Undergraduate Profiles: Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Winners

Congratulations to the two motivated and talented Yale seniors who received the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in 2009. Sameer Gupta of Calhoun College and James Luc­carelli of Bran­ford College were awarded $7,500 per year for two years of undergraduate study through the presti­gious scholar­ship designed to promote “highly quali­fied scientists, mathematicians, and engineers.” Both students have found ways of com­bining an inter­est in basic sci­ence and medi­cal application.

Sameer Gupta began his science career in high school, analyzing skeletal remains from 800 A.D. to learn about human migrations. Majoring in Anthropology and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB), Gupta now works in the laboratory of Professor of Genetics and& Psychiatry Kenneth K. Kidd at the Yale School of Medicine.

Gupta’s research focuses on pharmacogenetics, the influence of human genetic variation on drug responses and adverse drug reac­tions. Specifically, he has looked at the variation in allele frequency and linkage disequilibrium within the CYP2C subfamily, which is responsible for different patient responses to pacilitaxel, a potent chemotherapy medication. Gupta has also spent a summer working at the Max Plank Medical Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

After graduation from Yale, Gupta hopes to pursue further stud­ies in medical school and continue his research on genetic variation in populations. He hopes that his research will lead to more person­alized and efficient medical care in which doctors take the genetic background of a patient into account when prescribing treatment. He advises other undergraduates to talk to professors early about future goals and to get research experience abroad during their time at Yale.

James Luc­carelli is pursu­ing a combined Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Chemistry. He is working with Sterling Professor of Chemistry Wil­liam Jorgenson, using comput­ers to simulate drug interac­tions within cells on molecu­lar levels. He is also the Chief of Operations at Yale Emer­gency Medical Services (YEMS), a certified EMT, and a member of the Yale Debate Association.

Luccarelli plans to pursue a combined M.D./Ph.D. program and then continue research in pharmacology, working in academia or industry. He feels that as computers continue to advance, their role in drug design and simulation will increase, allowing for more and more chemistry to do be done in silico, saving time and resources. He encourages other undergraduates to find a lab that truly inter­ests them and to apply for fellowships such as the Goldwater to reward their hard work.