Next up in the highlights of the class of 2021 is Suraj Bala. Suraj joined the group through a round about way on a collaboration with Dr. Kristine Nolin. He worked in the lab the summer after his first year (2018 – wow, that feels like so long ago!) and continued to dabble in research during the school year here and there. Suraj has excelled in the classroom and I’m sad that he is graduating and I will not have taught him in a course. But I am certain that he will excel in his next step of medical school. It has been his career path since I have known him and always has been on the forefront of his mind. 

Let’s hear what Suraj has to say about his time in the lab:

1. Why did you decide to join the Pollock lab?

Suraj: My path to the Pollock lab wasn’t a linear one.  I originally thought I would be joining Dr. April Hill’s group my freshman year.  However, we found out that she was offered an amazing opportunity at Bates College.  Dr. Hill helped me find my home in the lab of Drs. Nolin and Pollock.  I really liked taking organic chemistry with Dr. Nolin, and after Dr. Pollock explained the project to me, I knew the interdisciplinary aspects of Team Viral Sponge were a perfect fit for my interests.

2. What was your favorite part about your research experience?

Suraj: My favorite part of my research experience was using Visual Molecular Dynamics to visualize the amino acid residues on Qb, select sites for potential mutations, and then actually impart these mutations to Qb in the lab. I enjoyed the thought of using my biochemistry knowledge to create something completely new. The fact that a biochemist can harness naturally occurring processes, like bacteria for protein expression and enzymes in PCR and SLIM, for their own research goals never ceases to amaze me. Additionally, I’ve met some of the most amazing people through the Pollock Lab.

3. What do you plan to do after graduation?

Suraj: After graduation, I will be attending medical school. I don’t know exactly where I will be attending just yet, but I will be sure to keep you posted!

4. As you reflect back on your time at University of Richmond, what advice would you give to an incoming student who was interested in your career path?

Suraj: I think the most important thing is to find out what your academic and personal interests are as early as possible and find ways to cultivate those interests. For example, talk to a lot of different professors your freshman year and see who’s research projects you like the most. If you really enjoy the work you do, your passion will help you push through the ups and downs of research (of which there are many). Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from your mentors and students older than you! My mentors at UR have been the best part of my college experience.

Suraj – Thank you for being a part of TVS over your time at UR. I know the last year in particular has been weird but you will always be a part of the group. I know you will be a phenomenal doctor and I can’t wait to see where you decide to go for medical school, what you will specialize in, and where your career will take you. Please always keep in touch! Congratulations on graduation.