Talon’ted Undergraduate Researcher - Sahil Bardai

KENNESAW, Ga. (February 24, 2023) — Sahil Bardai is a senior biology major who turned his passion for mental health into a rewarding undergraduate research career at Kennesaw State University.

He works in the Affective Neuroscience Lab under the guidance of Dr. Ebony Glover and recently presented his research, Understanding the Contributions of Hormonal Contraceptives and Cortisol Levels to Fear Learning in Women, at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists in Anaheim, Calif.

Sahil Bardai
Sahil Bardai

Q: What is your hometown and high school? 

A: I am from Decatur, Ga., and attended Druid Hills High School.

Q: What is your major and class year? What motivated you to pursue your specific degree and career path? 

A: I’m a biology major (senior). I wanted to pursue a biology degree because I would like to attend medical school. I am specifically interested in becoming an emergency physician because I want to help patients when they are at a low point in their lives. I want to be the person that helps those patients that are probably in a lot of pain.

Q: Everyone has their own unique journey to becoming a KSU Owl. Can you describe why you chose to attend KSU? 

A: I applied to many colleges and received acceptances to mostly out-of-state schools, KSU, and Georgia State University (GSU). I attended GSU as a dual-enrollment student (and I got my associate degree at 18), but I did not like the campus or the resources. I toured KSU and fell in love with the campus and the location.

Q: How did you get involved with research at KSU? 

A: As an honors student, I had access to the resources, which included research opportunities. The summer before I started KSU (summer 2021), I reached out to Dr. (Doreen) Wagner and she called me to meet with her. She went over the research, and I liked it a lot as it translates into my passion of focusing on mental health. I chose to take up the role and started as an undergraduate research volunteer and then moved up to be an undergraduate researcher.

Q: One of the most rewarding parts of being a student researcher is the opportunity to connect with and be mentored by faculty. How has your experience been with KSU faculty since you have been involved with research? 

A: I receive mentorship from my research mentors in every step of my life. I am beyond grateful for Dr. (Sharon) Pearcey, Dr. (Ebony) Glover, Dr. Wagner and Dr. (Anna) Rosenhauer for always being there for me and mentoring me. Due to their mentorship, I have been able to get accepted for research presentation funds and to present my research at several conferences.

My experience with KSU faculty has been positively influenced since I have been in involved with research because I love telling my professors about my research. I also like talking about how what we are learning in class connects with the things I have learned from this research. This helps me build a connection with my professors and potentially help me get a letter of recommendation needed for medical school applications.

  • I am specifically interested in becoming an emergency physician because I want to help patients when they are at a low point in their lives. I want to be the person that helps those patients that are probably in a lot of pain.”

Q: What is one of your favorite parts of being a student researcher? 

A: This would definitely be the mentorship I receive and the connections I make. For example, at our lab’s grand opening, I got to have a conversation with Dean of the Norman J. Radow College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dr. Catherine Kaukinen, which I would not have if not for the grand opening. I have also had a chance to connect with many successful individuals in the career field I wish to pursue at the conferences I have attended to present my research. I got to attend a lecture, meet with and take a photo with the first African American woman astronaut, Dr. Mae (Jemison). I have also been invited to apply to some schools’ graduate programs by the dean of admissions.

Q: What advice would you give to current students who may be curious about getting involved in research? 

A: Find something that you are interested in rather than trying to check a box of doing research for your graduate school applications. Make the most out of the opportunities. Connect with individuals because you never know who you may need help from. Make sure the research you are getting involved in has perks like mentorship from the research faculty.            

Q: What are your plans and goals after graduating from KSU? Has your time as a student researcher helped prepare you for those plans? 

A: My goal is to apply to an MD program and hopefully get in. As a student researcher, I have developed a skill set that I will carry with me throughout my life and my career as a doctor. These skills include professional communication and time management. People always say to be ready to give up your life because emergency doctors have crazy schedules, but I feel like being a pre-med student (who has many boxes to check to apply to medical schools) has taught me how to manage my time well while taking mental breaks.

Q: When we visited the Affective Neuroscience Lab, you mentioned that you recently had the chance to present your research in California. Who did you present to, and how was your experience? 

A: I presented at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS). I presented to many professors, researchers, and students.

Q: Without a doubt, being a full-time student while also pursuing research takes a significant amount of skill, discipline, and time management. Have there been any roadblocks that you faced in your time as a student researcher, and how did you overcome them?

A: Like I said, being a pre-med student is difficult. While being a full-time student, I serve as the college representative for the College of Science and Mathematics (SGA Senator is the official name). I am also on executive board for many organizations, including an organization that I founded at KSU. Doing research, moreover, is difficult yet very rewarding. There were always some roadblocks that I had to overcome, such as scheduling conflicts and studying for exams — especially with my classes being senior-level biology classes. I overcame all the roadblocks by utilizing my organization skills. I divided my time for everything that I had to do and sacrificed many things, such as dinner with friends and some social activities.

Q: Research in neuroscience has the capacity to have life-changing implications for a person’s mental and physical health. What is it like being part of research that could directly benefit another person’s well-being? 

A: It feels amazing knowing that my contributions are helping the scientists solve a real-world problem that is often neglected. Mental health of people has been researched very little and there are not a whole lot of treatments and understanding. It feels rewarding knowing that this research will translate to help resolve some of those overlooked issues in society and science. A specific example is that this neuroscience research has the potential to identify the biological bases of pathological fear learning processes that contribute to an elevated risk of anxiety disorders.

Q: You have been part of multiple research projects during your time at KSU. Can you describe the research methods and processes from one of your favorite studies? What was the study on, and how did you and your team conduct research?

A: I have only been involved with the Affective Neuroscience Lab during my time at KSU. I have been involved with both sides of the research, but most of my time was spent in the Exercise Science Biomarkers Lab with Dr. Pearcey. I learned how to run assays using ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay). I learned the mechanism behind ELISA, which is competitive antigen-antibody binding. I learned different chemical processes that go in running an Assay. The most valuable skill anyone can have in a biology lab is pipetting skills. I have practiced so much, and I’ve gotten so much better at it. I learned about different software used to analyze and process the data. I learned how to use different statistical tools to quantify the data and make it easier to present.

I ran several Assays such as Cortisol and DHEAs (stress hormones). We would quantify the cortisol levels and connect it back to the questionnaire that the participants filled out at the beginning of the study.

— Will-Franklin Eller