Bridge Undergraduate Researchers Kylie Burdsall Commits to Stanford Medicine and Sanraj Mittal Heads to Rockefeller University

by Kathlynn Alba, April 30, 2020

While the COVID-19 pandemic has put many important on-campus events on hold for many of our undergraduates, namely the 2020 USC commencement, there is still much to celebrate. Kylie Burdsall and Sanraj Mittal were the only student researchers in the Stevens-White lab for majority of their undergraduate careers. Later this fall, Kylie will begin the MD program at Stanford Medicine and Sanraj will continue studying biomedical research at Rockefeller University.

From Stockholm, Sweden to Stanford Medicine

Kylie Burdsall completed her undergraduate studies and said her farewells to the Stevens-White lab last May. Finishing in Biochemistry, Burdsall was awarded a Fulbright research fellowship to better understand the etiology of type I diabetes with the Flodström-Tullberg group at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden beginning in the fall of 2019. Due to the pandemic, however, the Fulbright program announced it would be ending all grant periods early worldwide and she had to return home earlier than anticipated.

“I was extremely sad to leave the Flodström-Tullberg group at Karolinska,” says Burdsall. “During my time there I was able to develop as an independent researcher and build many friendships along the way.”

During her time with the Flodström-Tullberg group, she was making progress on a project which aimed to identify biomarkers indicative of pancreatic beta cell damage or stress in a virus induced context. To find this type of biomarker, she and her colleagues were examining extracellular vesicles released from pancreatic cells after different stimulation conditions.

While she was unable to finish the last few months of her fellowship, Burdsall is extremely excited to start her medical school journey at Stanford Medicine this upcoming fall.

“I committed to Stanford’s MD program mainly because of the spirit of innovation that is noticeable on campus and in the way that Stanford has designed its medical school curriculum,” she remarks.

Stanford’s Discovery Curriculum is extremely flexible which will allow for Burdsall to have a “choose your own path” experience. She plans to use it to build her involvement in research and art-science collaborations, while also maybe picking up a new passion along the way.

Once she finishes medical school, she plans to do a more research-intensive residency program.

“After I finish residency and fellowship, I imagine myself working in Academic Medicine so that I can stay active in mentorship, research, and advancing patient care,” says Burdsall.

Biochemistry Now and Later (and Later)

As the first undergraduate researcher to work in the Stevens-White lab throughout his undergraduate period, Sanraj Mittal is really thrilled for graduate school at Rockefeller University.

With some of the most innovative scientific faculty in the world and incredible resources available to their students, the biggest motivator for Mittal to commit to the David Rockefeller Graduate Program in Bioscience is the freedom to dictate his own graduate experience.

“What I’ve enjoyed most about working in the Stevens-White Lab has been the freedom I’ve been given to work with a number of incredible scientists, so I chose [Rockefeller] because that allowed me to continue conducting research in the way that I enjoy,” says Mittal. The Rockefeller Bioscience Graduate Program allows graduates to decide the number and length of their rotations, who they collaborate with, the seminar style of classes, and what instruments and techniques they use.

Eager to ask and attempt to answer every question and explore every problem from every possible angle, Mittal is looking forward to diving headfirst into research.

“My general scientific interest is to understand how the structure of membrane proteins dictates downstream signaling within the cell,” says Mittal. After his graduate program, he’s likely to conduct postdoctoral research and then wants to establish his own lab at a research university where he can further explore his research interests.

Professor Ray Stevens, Professor Kate White, and the rest of the Bridge Institute want to send a huge congratulations to Sanraj and Kylie for taking the next step in their professional journey!