What International Fulbrights Can Do at Drexel

Photo courtesy Rohail Bhatti.

Q: What are you working on at Drexel?

A: I have just started working in Dr. [Priscilla] Sato’s lab. I’ve completed initial trainings, but I haven’t stepped into the research yet. I’m going to work with two PhD students to learn all the new techniques, so I can start my own work later.

Basically, the lab is focused on exploring how different drug molecules are used to treat diabetes and their relationship with the heart. Most diabetic patients have cardiac issues because diabetes affects the heart. Since the prevalence of both diabetes and heart issues is high all around the world, especially where I’m coming from and in my family history, this research area has attracted me. Lab is focused on endocrine and cardiovascular system which intrigued me to join it at first place.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your time at Drexel?
A:
I anticipate that at Drexel, I’ll be able to get hands-on practice in so many techniques used in medical research and most probably get a publication by the end of my time here as well. That will help for getting into a good grad school later, since I plan to get a PhD.

Q: What have you enjoyed about your experience at Drexel?

A: Speaking specifically about my program, I like how Drexel invites people from industry and field experience to deliver the lectures. In the core course that I’m taking, “Drug Discovery and Development,” we get two lectures every week and in every lecture there’s a different person with expertise and top-notch professors from other universities and from industry.

Besides my studies, Fulbright is a cultural exchange program and I got to experience so many new things. Drexel has a huge role in changing me and giving me a new experience. I’ve got to experience Philadelphia and the rest of the US and made friends from different diverse backgrounds and cultures. Drexel hosts so many different events and puts you in touch with new students and international students.

Photo courtesy Wainesten Camargo da Silva.

Photo courtesy Wainesten Camargo da Silva.

Wainesten Camargo da Silva, Brazil

Da Silva is a visiting student researcher studying development studies at the AJ Drexel Autism Institute. Da Silva started in September 2021 and will complete the program in June 2022.

Q: What made you choose Drexel?

A: My PhD is on urban and regional planning and regional development, and I’m a lawyer too. In law school I was researching integrating law and urban and regional planning, and when I was researching with professors from the program in urban and regional planning, we received a grant to plan services for autism. We don’t have a high-developed structure to research autism in Brazil, so I decided to research about autism in my PhD.

The US has stronger advocacy and research in this field. I chose Drexel because Dr. Lindsey Shea [director of the Policy and Analytics Center at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute] performed a census about the autistic community in Pennsylvania. Once that you have the census and the numbers, you have these characteristics of the community, and you can prepare policies for them. When I was looking, everything at Drexel appeared so specifically related to my interests that I didn’t look to any other institution. My first choice was the best one.

Q: What are you working on at Drexel?

A: I’m looking at understanding the demographics and policies for autism. There are many groups looking at education, medical services and genetics for autism research, but not public policies for the autistic community, for example. We’re not looking in law and autism to see if there’s a rise in the number of the lawsuits enforcing the rights and services for this community. The title of my project that I submitted to Fulbright is: “Understanding How the United States Organizes Their Social Demographic Data about Autism.” I’m trying to transfer this experience to Brazil.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your time at Drexel?

I was not expecting to come into the US It was a change on my way of research. I learned how to research the autistic field and I am doing my best to think about projects. For example, now I’m aware that in Brazil we have weak institutions for autism advocacy, research, and services, I understand too that I have a responsibility with the community. I’m looking in a broad way because we don’t have this level of specialization in Brazil. We don’t have information about autistic children in school or even the numbers of members of the autistic community receiving health services from the public system.

I want to create an observatory to integrate Brazilian researchers in the autistic field to collaborate and create more connections to improve and of course to improve the institutions that support the autistic community. What I want to do is the same that you have in the US with the adaptation needed for Brazil. With time, possibly maybe in ten years, someone that wants to work with any specific institution or area of ​​research in the autism field in Brazil will be able to do it because we are starting this work.

Q: What have you enjoyed about your experience at Drexel?

A: It’s amazing because I’m learning so much. For example, I was proposing to prepare a scientific journal, to publish articles in the Brazilian Research Society, and Dr. Shea helped me to talk with the editor of one of the most important scientific journals about the autism in the world. I was trying to understand how the CDC works in getting administrative data about the autistic community, and she helped me to talk with the people that work with projects with CDC to get prevalence and surveillance information about the community too. Drexel offered me the possibility of understanding the skills necessary to improve autism research. I’m really grateful for all this knowledge that I have learned during this time. I’ve been researching for more than ten years and I never saw so many sympathetic people like at Drexel.

Photo courtesy Ramsha Kamran.

Photo courtesy Ramsha Kamran.

Ramsha Kamran, Pakistan

Kamran is studying molecular medicine at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies in the College of Medicine. Kamran started in August 2021 and will complete the program in August 2023.

Q: What made you choose Drexel?

A: I was writing this proposal in 2020, just after the pandemic came, and I was looking more into how to produce cost-effective vaccines. There are so many places in Pakistan where the COVID-19 vaccine was expensive, but now over the last few months, it has become more readily available to people. But I actually switched my topic when I was researching different professors and found Dr. Sonia Navas-Martin [professor of microbiology & immunology in the College of Medicine]. She was working on the SARS-CoV-2 virus even before the pandemic, which was interesting to me. As a microbiologist, I was intrigued to understand how these tiny little microbes can greatly impact our lives in such ways that you cannot even imagine. These viruses need to be worked on in very particular, sterile environments in research facilities that we don’t really have in Pakistan. Now I will research the spike lengths of organisms of this disease and see if it has any role in causing the severity of the disease.

Q: What are you working on at Drexel?

I’m a first-year graduate student, so I am shadowing a second-year PhD student at Drexel to learn all the techniques. After some time, then I will start the actual project that I would be doing. All the Infectious Disease program labs are interrelated, so many of the students will work and share the same workspace and we talk and learn a lot. It’s always interesting to know that there are so many students in different STEM fields and they’re just doing amazingly well with their research projects. I’m going to miss that.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your time at Drexel?

A: With all my research advocacy, I would want to promote how we can prevent these infectious diseases. Because you must make people understand that, even if you cannot see them, these viruses can compromise your health and the people around you. Prevention and control are the key measures to control these viruses.

I want to give women in Pakistan confidence that research is something that is important and that can bring about change. And it’s more just to encourage them to enter the STEM field, because already they are given very few opportunities compared to their male counterparts. I can be a source of encouragement.

Q: What have you enjoyed about your experience at Drexel?

A: Diversity is something which is not that much common in Pakistan, but here you can see lots of diversity. There’s just so many different people and Drexel offering admissions to like so many types of students and offers such diverse fields.

Interviews conducted by Ashleigh N DeLuca.

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