Abstract Thinking: Graduate-Level Research Opportunities Enhance Ashni Dudhia’s Yours to Lose Experience

Alot of my professors tell me, ‘You need to relax,’ but I tell them I can’t.”

Ashni Dudhia laughs, and her enthusiasm is contagious. A junior in Missouri Southern’s Yours to Lose program, she’s been passionate about pursuing a career in medicine since the fifth grade.

In high school, she participated in an externship studying pediatric cancer at the University of North Texas’ Health Science Center and was included among the authors of an abstract published by the American Association for Cancer Research.

“I never in my life imagined myself as a 16-year-old doing cancer research, then publishing and presenting in front of 16,000 people from places like Harvard and Yale,” she says. “I was in 11th grade.”

It’s a passion that has continued to blossom after joining the inaugural Yours to Lose class two years ago at Missouri Southern.

Last summer, she returned home to Texas for another externship study at UNT’s Experimental Therapeutics Laboratory, this time looking at effective combination treatments involving anti-cancer small molecules and other compounds. She also shadowed a physician to obtain clinical experience.

The 19-year-old says it’s very likely the findings from the most recent study will also be published. For now, however, she’s looking forward to a study abroad trip to Italy in the summer – after which she will begin her final year in the YTL program before continuing her studies at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences’ Joplin campus.

“It’s so much fun and I love the professors – they’re like the best thing about the program,” she says of her time so far at MSSU. “I challenge anyone in the country or the world to find professors like this.”

Dudhia says having graduate-level research under her belt has definitely facilitated her time in the program.

“Things that trigger that memory come up constantly in class because I remember, ‘Hey, I’ve done that!’” she says.

“Last semester I took a molecular biology class. It was lab-based, so we did a lot of electrophoresis. I did a lot of electrophoresis in the labs (at UNT) that really strengthened my skills here. Those gels are so delicate and so hard to pierce through. Since I had learned the skills and have a steady hand, I was able to do them and teach my teammates.”

Challenges that seem difficult to overcome are often the most worthwhile, she says.

“When you approach the harder things in life – like cancer research, vaccines, and viruses with unknown cures and causes – it makes you use your brain differently and think more abstractly. That’s when you learn the most.”

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