Medical School Student
George Washington University School of Medicine
Biology Major, Chemistry Minor
Shaunak Mulani '12 is pursuing his medical degree at The George
Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He was
accepted into the Knox-GWU early admission program during his sophomore year, and as a junior he worked with Dictyostelium discoideum as part of his Honors project. As a medical student, he is eager to learn more about global health so he can use his interdisciplinary education to address international issues. A native of Bourbonnais, Illinois, Shaunak discusses more about his experience at Knox.
How did you learn about Knox?
Initially, some family friends told us about Knox, which sparked our interest. As a senior in high school, I was looking for early admission programs into medical school and a school that was close enough to home. Having an interest to pursue medicine from a younger age heavily guided my college choice. These programs are generally very competitive, involve very strict requirements of their students, and do not allow one to explore the liberal arts. Of course I wanted to take the prerequisite courses for biology, chemistry, and physics, but I also wanted to have the freedom to take the courses I was interested in and major in the field of my choice.
One of the physicians I shadowed during high school went to Knox and was also accepted into a pre-med early admission program. He reassured me that Knox's program in pre-medicine would give me a personalized preparation for med school and allow me to have the freedom to get outside of the science building whenever I wanted. This was definitely the case. I was able to play tennis, do research, take on campus leadership roles, volunteer, and still have crazy amounts of fun living with some of the best friends I've ever had. The opportunities for a pre-med student are pretty limitless -- from having access to your professors for support to having the early admission program to med school.
Is there a professor that had a significant impact on your education?
Matt Jones-Rhoades guided me through my years at Knox. He was my academic advisor, my research advisor, my Honors committee chair, and my professor for five biology classes. Matt kept you on your toes during class by always asking questions, and he made sure you understood the material in the textbook but also the research in the field of the class. With Matt, there's never a silly question, and if there was, I would've asked plenty! He took me on after my first year to work in his lab, and I worked with Dictyostelium spores of different types in an experiment testing their social cooperation with different species. This led to the creation of my Honors project. Matt and I decided on a plan to do Honors during my junior year.
Tell us more about your Honors project.
All life forms require DNA repair mechanisms to maintain the integrity of their genetic material. The cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum has been known to be particularly resistant to DNA damage caused by ultraviolet radiation and other mutagens. I was interested in understanding the genetic basis of this enhanced DNA repair system. Specifically, I used high-throughput cDNA sequencing to measure the sets of genes induced and repressed by exposure to UV light in Dictyostelium. I also monitored expression of a small set of known UV-responsive genes in order to establish an ideal protocol for UV exposure. Ultimately, I followed established protocols to generate novel cDNA libraries from both UV-treated and control samples. I hoped to address the question of whether DNA repair in Dictyostelium primarily involves genes homologous to DNA repair pathways studied in other organisms, or if it possesses novel DNA repair pathways not yet studied.
Working with this organism previously and working with Matt encouraged me to do Honors. Honors was a lot of work and was guaranteed to be even more work during the spring term, but it was also rewarding because I got the chance to study what I was learning in class in a hands-on basis. This was also my own project that Matt and I created from scratch, so I was able to learn how to set up a large-scale biology project. Research during undergrad is rare in this capacity and having a personal Ph.D. advisor to guide you step-by-step along the way would surely not be possible at schools other than Knox.
Describe your experience with pre-med early admission program.
As a second year, I did the Knox-GWU early admission program. The faculty at Knox were very supportive in helping me prepare with mock interviews and advice on what med schools look for. I felt so confident after that interview because it went so well. I still had an inclination to go to Washington, D.C., and I knew GWU offered an excellent program in preparation to become a doctor. The school is steps away from the White House in the heart of the nation's capital and offers the opportunity to take part in internships with some of the most prestigious organizations serving our nation.
I was offered an interview in Washington, D.C., and I absolutely loved it there. I again felt as if Knox prepared me for what GWU was going to ask me, and with my liberal arts background I felt as if this school was my calling. I accepted my admission, was free from having to take the MCATs, and was given an assured seat in the School of Medicine for the Class of 2017.
Washington, D.C. is full of opportunities for community involvement so I have a balance for studying and life. I really want to learn about global health through this entire process so I can use my interdisciplinary education to address international issues and also help out around the globe as a doctor in places that truly need the help.