March 29, 2017
KJ Prasai Prepares for the Future
With graduation on the horizon and impending fatherhood, K.J. Prasai is preparing for life after graduate school.
The Shreveport/Bossier area was experiencing one of the hottest summers on record when K.J. Prasai arrived for his first year of graduate school, along with his wife Priya, in July 2011. Despite the weather and the challenges of transitioning to a new country and culture, as well as the demands on a first year graduate student, K.J. fully embraced the available opportunities.
Kathmandu, Nepal is a long way from Shreveport, but K.J. knew he would have to leave home in order to pursue a career in biomedical research, since obtaining a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences in Nepal was impossible. K.J. learned about U.S. graduate programs from the Education USA Advising Center at the United States Educational Foundation in Nepal. According to the organization’s website, around 200 students per day visit the center to learn about higher education opportunities in the U.S. The center provides assistance with applications and the testing required for applications to U.S. graduate schools.
K.J. said he applied to other graduate programs in the U.S., but after his interview with Drs. Harrison and Aw, he knew he and Priya’s home for the next few years would be Shreveport. He said the personal contact he received from the Department, and the supportive, collaborative atmosphere made his decision much easier. His wife, Priya, also decided to apply to the Physiology graduate program the next year, and she is currently in her fifth year of the program.
K.J. advises first year students to take advantage of the opportunities available while doing lab rotations. He said he had zero lab experience before coming to Physiology, and he used the opportunities to work in different labs during his first year as a way to not only learn bench skills, but to also gain exposure to the various types of research performed by the Physiology faculty. He encouraged students to approach the lab rotations with an open mind because the relationships you develop with your mentor, the lab managers and other staff are critical for your success as a student. K.J.’s mentor is Dr. Lynn Harrison, and his project is to unravel potential factors that bind to double-strand breaks (DSB) in the mitochondrial genome to mediate DSB repair.
He said that he has made many friends during his time in the Department, and that he stays in touch with some of the graduates via social media. He fondly talks about getting to know people from various cultures worldwide. Since Physiology graduate students also attend regional and national scientific meetings, K.J. has had the opportunity to experience other places in the US.
Although K.J.’s love for his home country of Nepal is strong, and he wants to return permanently someday, he realizes he will have to make his career elsewhere. He is primarily interested in pursuing a career in academia and eventually leading his own research lab. In the future, K.J. hopes to be able to return to Nepal and open a center for research to enhance the development of the biomedical industry in his home country. He believes that living for others will help you have a happy life. After all, he said, “the end point of life is happiness”.
Note: After graduation, K.J. is planning on staying at LSUHSC-S for at least a year as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Scott in the Dept. of Microbiology & Immunology. At the time of this interview, he and Priya were patiently awaiting the birth of their first child.
January 12, 2017
Congratulations Dr. Gavins! Dr. Gavins has been named deputy chair of the British Pharmacological Society’s International Advisory Group. Click here to learn more.
January 10, 2017
Meet Our First Year Students
When fall classes started this past August, three first year students from three different countries joined the Physiology graduate program. With the first semester of their coursework almost finished, we wanted to find out how they selected the program, how their first few months had been going, and what they hoped to accomplish in the future.
Although LSUHSC - Shreveport may not be the very first place potential international graduate students may think of when considering their future, all three of Physiology’s first year students learned of the program in different ways.
For Israa, the choice was easier. Since she and her husband already live in Shreveport, it was just logical to pursue her Ph.D. locally. However, Mohamed was living in Cairo, Egypt and Gaganpreet was in India.
Mohamed learned about the program from the Egyptian Association for American Medical Training and Research program (EAMTAR). According to the EAMTAR Facebook page, “EAMTAR was created by a group of Egyptian physicians in the US as an online portal for Egyptian medical students and graduates to help those interested in coming to the United States for residency, fellowship or research.” Dr. Hany Saqr, who is a graduate of the LSUHSC – Shreveport Anatomy graduate program, produced a series of web videos to educate others on pursuing educational and training opportunities in the U.S. Mohamed said he first learned of the opportunities at LSUHSC – Shreveport from Dr. Saqr. Even though Mahamed said his mother encoured him to pursue his education in the United Kingdom (since it was much closer to Cairo), she and the rest of his family have been very supportive of his decision to come to the United States.
Gaganpreet learned about the program from another Physiology graduate student who is currently in her second year. Although Gaganpreet applied to one other school in the U.S., she said the opportunity to obtain teaching experience while obtaining her Ph.D. was a major factor in her decision to attend LSU Health Shreveport.
All of the students said moving to Shreveport has had its challenges, but that you just learn how to manage yourself, your coursework and new responsibilities differently than you had to in the past. They all agreed that the general friendliness of the people in the area, it’s lack of congestion and low cost of living are all positive aspects of living in a smaller city. For Israa, who is not only a full-time student, but also a wife and mother, the family friendliness of the area is important.
The first semester of the Physiology program consists primarily of coursework and completing the laboratory rotations. Although the coursework is challenging, the students have developed their own support system, and they even refer to Mohamed as “The Teacher”. Both Israa and Gaganpreet praised Mohamed for his tutoring skills, and it is not uncommon to find all three first year students working together in the departmental graduate study room.
All three are looking forward to continuing their studies and eventually pursuing careers in teaching, research and academia. Because of Physiology’s comprehensive training program, all of the students agreed they would be prepared for whatever path they chose in the future.