After a first semester in college, most undergraduates are seeking to take a load off, choosing to recuperate and recharge for the following semester. That’s not the route Rohun Gupta took. Throughout the summer, Rohun could be seen moving about the LA Biomed campus, waltzing between the office of his mentor, Dr. Frans Walther, and the lab that was his second home during the summer of 2016.
For three and a half months, Gupta became very acquainted with the Captive Bubble Surfactometer. The machine is a rare one with only five in existence and fewer being operational. Dr. Walther believes his is the most used one. Among other duties, Rohun spent his time meticulously testing the synthetic surfactant lungs being created in Dr. Walther’s lab.
“I test the synthetic lung surfactant in the machine and record the data,” says Rohun. “Each experiment takes an hour and a half. I analyze the data to see if it’s a good surfactant or not.”
Rohun has been volunteering in the lab since he was a senior at Whitney High School in Cerritos, CA.
Science and medicine runs in his family, his father being a neonatologist and his mother a computer software engineer. In fact, it was his father who connected Rohun with Dr. Walther. Asked why he chooses to spend his summers in the lab, Rohun says the lab experience is invaluable. Dr. Walther, who’s synthetic lung surfactant research is funded by the Bill And Malinda Gates Foundation, agrees.
“The good thing is you learn how to critically look at research and learn to realize that all of this research is a little part in a long process,” he says. “Rohun is learning that it takes a long time to go from a good idea in a lab to clinical use. It starts with a crazy idea to pursuing grants to lab tests as he is doing,” he continues. “Then animal testing and hopefully to FDA approval. We’re just little people trying to advance things.”
For his part, Rohun enjoys the lab setting tremendously. “The problem-solving is fun. Sometimes it takes a long time to get what you’re looking for, but when it happens, it makes it worth the effort.”
Back on campus at Case Western Reserve University, Rohun does lab research, teaches in a lab, and participates in a university and volunteers at Cleveland Clinic. “He’s darn smart,” Dr. Walther says. “He’ll be great in whatever he does.”
Students looking to get invaluable lab research can do so through the LA Biomed Summer Fellowship Program. For more information, please call (310) 974-9596 or e-mail oeo@LABioMed.org.
Harbor-UCLA Pediatrics and LA Biomed enjoy a mutually beneficial partnership. LA BioMed provides the physical and organizational infrastructure for the extensive basic science and clinical research programs conducted by Harbor-UCLA faculty.