Predicting Defects in CMV Babies

Hi! My name is Annika Agarwal, and I am currently entering my sophomore year. I am an Anthropology major, and outside of class, I am involved with Global Medical Brigades and Mind Sense, a meditation club on campus. I really think that learning is so much more than what is taught in school (one of the reasons I love the Brackenridge Fellowship), and I also think it can be very enjoyable. With the warm weather, I love going on bike rides while listening to podcasts (if you ever need recommendations, you know who to call!). In my free time, I also love to cook and largely follow Ayurveda, an ancient Indian medical system that focuses a lot on nutrition. Fun fact – I have a social media page where I share plant-based yummy recipes!

Since I am very passionate about global health, I decided to address cytomegalovirus, or CMV, a disease that is largely unknown but nearly 50% of the US population is infected with it, and this number is only bigger in other countries. My project addresses one of the major questions around congenital CMV, or babies born with cytomegalovirus, a type of herpes virus which in babies can be fatal. While some babies develop severe symptoms such as microcephaly (small brain), enlarged spleen, and other such conditions that can be fatal, others do not develop these symptoms, and many are curious to understand why this is the case. Hence, we will be observing certain immune markers within babies that do and do not have CMV. I am working with Dr. Michaels, a pediatric infectious disease specialist on this project! Professionally, I want to become a doctor, and since this a field that is constantly reliant on evolving research, I think this project will be a great experience for me to really understand the intricacies of research.

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