UC neuroscience undergraduate wins a Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Chinmay Bakshi turns science into success as he aims to change the world through biomedical research and clinical medicine

From a very young age, Chinmay Bakshi knew he wanted to be a doctor or medical researcher, but he never knew how much until disease struck close to home.

Chinmay Bakshi uses a microscope to view animal model heart cells at the Molkentin Lab at CCHMC.

Chinmay Bakshi spends a great deal of time in the Molkentin Lab at Cincinnati Children's Hospital involved in cardiac muscle cell research.

Bakshi was hooked on biomedical science as early as the eighth grade after winning science fair awards from the state of Ohio for projects identifying prevalent genes in breast cancer.

“When both my grandmothers were diagnosed with breast cancer during my first year of high school, I felt I wanted to do more for patients like them,” he says. “This led me to start helping patients at a local hospital's oncology unit.”

Before long, Bakshi’s journey toward medicine resulted in working in professional research labs during his high school summers at UC’s College of Medicine, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) and later as an undergraduate research intern at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School.

“While here, Chinmay conducted research in medicinal chemistry and drug development and presented his findings to faculty and students as part of Harvard’s highly competitive biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology summer scholars program,” says Sara Buhrlage, professor at Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s cancer biology department. “He did a wonderful job jumping into a multidisciplinary project, learning new techniques and executing them successfully to generate new compounds and data, ultimately conveying the techniques and research findings to others.”

Chinmay Bakshi stands in front of CCHMC's Research S building.

Bakshi continues to devote time to cardiology research at CCHMC's Molkentin Lab, which also serves as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute laboratory. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

Now in his second year as a University Honors student in UC’s Connections Dual Admissions Program — a specialized program for gifted and motivated undergraduates interested in pursuing postgraduate careers in medicine and research — Bakshi has already been accepted into UC’s College of Medicine upon graduation. 

As a result of Bakshi’s accomplishments, he was recently recognized by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence Foundation, which provides scholarships to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics or engineering. Bakshi can use the scholarship for two years for tuition, fees, books or room and board. 

According to Jenny Hyest, director of UC’s Office of Nationally Competitive Awards, the value of the Goldwater award far exceeds its dollar amount. “This scholarship carries great distinction, Hyest explains. “Winning the Goldwater speaks highly of a recipient’s abilities and training. It recognizes those who receive it as being among the most promising undergraduate STEM researchers in the nation and puts them in a strong position for applying to PhD or MD/PhD programs.”

Second-year UC medical sciences student Nihar Rama, also received the Goldwater honor. The awards went to 496 college students nationwide chosen from a highly competitive pool of more than 5,000 sophomores and juniors. The UC students’ accomplishments reinforce the importance of pursuing academic excellence, one of the primary tenets of UC’s strategic direction called Next Lives Here

Chinmay Bakshi wears lab coat and gloves as he works closely plating cells at the Research S Building of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

At CCHMC's Location S research facility, Bakshi works carefully while plating cells for his current cardiology research.

As part of the Connections Dual Admissions Program, Bakshi was encouraged by his academic advisors in the University Honors Program to take advantage of the flexibility offered within UC's McMicken College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) to pursue a more liberal arts-focused curriculum and broaden his perspectives even further. He chose to major in the interdisciplinary A&S neuroscience program until time to begin medical school.

“What strikes me most about Chinmay’s character is his forethought, initiative and ambition,” says Ilya Vilinsky, director of UC’s undergraduate neuroscience program. “He is very intelligent and conscientious, but his high level of achievement is due at least as much to his desire to puzzle over data and think creatively about results.”

Bakshi sees the opportunity to be part of A&S as a way to pursue his passions outside of clinical medicine to the fullest. “The opportunity to concentrate on biomedical research will help me become a more holistic physician,” he adds.

Raised in Ohio, Bakshi took advantage of many opportunities for extracurricular activities while pursuing his education. By the time he graduated high school in 2017, he had participated and earned awards in several science fairs, including the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and in 2015 he won the Yale Scientific magazine essay competition.

Throughout his summers as a teen, Bakshi didn’t slow down. He began his research in an oncology laboratory after his sophomore year of high school because of his personal interest in cancer biology and continued his work at UC and CCHMC, participating in research on breast cancer, hormone resistant prostate cancer and sickle cell disease. 

Since starting college, Bakshi has been exploring the effects of specific proteins on cardiac cell membranes in cardiomyopathy in the Molkentin Lab at CCHMC, which also serves as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute laboratory.

“Through his work in our lab, Chinmay discovered the effects of certain proteins on cardiomyocyte membrane damage in animal models of Duchenne muscular dystrophy,” says Jeff Molkentin, professor of molecular cardiovascular biology at CCHMC. “These findings allowed Chinmay to be a co-author on a manuscript published in 'Molecular and Cellular Biology.'

“Chinmay has gained a breadth of biomedical research and wet bench experience outside the classroom in three different academic laboratories at two outstanding institutions, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA in his coursework at the University of Cincinnati.”

Bakshi, also a Cincinnatus Scholar, says he will use his Goldwater Scholarship to further his pursuit of a medical degree and doctoral degree in biomedical research.

“Along the way, I look forward to studying abroad through the University Honors Program,” says Bakshi. “As an MD/PhD, I hope to integrate both clinical practice and research into my career to make a direct impact into patients’ lives, as well as contribute to solving tomorrow’s most complex challenges.”

 

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Featured inage at top: Chinmay Bakshi stands between the Mick and Mack lions in front of UC's McMicken Hall. photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

Chinmay Bakshi stands in front of CCHMC's Location S research building.

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