Sanjay Naran

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?
Under the guidance of Dr. Gregory Evans of the Division of Plastic Surgery at the UCI Medical Center, our group is working to develop a clinically translatable tissue engineered approach for nerve repair and replacement. Despite numerous cases of nerve damage each year; there exists only one tested and implemented therapy for the repair of peripheral nerves. Currently, autographing, the surgical transplantation of a nerve segment from a healthy portion of the body to a damaged portion of the body, is the only means of repair. Nonetheless, autographing carries its own numerous risks and limitations, including the potential spreading of disease, non-compensation for differences in tissue morphology, and the limitation of viable nerves. One alternative is the development of a scaffolding system that would provide the constituents needed in order to encourage and sustain nerve growth; however, this has failed to match the nerve regeneration over large distances that autographing results in. Our project utilizes a different methodology. We are studying engineered cells that may be induced to secrete nerve growth factor (NGF), which has been shown to overcome many of the limitations of the current standard.
2. When and how did you first get involved in research?
Following some of the required academic laboratories, it seemed that research was the next step. During the winter quarter of my junior year, I realized that now was the right time for me to become involved in research. Many get involved earlier, however, I felt that only at and after this point would I be able to devote the amount of time that research demands, without my other classes suffering. I began by searching online, through faculty profiles, and research opportunities provided by UROP. I compiled my own list, from those, of about ten different areas of research that interested me. After much communication between several faculty members and myself, I was introduced to Dr. Evans' research group and their research into nerve regeneration.
3. How has research enhanced you education?
It is always exciting to physically do or study that which you learn through text. Research is no exception. Research has extended my education at UC Irvine, supplementing that which I have learned in class, as well as maturing my previous knowledge. For me, labs are always the most interesting part of any course, be it physics, chemistry, or biology. Only in the lab can you actually see processes with your own eyes, step-by-step, and as a result, they become that much clearer and understandable. Teachings from different classes begin to amalgamate and become applicable to real world situations.
4. What has been you favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?
Research itself is a wonderful experience. All too often, in classes filled with hundreds of other students, your face and name are boiled down to 8 numbers. Here, you are able to become involved, one-on-one, with a faculty member, learning about what it is they do, and making it that which you do. It is truly a satisfying experience, providing one with an appreciation for a true science, and a sense of meaningful involvement and discovery.
5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?
The values of being involved in research have been plentiful, and have reinforced my aspiration for a future in medicine. I have been able to learn and refine the various tiers of research, from proposals and grant requests, to the execution and analysis of actual experiments. I have been able to learn the importance of research in medicine, as well as explore roads that may be traveled in the future.
6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?
Find the right time for you to become involved in research. You have to make sure that you yourself are confident in your decision to start at a particular time, and that you are able to devote your time and self to the undertaking in hand. Begin by searching the Web for a faculty member that is pursing research in an area that interests you. Collect a few names, try to read any papers that they or their group may have published, and then arrange to meet them. Keep in mind that research is not a true academic class; a position such as this requires more involvement and a greater discipline.

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '02 Ping Chen
Nov. '02 Sanjay Naran
Oct. '02 Alana Shilling
Sep. '02 Michael Vongphoe
Aug. '02 Ryan Wright
Jul. '02 Adrian Fernandez
Jun. '02 Allen Andres
May '02 Elizabeth Tsai
Apr. '02 David Bear
Mar. '02 Lorrel Brown
Feb. '02 Jiri Herrmann
Jan. '02 Kathi Hamor
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