Rutha Chivate–Exploring the Vestibular System


About me

Hi! My name is Rutha Chivate and I’m a rising senior, originally from Cranbury, NJ. Cranbury is a very small and historic town with lots of farms— a fun fact about my family is that we actually had 3 pet chickens! They made for very easy and playful pets, and the fresh eggs couldn’t be beat. I love traveling, spending time in nature, and any kind of arts and crafts, especially knitting and calligraphy! At Pitt, my major is Emergency Medicine and my minors are Chemistry and Neuroscience. My goal is to become a physician one day and I’m in the process of applying to medical school right now! I’ve been interested in healthcare for most of my life, and I was just certified as a paramedic, so I’m excited to get started with that soon. I’m hoping that the Brackenridge fellowship will help expand my view of research by giving me the opportunity to learn from other students about research in a variety of fields. Additionally, the ability to work with a diverse group of scholars and learn to present my area of study in a straightforward and comprehensible manner will be really valuable to me as a future doctor. When conversing with patients from diverse backgrounds and experiences or even with physicians from other specialities, strong communication is extremely important so I’m grateful for the opportunity to work on that this summer!

This is me with a baby alligator during a trip to New Orleans in 2018!

My project

My project for this summer is in the field of neurophysiology. My research mentor, Dr. Bill Yates, is a professor of Otolaryngology and Neuroscience and has been studying this field for several years. I joined his lab during my sophomore year. Our current project focuses on the effect of stimuli that cause nausea and vomiting on the activation of the vestibular system, which is a sensory system that provides the brain with information about motion, position, and spatial orientation. The vestibular system, housed in the brain, is actually highly connected to the GI system; a good example of this is motion sickness, where the discordant sensation of motion in the brain leads to GI distress. I’m planning to study the brain areas that are involved in this connection through experiments causing nausea and vomiting in animal subjects and subsequent study of their brain tissue. This research is important to me because it has some really interesting applications in medicine. For example, in studying traumatic brain injuries, motion sickness, or even psychiatric disorders like anxiety and panic disorder, which have been linked to imbalances in the vestibular system. The vestibular system is not very well understood, so I’m hoping this study will contribute to our knowledge of this fascinating part of the brain!


Bielanin, J.P., Douglas, N.O., Shulgach, J.O., McCall, A.A., Miller, D.M., Amin, P.R., Murphey, C.P., Barman, S.M., and Yates BJ. Responses of neurons in the medullary lateral tegmental field and nucleus tractus solitarius to vestibular stimuli in conscious felines. Frontiers in Neurology 11: 155, 2020.

Yates, Bill. Yates’ Lab ” Research Interests,

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