Recent grad gains experience with selective summer fellowship

Apoorva Tummala

Apoorva Tummala (Photo: Jenny Fontaine)

A combination of excitement and gratitude is how Apoorva Tummala felt when she discovered that she was one of the 15 students selected internationally to receive a summer research fellowship from the Endocrine Society.

Tummala graduated from UIC in the spring of 2018, with a dual degree in biology and economics — and in just two years of study.

“A lot of people told me that it [graduating in two years] is impossible,” Tummala recalled. “Then I said, ‘What if I plan my schedule like this?’ or ‘What if I do it like this?’ If you talk to enough people, someone is eventually hopefully going to tell you, “Yes.”

After graduation, Tummala embarked on her summer research fellowship. At UIC, she conducted her research — which addressed the role of hepatocyte PPAR gamma in regulating nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a syndrome that causes liver damage in patients who drink little or no alcohol — under the mentorship of Jose Cordoba-Chacon, visiting instructor in the department of medicine.

Tummala connected with Cordoba-Chacon after discovering his research and sending him an email, and Cordoba-Chacon, a member of the Endocrine Society, encouraged her to apply for the fellowship.

Throughout the summer, Tummala spent 40 hours each week immersed in her research, which confirmed her interest in pursuing a career in endocrinology. Networking with people and gaining experience in their fields of interest can help students gain clarity in future career plans, she said.

“Find something that you are actually interested and passionate about for a variety of reasons,” Tummala said. “If there are a variety of sparks that fuel you, if one of those goes out, then there are still other reasons why you are doing what you are doing.”

Tummala hopes to complete her master’s degree in international health and health economics at the London School of Economics. Afterward, she aspires to return to the United States and go to medical school.

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