Pursuing a Career in Translational Medicine, Samrakshya Bhattarai ’23 Will Focus on Developing Medications and Technologies More Effectively and Economically

Academics, Internships, Research, Sciences, Testimonials

May 30, 2023


Emerging in the 1990s and gaining momentum in the early 2000s, translational medicine is a relatively new and swiftly developing field in biomedical research. Shyam Mohapatra, Ph.D., director of the University of South Florida’s Division of Translational Medicine, says the discipline “has been viewed as a natural 21st century progression from Evidence-Based Medicine. Translational medicine is the continuum often known as ‘bench to bedside’ by which the biomedical community takes a focused point of view to move research discoveries from the laboratory into clinical practice to diagnose and treat patients.”

Citing her liberal arts education at Hollins as the catalyst that led her to this discipline, Samrakshya Bhattarai ’23 will be entering the Translational Biology Medicine and Health (TBMH) program at Virginia Tech this fall to pursue a Ph.D. in translational medicine. “I came to Hollins with the intention of studying chemistry, but after I arrived and was exposed to other fields such as economics, I decided to add a minor in public health,” she explains. “I decided I wanted my research to be guided by the broader context of why I am working in a particular field, what’s going on in the community I’m serving, and what the situation is around the world.”

Bhattarai says her experiences as a chemistry major and public health minor have been “amazing. The professors are all very supportive and always ready to help. It’s easy to reach out to them for any questions on the class or future plans. They were also quite supportive and helpful during my graduate school applications.”

Beyond her classes and labs, Bhattarai earned valuable real-world experience through an internship coordinated by Michelle Watt ’93 at Vascular Perfusion Solutions (VPS), a San Antonio-based medical technology company. “I ran various assays and got to work closely with the chief innovation officer to assess kidney function during oxygenated machine perfusion,” Bhattarai says. “I got to perform different experiments and analyses and gain exposure to the work environment.”

Bhattarai also assisted the CEO of VPS by conducting cardiac toxicology literature research and market analysis on Contract Research Organizations to help the company assess its technical competence in testing drugs for cardiac toxicity.

At Hollins, one of the most gratifying activities in which Bhattarai says she has engaged has been serving as a community assistant with Housing and Residence Life. “As part of a residential campus, I’ve developed a sense of community and my responsibility toward it, and I’ve learned communication skills, leadership skills, and organizational skills, which I am confident will help me throughout my life.”

Working as a community assistant, Bhattarai adds, has also helped her in advocating for her fellow international students. Hailing from Kathmandu, Nepal, she recalls how before she ever arrived in the United States, Hollins was reaching out to build her excitement for coming to campus. “The International Student Orientation Program (ISOP) was very supportive. I met a group of Nepali students who were also coming here for the first time, and I bonded with other Nepalis who were already undergraduates at Hollins. So, my transition to life here was smooth, it was a good start.” Since then, “I’ve made friends for life. I like this area and I love the sense of security on campus. I love that I’m so provided for and that I can concentrate on my academics.”

Bhattarai says her experience in Virginia Tech’s TBMH Ph.D. program will inform what she does career-wise. “I’m going to be building skills that will help in both clinical practice and research, which do not go in separate lanes. It’s two fields put together and a lot of things related to personalized medicine come under that umbrella.”

While she anticipates staying in the United States, Bhattarai is confident that her work will benefit the people of Nepal. “Translational medicine is largely about finding more efficient and cost-effective drugs and technologies that can also be used in developing countries. I will always be guided by the fact that I come from a developing country, and I would like to contribute in some way toward health issues there, too.”