I have with the direct professor and the ease of which we can work,” Shankar said.
— Sruthi Shankar
Biochemistry and biomedical science double major
Shankar has presented with her fellow student researchers on their undergraduate research at the National Council of Undergraduate Research and has earned a student research grant and second place at the St. Cloud State Student Research Colloquium.
“Amazing women professors are actually who laid the foundation for my growth here at St. Cloud State,” she said.
Shankar is an immigrant. Born in India and reared in Singapore, she emigrated to St. Cloud in 2008. She attended South Junior High and graduated from Tech High School in 2014.
She chose to attend St. Cloud State because of the research opportunities she found and to be able to live at home and help her family.
“The work that I’ve done at St. Cloud State has really helped me realize how medicine has to be intimately connected with research, and I think that the future of medicine is really dependent on the physician being able to translate their clinical experience into the laboratory and vice versa.”
She’s inspired by Ramakrishnan to continue research into neurobiology and hopes to someday become a doctor and take her clinical and laboratory experiences back to India, where poor access to proper healthcare facilities affects a large majority of the population.
In addition to research, Shankar works as a tutor in the Chemistry Tutoring Center and as a peer mentor for the University Honors Program program. She is treasurer in the Medical Professions Association and connects with her ethnic and cultural heritage through the India Heritage Club.
Shankar has now found her place at the university with the guidance of her professors and the University Honors Program. She enjoys helping other students navigate their way through the transition to college life and shares her unique experiences as an example of how students can achieve success in life by remaining open-minded even when thrown into unusual life circumstances.
“It was really sort of a journey, but through this hard journey — but especially with the help of many amazing professors who know my story and know where I come from — I’ve gained my footing.”