Tirth Patel, HIP 2013

Tirth Patel, HIP 2013
Northwestern University, USA

Fernando Camargo Lab, Boston Children’s Hospital

Tirth credits his interest in stem cell biology to the regenerative capacity of planarian flatworms, which he studies at his home laboratory.

“You can cut them up into fifteen pieces, and you can get fifteen new worms,” said the biomedical engineering major. “It’s amazing to see that there are so many possibilities out there, and you can somehow translate that into therapies for humans.”

Many of the basic skills Tirth learned at Northwestern University came into use as he studied blood-forming stems in his HSCI internship program laboratory. Tasked with improving a technique that’s used to track what cell types an individual cell gives rise too, he gained experience in new kinds of lab work.

For Tirth, the hardest part of the HSCI internship experience was moving to a place where he didn’t know anyone. To make matters worse, in the middle of the summer, a fire broke out in his apartment building, and in a few hours burned down. There were no injuries, but Tirth lost all of his belongings. Upon hearing the news, HSCI program administrators quickly found him a new place to live.

“It was a little scary at first because I was alone,” he said. “But I knew the people in my program and my lab would be there to support me.”

Over time, Tirth got to know other interns through the Friday companion course, as well as planned program outings, such as a trip to the Boston Harbor Islands, but what kept him in the program after the fire was the work.

“It’s just something that’s very different from what I’ve done before,” he said.