She may be several years away from applying to medical school or even college, but Lakshmi Sundaram, a sophomore at Hurricane High School, is well on her way to a science career.

HHS sophomore Lakshmi Sundaram, (second from right), is pictured with Dr. Subha Arthur, assistant professor at Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine (right), Richard Campbell, principal at HHS (second from left) and Heather Hawes, assistant principal (left).

The 15-year-old was recently awarded a $2,500 research grant from the American Gastroenterological Association Research Foundation, West Virginia’s first such award, for work she will conduct over the summer under the direction of Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine researcher Subha Arthur, Ph.D.

“Our state has the highest rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension,” Sundaram said. “I see both the medical and psychological complications of childhood and adult obesity all around me at school, extracurricular activities and as a volunteer at Cabell Huntington Hospital. The Eli and Edythe Broad Student Research Award provides me the opportunity to participate in and learn about medical research in obesity, and I think this experience will strengthen my desire to become a physician who takes care of patients and performs research that is important for West Virginia.”

Arthur, an assistant professor in the department of clinical and translational sciences, says the project will focus on understanding obesity-mediated alterations in intestinal absorption of nutrients and electrolytes by the cell’s sodium pump.  She says the work is an extension of current research underway at Marshall, which is very relevant to the patient population in the state.

“I am extremely happy to mentor Lakshmi,” Arthur said. “The award not only furthers her academic aspirations, but paves the way to expand the American Gastroenterological Association’s mission in our state.”

Sundaram will present the project’s findings in July 2017 at the American Gastroenterological Association’s meeting in Chicago.  She attributes her interest in science and medicine to her parents, Drs. Uma and Usha Sundaram of Hurricane, who are both physicians.