From steel engineering to ovarian tumor research | MIT News

Ashutosh Kumar is a classically skilled supplies engineer. Having grown up with a ardour for making issues, he has explored metal design and studied stress fractures in alloys.

All through Kumar’s schooling, nonetheless, he was additionally drawn to biology and medication. When he was accepted into an undergraduate metallurgical engineering and supplies science program at Indian Institute of Expertise (IIT) Bombay, the native of Jamshedpur was very excited — and “a little bit dissatisfied, since I couldn’t do biology anymore.”

Now a PhD candidate and a MathWorks Fellow in MIT’s Division of Supplies Science and Engineering, Kumar can merge his wide-ranging pursuits. He research the impact of sure micro organism which have been noticed encouraging the unfold of ovarian most cancers and presumably lowering the effectiveness of chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

“Some microbes have an affinity towards infecting ovarian most cancers cells, which might result in modifications within the mobile construction and reprogramming cells to outlive in anxious situations,” Kumar says. “Which means cells can migrate to totally different websites and will have a mechanism to develop chemoresistance. This opens an avenue to develop therapies to see if we are able to begin to undo a few of these modifications.”

Kumar’s analysis combines microbiology, bioengineering, synthetic intelligence, large information, and supplies science. Utilizing microbiome sequencing and AI, he goals to outline microbiome modifications that will correlate with poor affected person outcomes. In the end, his objective is to engineer bacteriophage viruses to reprogram micro organism to work therapeutically.

Kumar began inching towards work within the well being sciences simply months into incomes his bachelor’s diploma at IIT Bombay.

“I spotted engineering is so versatile that its functions prolong to any discipline,” he says, including that he began working with biomaterials “to respect each my diploma program and my pursuits.”

“I beloved it a lot that I made a decision to go to graduate faculty,” he provides.

Beginning his PhD program at MIT, he says, “was a incredible alternative to modify gears and work on extra interdisciplinary or ‘MIT-type’ work.”

Kumar says he and Angela Belcher, the James Mason Crafts Professor of organic engineering and supplies science, started discussing the influence of the microbiome on ovarian most cancers when he first arrived at MIT.

“I shared my enthusiasm about human well being and biology, and we began brainstorming,” he says. “We realized that there’s an unmet want to grasp loads of gynecological cancers. Ovarian most cancers is an aggressive most cancers, which is normally identified when it’s too late and has already unfold.”

In 2022, Kumar was awarded a MathWorks Fellowship. The fellowships are awarded to College of Engineering graduate college students, ideally those that use MATLAB or Simulink — which have been developed by the mathematical laptop software program firm MathWorks — of their analysis. The philanthropic assist fueled Kumar’s full transition into well being science analysis.

“The work we’re doing now was initially not funded by conventional sources, and the MathWorks Fellowship gave us the flexibleness to pursue this discipline,” Kumar says. “It offered me with alternatives to be taught new abilities and ask questions on this subject. MathWorks gave me an opportunity to discover my pursuits and helped me navigate from being a metal engineer to a most cancers scientist.”

Kumar’s work on the connection between micro organism and ovarian most cancers began with finding out which micro organism are integrated into tumors in mouse fashions.

“We began wanting carefully at modifications in cell construction and the way these modifications influence most cancers development,” he says, including that MATLAB picture processing helps him and his collaborators observe tumor metastasis.

The analysis group additionally makes use of RNA sequencing and MATLAB algorithms to assemble a taxonomy of the micro organism.

“As soon as we’ve got recognized the microbiome composition,” Kumar says, “we wish to see how the microbiome modifications as most cancers progresses and establish modifications in, let’s say, sufferers who develop chemoresistance.”

He says latest findings that ovarian most cancers might originate within the fallopian tubes are promising as a result of detecting cancer-related biomarkers or lesions earlier than most cancers spreads to the ovaries might result in higher prognoses.

As he pursues his analysis, Kumar says he’s extraordinarily grateful to Belcher “for believing in me to work on this undertaking.

“She trusted me and my ardour for making an influence on human well being — although I come from a supplies engineering background — and supported me all through. It was her ardour to tackle new challenges that made it doable for me to work on this concept. She has been an incredible mentor and motivated me to proceed transferring ahead.”

For her half, Belcher is equally enthralled.

“It has been superb to work with Ashutosh on this ovarian most cancers microbiome undertaking,” she says. “He has been so passionate and devoted to on the lookout for less-conventional approaches to resolve this debilitating illness. His improvements round on the lookout for very early modifications within the microenvironment of this illness could possibly be important in interception and prevention of ovarian most cancers. We began this undertaking with little or no preliminary information, so his MathWorks fellowship was important within the initiation of the undertaking.”

Kumar, who has been very lively in scholar authorities and community-building actions, believes it is extremely vital for college kids to really feel included and at residence at their establishments to allow them to develop in methods exterior of lecturers. He says that his personal involvement helps him take day off from work.

“Science can by no means cease, and there’ll all the time be one thing to do,” he says, explaining that he intentionally schedules day off and that social engagement helps him to expertise downtime. “Partaking with neighborhood members by means of occasions on campus or on the dorm helps set a psychological boundary with work.”

Concerning his uncommon route by means of supplies science to most cancers analysis, Kumar regards it as one thing that occurred organically.

“I’ve noticed that life could be very dynamic,” he says. “What we expect we would do versus what we find yourself doing is rarely constant. 5 years again, I had no thought I’d be at MIT working with such wonderful scientific mentors round me.”

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