Communicating My Health-Sciences Research – Abhay Sheeri

At first, one of my biggest purposes in getting into research was being able to pursue a project that has a real-world impact, all while sustaining my growth and understanding of the health-sciences. To me, the purpose of research is to be able to utilize knowledge of the past, build on our knowledge of the present, and prepare knowledge for the future to bring upon the betterment of our communities. By allowing our knowledge of science to grow and expand, we are essentially creating more potential for new treatments to develop. My project is currently utilizing a novel protein that combines immune-checkpoint blockade and cytokine therapy to target tumor cells in mice. With promising results and a sustainable efficacy, we may be able to transition to a clinical model to aid patients with a new form of treatment when no other options are viable. The significance of this ranges from gaining a deeper understanding of immunotherapy, which is a form of cancer treatment that utilizes the body’s own immune system to target and kill cancer cells, to help delay tumor onset and improve regression. This only helps patients gain access to more options of personalized treatment, bring therefore brings upon greater health for our communities. Through this fellowship, I have learned that our purpose and significance should really try to target the big picture of our project and how it will impact the people around us.

In terms of effectively communicating research, my personal favorite strategies is utilizing metaphors and analogies to relate my research to something that the general audience will be more familiar with. For example, in my project, I will be irradiating a tumor that I engrafted onto several mice’s right flank. However, I do not want to dose the entire mice with radiation, only target the tumor, and so my lab has constructed lead blocks to shield the mice from the radiation. An example of this I would use is how if one were to spend the entire day outdoors, they might find tan lines in their arms from a t-shirt they were wearing. In this analogy, the sun is the irradiator, and your t-shirt was protecting your skin, just like the lead blocks covering the rest of the mouse.

Professionally, I am planning on pursuing medical school, including potentially MD-PHD programs. During my path in pursing this goal, I will likely continue applying to scholarships and programs throughout my undergrad, where I will have to communicate my research in writing or perhaps in conversation during interviews and such. These audiences may or may not have knowledge in my field, and so it would be important to communicate at a certain level of understanding, respectively. Then, I also may be presenting at research fairs and symposiums, where the target audience can vary from fellow undergraduate students to established PIs. It would be important to clearly articulate each aspect of my research and tailor it to an expansive range of individuals to ensure that no one is left in doubt of understanding my communications. As a result, it is important to vary my level of communication and minimally utilize jargon to tailor my interactions to a greater majority.

Lead shielding for targeted radiation of tumor in mouse models

R. B. Patel et al.,  Low-dose targeted radionuclide therapy renders immunologically cold tumors responsive to immune checkpoint blockade. Sci. Transl. Med. 13, eabb3631 (2021).​

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