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.