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A Well-Researched Career Plan

A smiling woman wearing a white coat

Shreya Patel needed to earn a second master’s degree before she could continue her dream of becoming a researcher, and she proved to be a master of perseverance along the way.

It hasn’t always been an easy journey for Patel, who had already received a research-related master’s degree in India before graduating with a master’s in biotechnology from the Graduate College at Rush University this past spring. Patel, who stayed at Rush this year to enter the PhD in Biomedical Sciences program, is now well on her way to pursuing her passion.

She recently talked about her background, interest in research and continuing her education so she could establish a career in the U.S.

Tell us about your background.

Shreya Patel: I moved here in 2018 from Bangalore, one of the biggest cities in India, where I had already earned a master's degree in biotechnology. I was working for a clinical trials management company based in Wisconsin, which had a branch in India. I managed budgets and calendars for different clinical trials, and Rush was one of our clients. That’s how I first got to know about Rush and became interested in going to school there.

You chose Rush to complete a master’s in biotechnology even though you already earned one in India?

SP: Yes, after completing my master’s India, I wanted to apply to a PhD program in a country outside of India. But none of the schools would accept the credits I had already earned. So earning another master’s degree was just another stepping stone on my journey. Rush’s program was attractive because it was an accelerated, nine-month program. I thought it was a great opportunity because I was eager to start working toward a PhD as quickly as I could.

What drew you to research?

SP: I was fortunate enough to have exposure to research since a young age. I worked on a few research projects in undergrad and realized I wanted to continue doing research and make it a career.

In India, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for scientists, so I wanted to move to a country where I’d be able to grow and continue learning. I ended up in the United States partly and at Rush University. I consider myself lucky to be in a place where I can pursue my career with unlimited opportunities and challenges.

Why did you decide to stay at Rush for your PhD?

SP: While working on my master’s at Rush, I had the opportunity to work in a few research labs with different principal investigators. That’s when I realized just how much research is being conducted Rush. The faculty are really friendly, open and always there to support us. So there’s a sense of comfort here at Rush University.

Also, I wanted to focus my research on cancer and cancer-related drugs. Rush is doing amazing research in that area, so I thought staying here for my PhD would be a great opportunity.

What are some fulfilling research projects you’ve worked on?

SP: I’m working in two different labs right now. I work with Dr. Dan Predescu, a pulmonologist who is conducting funded research. I have worked with him for two different projects. The first project focuses on how cyclins can affect the cell cycle, and how we can use them to help with cancer and pulmonary fibrosis research. The second project is looking at how transfecting fibroblast cells can help us get protein-protein interactions. If we get the protein-protein interaction, we can track how a protein is attacked by another protein, and that can give us potential protein targets for use in cancer and pulmonary fibrosis research.

I also worked with Dr. Avik Roy, a former researcher and assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Sciences. We were working on research related to a patient case. The patient is a 9-year-old who has a gene mutation that has resulted in a movement disorder. We've been looking at his lab samples to try and find a drug we can use to target or potentially reverse the mutation.

What would you say to someone following a similar path?

SP: The master’s in biotechnology program at Rush does a good job of preparing students. Be prepared to work! The faculty here are really supportive and want you to succeed. You will be in good hands and receive excellent education.