Spotlight on Ravi Chopra
Ravi is pursuing an MD/PhD in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) and recently defended his dissertation. Sharena Rice was able to interview Ravi before he moves back into training as a physician.
What was your childhood dream?
I was just a really curious kid, so the various dream careers always involved some sort of discovery. I was into space for a while, but I actually always had a strong interest in neuroscience, even if I didn't know what neuroscience was.
My undergrad lab was headed by Dr. Rick Morimoto (at Northwestern University), who, in addition to his research, also ran a science camp for kids. In the weeks before my graduation from NU, Sue Fox, our lab manager, was somehow able to find an old worksheet I had filled out at the camp, which I had apparently attended when I was in 2nd grade (I grew up near Northwestern but didn't make the connection when I joined the lab as an undergrad). The question on the sheet was something like "What science question do you want to know?", and my answer was "I want to know where dreams come from". It's a super cheesy story, I know, but it definitely gave me some insight into why I wound up doing what I'm doing.
What are your hobbies?
I have always loved music, and I've played drums for a long time. Lately that's fallen by the wayside, but it's definitely something I hope I can keep going in some capacity. These days, my outlets are mostly soccer and cooking.
Describe your trajectory in researching neurodegeneration.
My undergrad lab did a lot of work on neurodegenerative disease, with a specific focus on polyQ diseases and AD. I had a great experience there, but after spending 3 years working there I felt like I was ready for something different during grad school. As a result, I initially focused my search for a dissertation lab on fields outside of neurodegeneration.
After rotating with Geoff Murphy I realized I loved electrophysiology, and that my passion was for understanding neuronal physiology regardless of disease context. Then somebody recommended that I reach out to Vikram, and after talking to him, and rotating with him, I knew I had found a great place to work. Now I'm pretty sure that I want to continue in neurodegeneration, both in my training as a physician and as a researcher.
You presented the joke awards at the NGP retreat, at least for the past two years. How did you come into this position?
A couple years ago, Jackie was the retreat chair and as a committee we decided to shake things up. The MSTP has a great tradition of doing joke awards, so I thought it might be a cool tradition to modify and then bring to the NGP. I offered to do it the first year to get things rolling, and it ended up being a success so I was asked to do it again. I hope it's a tradition that stays with the NGP for years to come.
What are your aspirations now?
On a professional level, the goal is to just keep on the MSTP path. Ideally I'll get to keep studying dendrites throughout my career, and eventually run a lab of my own. I have all sorts of pipe dreams for what that will look like (including a few dream PIs I might someday train with), but who knows?
On a personal level, I really want to find ways to stay well-rounded in my interests, civics, and overall outlook on life. Science can be kind of a pressure cooker and I've definitely had points during grad school where I can't get out of the lab (intellectually or physically), but I have lots of other interests and passions that I hope to pursue.
As a footnote, Ravi was our in-house Santa over the holiday season ....and has an artistic side with his works prominently displayed on his relay rack...