Mohan Muvvala says his first goal in life was to grow up and become an astronaut. While life ended up leading him down the path to medical school, he now has an opportunity to partially fulfill his childhood dream. Muvvala was selected out of 122 applicants from across the nation to spend the summer conducting research at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.
Muvvala was born in India and raised in California. He attended the University of Tennessee Knoxville where he double majored, studying biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, and neuroscience, and minoring in psychology. He is currently a first-year student at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine. His healthcare experience includes interning at St. John’s Medical College and serving as an officer for the Student Osteopathic Surgical Association.
A NASA ad on television first prompted Muvvala to start exploring their website, where he came across internship opportunities. Intrigued, he started looking for research projects that would fit in with his medical school curriculum.
He applied to work on a project titled “The Role of Depressed Metabolism in Radiation Damage Prevention” under NASA Senior Scientist Dr. Yuri Griko. Of the more than 120 applicants, the top three were chosen for further consideration. Muvvala believes his “broad research experience” and his work in both wet and dry labs gave him the edge over the other two finalists who are currently enrolled at Stanford University and John Hopkins University.
Muvvala applied for this particular project because it deals with bioinformatics, a field he can see being “a beneficial tool in my toolbox” while pursing his goal of a career in neurosurgery.
“With surgery, people generally view it as the physician going in and taking out an abnormality, but with the skills of bioinformatics, you can individualize a patient’s treatment. Since I would like to practice in a rural area and perform minimally invasive types of surgeries, knowing exactly where and how I can treat the patient is extremely important. Osteopathically, one of our tenets states that rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unity, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function. Knowing the code of our body helps deal with all of these aspects. I hope to biologically tailor my surgeries to be the most effective for my patients’ needs,” he said.
Funding for Muvvala’s position was provided by the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium (NMSGC). To fulfill the requirements of the internship, he will be required to complete an abstract and a poster and present his research at the annual NMSGC student colloquium or another academic conference in New Mexico.