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Hopkins BME undergrad wins Fulbright Award to India

April 18, 2024

Samhita Vasu, a biomedical engineering senior from Sunnyvale, California, was awarded a Fulbright grant to research solutions for access to early screening for chronic kidney disease (CKD) in India. Vasu plans to develop a low-cost creatinine sensor to measure kidney function in patients at risk of kidney disease.  

“Access to early screening of kidney disease in India is particularly difficult because of the low physician-to-patient ratio and high population. Oftentimes the first time a patient sees a healthcare professional in India is when they already have kidney failure,” said Vasu. 

Vasu’s focus on CKD began while working on a clinical study of the neurodevelopmental outcomes of renal anhydramnios fetal therapy under Meredith Atkinson, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. During this experience she learned about pediatric nephrology, chronic kidney disease, and congenital anomalies to the kidneys and urinary tract.  

Vasu saw firsthand how cutting-edge medical therapy can give life to patients who would not have lived past their first few days without it, thus fueling an interest in the translation of medical innovation into clinical practice. 

“The Fulbright Scholarship interests me because of its emphasis on cultural exchange and the invaluable opportunities it would provide me to work collaboratively with international partners to conduct research that excites me,” said Vasu. 

Vasu currently conducts research with Deok-Ho Kim, professor of biomedical engineering who is an expert in multi-scale biofabrication and tissue engineering. With Kim, Vasu is working on using engineered heart tissues to study mitochondrial dysfunction in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Vasu says this work is of special interest to her because her cousin passed away from complications of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.  

“The Fulbright Scholarship is a testament to Samhita’s exceptional abilities and potential to contribute meaningfully to her field of study. This prestigious award will provide her with invaluable opportunities for personal and academic growth, as well as the chance to engage in cultural exchange and collaboration on an international level. I am immensely proud of Samhita’s accomplishment and the recognition she has received for her hard work and dedication,” said Kim. 

In addition to the Fulbright recognition, Vasu is a Hodson Trust Scholar and a team lead in the Biomedical Engineering Design Team program. After graduation, Vasu plans to attend a MD-PhD or MD program to become a physician-engineer.  

Named for U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, who sponsored legislation creating the prestigious scholarship, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is among the largest and most diverse exchange programs in the world. The program supports roughly 2,000 recent graduates, graduate students, and early-career professionals each year who pursue graduate study, conduct research, or teach English abroad. 

More information about the Fulbright application process can be found on the website of the National Fellowships Program. 

Associated Faculty: Deok-Ho Kim

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