Arjun Bhattacharya is one of only five UNC Innovation Scholars, part of a new initiative drawing on the intellectual and social resources of the University to promote and nurture entrepreneurial efforts of the scholars during their time at Carolina.
In Dr. Arjun Deb's laboratory at UNC's McAllister Heart Institute, Innovation Scholar Arjun Bhattacharya isolates cardiac cells for use in research.
Research experience gives edge to Innovation Scholar
It was crunch time for Arjun Bhattacharya. He had to choose.
During his senior year at William G. Enloe High School in Raleigh, Bhattacharya had narrowed his college choices to Duke University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carolina. He needed to make a final decision.
In the end, he chose Carolina and hasn’t looked back since.
“The deciding factor was the scholarship,” said the first-year biology and mathematical decision sciences major from Cary. “It’s nice to be recognized for merit.”
Bhattacharya is one of only five Innovation Scholars, part of a new initiative drawing on the intellectual and social resources of the University to promote and nurture entrepreneurial efforts of the scholars during their time at Carolina. (Read about Innovation Scholars and other Innovate@Carolina initiatives.)
He also added that those resources, in addition to the University’s talented student body and renowned basketball program, were contributing factors in his choice.
When choosing scholars, the University looks for candidates who display a talent for innovation. In Bhattacharya’s case, it was his experience in scientific research.
The summer before his senior year at Enloe, Bhattacharya was one of 75 students at the Research Science Institute, a six-week program hosted by MIT. During his time in Boston, he held an internship with Dr. Vicki Rosen, the department head and professor of developmental biology at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, studying menisci – tissue in the knee that is incapable of healing itself – to discover what genes are involved.
Bhattacharya also worked at Duke in a cardiology lab while in high school, focusing on stem cells and how they can be used to regenerate the heart after a heart attack. He hopes to use those resources to understand how stem cells work, which can lead to cures for diseases and a way to avoid the controversy of embryonic stem cell research. In summer 2012, he will work in Dr. Arjun Deb’s laboratory in UNC’s McAllister Heart Institute. The lab’s research includes the biology of adult stem cells and how they can be used to enhance organ regeneration and repair.
In addition to his future contribution to science, Bhattacharya looks forward to giving back to the Carolina community and the Innovation Scholars program through a group project – an assignment for a first-year seminar called “Engines of Innovation: the Entrepreneurial University in the 21st Century.”
“Our plan is to organize a high school competition that will highlight all the values that we see in an Innovation Scholar,” said Bhattacharya. “We’ll be able to track talented students throughout their career and nominate them for the scholarship when they’re a senior.”
Bhattacharya was already on his way to solving some of the world’s biggest problems, but he wants to take it a step further and motivate other scholars to do the same. Regardless of what he will accomplish in the future, one thing is for certain: he will achieve great things through the UNC’s Innovation Scholars program.
Published May 21, 2012.