Accepting Failure and Asking Questions: What I learnt in my CURF experience and what I am doing next

For my project for the CURF this Fall, I worked on “Characterization of Post-Traumatic Seizure Events and Systemic Inflammation Following Moderate-to-Severe TBI”. When I first started thinking about my research project, I began with a general outline of all the steps I needed to take to achieve the best possible results. Everything from sample collection to assaying these samples and further doing medical chart review to record seizure event occurring within 3 years was a long process. One realization I had during this process was that you are going to fail a lot when doing novel research. I failed multiple times while doing this project as well. Sometimes the assays would not give us good enough results so we had to re-run them or sometimes while doing a chart review for patients, it was very unclear if the patient had had a seizure or not.

The learning I took from this was to accept failure as that is the only way forward. Accepting that you failed puts you into perspective of what you need to do differently the next time to achieve your goals. This idea really helped me to overcome a lot of the obstacles I faced. Another lesson I learnt was that of asking questions. My simple tip to everyone who gets involved in doing research as an undergraduate student, “Just ask someone about anything you don’t understand”. I feel that at any stage in your life, it is important to ask questions as it is impossible for us to know everything. My PI and mentors in the lab helped me get a better grasp on the things I had never heard of. Very often it would be us discussing our plans and then them guiding me in a certain direction with their ideas. I would research those ideas in detail on my own and then try to ask questions if I did not understand something or try to improve those ideas if possible. I feel that your PI and your lab mentors are all the resources you need to really learn how to do research as they have a lot of years of experience from which they can guide you.

Researching about epilepsy, I discovered this semester that it is a very understudied condition for which we do not have a cure. Researchers have been working on creating better treatment option from patients with epilepsy for the time being as there as a lot of gaps in epilepsy literature and hence we still do not clearly understand the mechanism of this disease. This is the reason that encourages me to do research in this field as there in a lot of scope for us to impact patients’ lives in a positive way.

I loved being a part of the CURF community this semester as I was able to see what research other students are doing in different fields and why their research is important to them. It helped me expand my horizons into other fields while I could research on something that truly matters to me. Moreover, I am excited about the fact that I was able to make a lasting contribution to the scientific community researching in the field of epilepsy which would not have been possible without CURF.

Next, I plan to build upon the research I have already done. My results for this project indicated that injury characteristics (type of TBI a person had. Example: IVH, SDH, SAH) as well as surgical data (Craniotomy and Craniectomy) informed us of seizure risk. They also indicated that the majority of first seizure events (~80%) occur within the first-year post-injury and seizure events are associated with both increased and decreased inflammatory marker profiles post-TBI. With these, there are still some questions that remain unanswered and I plan to pursue those in the upcoming future. I plan to further investigate cytokine-receptor ratio levels which may aid in the development of a specific biomarker-oriented precision medicine approach in treating patients with epilepsy.

P.S. The featured image has my dog who has epilepsy and it is because of him I am really motivated to do research in the field of Epilepsy.

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