by Christian Jones
Rising senior Aditya Kotla was excited to sign up for Summer Neuroscience Program (SNP), an eight-week Duke summer program that enables undergraduates to jumpstart their senior theses by working one-on-one with faculty mentors. He knew he wanted to get started on an independent project, and figured the summer would be the opportune time to do so.
I’ve gained both technical and lab skills during my time in the Rawls Lab, at Duke Microbiome Center, and wanted to apply them to my own project. SNP was a great way to initiate this independent research, which I hope to expand on during my senior year.
Kotla, who is majoring in Neuroscience and double-minoring in Computational Biology/Bioinformatics and Chemistry, enjoyed taking Molecular Neurobiology with Dr. Nina Sherwood, Associate Professor of the Practice of Biology, because it has helped him in many other aspects of his academic pursuits. “I was able to transfer what I learned in this class to research, my MCAT studies, and other science courses as well. It also led me to become a tutor for the course, which allowed me to reconnect with the material while giving back to current students in the class”, he noted. Kotla praises Dr. Sherwood as one of the best professors in the Neuroscience field, which complements her ability to connect with students.
His research seeks to understand how the gut communicates to the brain. “Current research suggests that specialized enteroendocrine cells (EEC) in our intestine can communicate to the vagal nerve, which relays information to the brain” Kotla shared. “My project specifically aims to determine if this communication is dependent on different nutrient profiles. I am specifically using carbohydrates, fatty acids, and amino acids to stimulate these EECs and see if activity in the brain of transgenic CaMPARI zebrafish changes.”
The Urbandale, Iowa native, who currently resides in Charlotte, viewed the virtual learning that occurred during the pandemic as advantageous. Kotla stated that “virtual learning was an opportunity for me to explore a field of study that I hadn’t really gotten into before. I’d always had a hesitance to study computer science, but during the pandemic, I explored computational biology and computer science, and grew a strong interest in it. I’ve been able to use the skills in my own research as well.”
Kotla plans to attend medical school post-graduation and will hopefully be able to supplement his clinical studies with research.