In December of 2016, I had the privilege of sitting down with University of Virginia freshman, Akshay Pulavarty. In between medical shadowing, hanging out with his family and relaxing during his winter break, Akshay made time to chat with me about his whereabouts during the summer of 2014. For eight weeks, Akshay worked full-time at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) researching multiple sclerosis as an Apprenticeships in Science & Engineering (ASE) intern.
Out of 558 extraordinarily bright high-school applicants, Akshay was one of the 134 selected to be an intern with Saturday Academy’s Apprenticeships in Science and Engineering (ASE) Program in 2014. He was chosen to work with OHSU and assist in the research of balance training for people with multiple sclerosis. As we sipped hot chocolate in in a coffee shop on a surprisingly snowy Portland morning, Akshay explained that he and his mentors worked to uncover whether or not a certain inexpensive foam pad could be used to detect and or diagnose multiple sclerosis. While Akshay was delighted to see the culmination of the data collected at the end of his eight weeks with OHSU, his interactions with patients are his fondest memories of the internship. Part of his responsibilities included greeting patients, helping them with paperwork, escorting them to the lobby and calling them a cab after their session. “The fifteen minutes I would spend with patients while I waited to help them into their cabs were the best moments of my internship,” Akshay says. He recalls that his experience interacting with patients “was simultaneously humanizing and constructive to my career aspirations.” At the end of his internship, Akshay and his research group discovered that the inexpensive foam pads could in fact detect and diagnose multiple sclerosis. Their hypothesis was correct!
After graduating from Westview High School in May of 2016, Akshay accepted the Jefferson Scholarship – a premier merit-based scholarship to the University of Virginia. He humbly explained that after being recommend by his high school counselor for the scholarship, he was selected by a regional board to go to the University of Virginia for a week of interviews and tests. After that week, Akshay was selected to receive the scholarship.
He plans to declare his major in neuroscience next year. In the meantime, Akshay will take advanced science courses and work in two different research labs on campus. He attributes getting his research lab jobs to his previous experience with ASE; “It’s incredibly difficult to get in to a lab without the ASE program. The ASE program definitely helped me get into a research lab.”
Akshay knows that not every research project will conclude with favorable results, but he looks forward to exploring the world of neuroscience regardless. His time as an ASE intern solidified his desire to study neuroscience. I am certain that Akshay will continue to achieve momentous accomplishments and the ASE team looks forward to seeing what he does in the future.