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Environmental Factor, January 2012

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Award-winning summer intern accepted by Stanford

By Ian Thomas

Greeshma Somashekar explains her findings to colleagues

During the Summer Internship Program poster session July 28, 2011, Somashekar, right, was on hand at her poster to explain her findings and methodology to fellow interns, postdoctoral fellows, and senior scientists. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Stavros Garantziotis, M.D.

Garantziotis also serves as the principal investigator for the NIEHS Laboratory of Respiratory Biology. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

After spending much of her fall semester applying to colleges, NIEHS summer intern Greeshma Somashekar learned in December 2011 that one of America’s premiere scientific institutions is now officially on her list of possibilities. An award-winning member of the 2011 NIH Summer Internship Program at NIEHS. Somashekar was formally accepted into prestigious Stanford University as part of the class of 2015.

“I was ecstatic to get the news,” recalled Somashekar, a senior at the in North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM)  Durham, N.C. “Stanford has excellent schools in engineering and the sciences, and the idea of studying in such a collaborative learning environment, with that many resources, is really remarkable to think about.”

While at NIEHS, Somashekar spent the bulk of her time in the Institute’s Matrix Biology Group. Working under the watchful eye of Stavros Garantziotis, M.D., medical director of the NIEHS Clinical Research Unit, she quickly established herself as a part of the group, researching proteins in lung tissue.

“Stanford has made a tremendous selection,” said Garantziotis. “Greeshma was an outstanding student in her time with us, and both the university and the scientific community, as a whole, would be fortunate to have her.”

In addition to capturing top high school student honors for her poster presentation( at the conclusion of the summer, Somashekar was also featured in an NIEHS video chronicling the students’ time in the Summer Internship Program.

Watch as poster winners discuss their research and summer of discovery at NIEHS (03:30)


A journey of great expectations

Before her possible move to the West Coast, Somashekar has a busy schedule to complete in 2012 at NCSSM. As one of four finalists in the   North Carolina International Science Challenge, she and her peers will travel to China in March to represent the U.S. at the Beijing Youth Science Creation Competition.

“Having your research recognized by a panel of your peers is always a great feeling, but having the opportunity to present that work on the international stage is truly an incredible honor,” she said, noting her excitement about getting to see the Great Wall of China. 

A true love of science

Still, as happy as she is about her accomplishments and the chance to travel abroad, Somashekar is the first to point out that it always has been, and will continue to be, about the science.

“Naturally, I’m sure my research interests will evolve over time, but for now I find myself really drawn to biomedical engineering,” she said, adding that she hopes to earn her undergraduate degree in either bioengineering, biomedical computation, or human biology, before eventually attending medical school. “In many ways, we’re only now scratching the surface of how computer science can influence medical research, and that’s really exciting stuff to me.”

(Ian Thomas is a public affairs specialist for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison and a regular contributor to the Environmental Factor.)

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