Guest Blog by Dr. Sushila Maharjan, Ph.D
My interest in science began in Nepal where I was born, raised, and educated. From my school days I liked science because it had practical classes. When I went to college, I chose Biology as my major. During human physiology classes, I noticed human bodies function through various biochemical reactions—it was these wonderful reactions which deepened my interest in chemistry. At this stage, I realized I wanted to be a scientist. Driven by curiosity, and inspired by the beauty of chemistry, I eventually completed my Ph.D. in Biochemistry.
A Career Milestone
My relationship with NEAVS began in 2016 when I was awarded the NEAVS/AFAAR Fellowship Grant. This fellowship is a milestone in my research career—providing me a great opportunity to work on organs-on-chips and 3-D tissue models as alternatives to using animal models in biomedical research.
The most enjoyable part of the fellowship is working in an innovative, biomimetic, and more humane platform, which holds great promise for saving thousands of animals’ lives.
In 2017, I reapplied for the NEAVS/AFAAR Fellowship Grant and was fortunate enough to receive funding for a second year. This fellowship has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my scientific career.
Alternatives to Animal Testing
As defined by the principles of the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement), the in vitro alternatives to animal testing are of utmost interest and significance. These advanced and more effective alternatives include organs-on-chips and 3-D tissue models to study human pathophysiology and drug toxicity. Drugs and/or treatments have consistently been proven effective and safe on human-relevant models rather than on animals. Therefore, it is believed clinical trials will also be more effective and safer for humans with these in vitro alternatives—producing a major impact on biomedical research to reduce and eventually eliminate animal testing.
Life at the Lab
On a typical day at the lab, I am quite busy with tasks such as: preparing microfluidic chips (pictured on the right), culturing cells, and performing biological tests with the chips. I start off my day by looking at the priority lists of jobs for the day. I prepare a list of necessary laboratory supplies to be ordered and organize them at their appropriate places when delivered. Next, I prepare for the group meeting with my colleagues to discuss my research plans and seek feedback on my research outcomes. Apart from working in the lab, I spend a lot of time reading scientific publications, writing research proposals, and summarizing results for reports.
Dr. Sushila Maharjan, Ph.D
Currently, Dr. Maharjan is a research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (part of Harvard Medical School) in Boston, MA. She has published over 25 articles in peer-reviewed international journals and has received several awards, fellowships, and research grants, including: Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early Career Women Scientists (2016); Brain Korea 21 PLUS fellowship (2015); TWAS Research Grants in Basic Sciences (2013). You can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.