Stowers Summer Scholar wins summer innovation award

Karthikeyan Murugesan

Karthikeyan Murugesan, a student in the Department of Biological Sciences & Bioengineering at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur (IITK), India, won the coveted BSBE Summer Innovation Award for research performed during his ten-week stint at the Stowers Institute last summer. In addition to bragging rights, Karthikeyan received a cash prize, a certificate, and the opportunity to present his work during an IIT-wide symposium.

During his summer internship in the lab of Associate Investigator Ron Yu, PhD, Karthikeyan, who is particularly interested in bioinformatics, used bioinformatics tools to sift through gene expression data from mouse olfactory epithelia. He was looking for genes that guide growing axons—the slender projections nerve cells use to communicate with each other—to their final destination. Within a sea of data originating from 22,000 genes, he successfully zoomed in on fifteen genes that help axons stay on track. 

“It probably surprised no one that Karthikeyan got this honor,” says his mentor Yu. “We always have very high expectations for the summer scholars. Karthikeyan clearly surpassed them.”

Along with seven other summer scholars, Karthikeyan was part of what became known as the “Yu lab brigade.” They helped each other, discussed their research, cheered together during the European soccer tournament, and generally had fun in and out of the lab. “The summer internship at Stowers is one of my most memorable events in my life,” says Karthikeyan. “I loved the research environment at Stowers. I have never seen such an open, friendly culture anywhere else.”