Name: Toral Patel
Major: Molecular Biology
Hometown: Mobile, AL
Graduation Date: Spring 2011
How would you describe your research? I I study the effects of peptides (peptides L-4F and Ac-hE18A-NH2) and the roles of proteins (paraoxonase-1 and apolipoprotein A-I) in the treatment of coronary heart disease. I also look at the effect of these peptides on the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, specifically on inflammatory markers and oxidative stress. This research is conducted in Dr. David Garber's lab in the Department of Medicine. The results contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms in which the peptides function and prevent/treat atherosclerosis.
When and how did you first get involved in research? My first exposure to research was in high school, when I investigated antibiotic resistance and its importance in treatment development and participated and won at scientific fairs in the region. I then applied to the Science and Technology Honors Program (STHP) and began to search research opportunities on and off campus. My first lab experience was in one of my STHP courses for Biotechnology which led to a semester of work on Dr. Dale Benos' lab in the Physiology Department at UAB. Here I learned more laboratory techniques. Then I worked on my own project in Dr. Mary Townsley's lab for Lung Physiology at the University of South Alabama (USA) over the summer. The responsibility of developing questions and answering them through several trials of experiments intrigued me. I learned early on that science was 99% failure and 1% success. But that 1% chance of retrieving the results needed to provide insight into science motivated me. These experinces, collectively, influenced me to continue with research.
How has research enhanced your educational experience? My research experience has influenced my academic education greatly. I have improved my problems-solving and critical thinking skills as well as developed my public speaking skills. It has helped me see medicine through a different perspective. Instead of thinking about symptoms and physical characteristsics, I have grown to want to answer the questions about medicine and look at it in a more evolutionary and scientifical point of view.
What has been your favorite part of your research experience? My favourite part of my research experience has been the ability to continue with my reseach through the 5th Year Master's Biology Program. I have also been able to present my research at the UAB EXPO to a wider audience. By doing this, I have learned more about the scientific approach and plan to continue using scientific questioning as an M.D.
What are your career goals? My long-term professional goal is to practice medicine and perform translational studies related to diseases of my patients. I also plan to lead medical missions annually to underprivileged areas in the world.