Desire to explore: Kumar sets stage for promising career with scientific cancer research
January 13, 2017
From the graduating class of 2019, Coppell High School’s Bhoomika Kumar is the most likely to cure cancer.
Kumar has been working on a science fair project to find a novel small molecule that can lower levels of tenascin-c, a protein that causes cancer cells to spread, by using bioinformatic screening and affinity modifications to ensure the drug targets a specific part of the protein.
Put in simpler terms, her science fair project delves into one aspect of curing cancer.
Bhoomika has an exceptional academic record as a straight A student, but strives to explore science outside of classroom walls. PreAP/GT Biology teacher Cathy Douglas taught Bhoomika as a freshman and fondly recollects memories from last year.
“I remember, it was the first week of school last year when [Bhoomika] came in after school and wanted to talk about science fair even before we [the class] had even started [working on science fair],” Douglas said. “She’s just so tenacious, its incredible. Her enthusiasm for science is contagious. ”
Douglas continues to enjoy interacting with her this year as the school science fair lead teacher as Bhoomika chose to participate even when it was not required of her.
“[Bhoomika] takes a concept or idea and just runs with it,” Douglas said. “When she has these ideas and thoughts related to the medical field, she attacks [them] with all she’s got. She puts more than 110 percent [into] what she does. I love that sparkle in her eye, especially when [talking] to her about science.”
Bhoomika’s father, Ajay Kumar, thinks science fair has helped her improve many character traits, such as patience and responsibility as well.
“[Science fair] has really helped her,” Mr. Kumar said. “When she was in sixth grade and she first began [researching], it helped her as a person, not just as a biology student. Her character [developed].”
Bhoomika’s parents have remained supportive of her goals and remind her to take care of health and other obligations as well.
“[I] encourage her,” Mr. Kumar said. “I try to help her by asking her to balance [research] with other academic responsibilities. It can be challenging.”
Kumar has won first place in her respective categories at school science fairs and won numerous honors regional fairs, but the awards mean less to her than the impact she makes.
“[There are] two things that motivated me,” Kumar said. “[First], I had a family member who went through cancer and this was my first sparking moments. Second, I watch and read the news a lot and realized that there was so much research, but there still hasn’t been a cure and there’s a lot more to do so I decided to do what I can.”
Bioinformatics, the science of collecting and analyzing biological data such as genetic codes, was an applicable field that caught Bhoomika’s interest when she began trying to make a difference.
“Bioinformatics came along the way,” Kumar said. “[My current project] has been the biggest one that I have gotten into.”
The research process can often be frustrating, filled with dead ends and unexpected changes that must be accommodated in a short time span.
“[The most challenging aspect] is when we have everything planned out, but there is always something that doesn’t work out,” Kumar said. “This happened a lot towards the beginning [of my research] when I would plan everything. In this [bioinformatics] project, there has been a problem at every step.”
Kumar said when met with an obstacle, she researches extensively to find a solution.
“It is difficult to find research journals to find alternative methods to a procedure,” Kumar said. “Sometimes you need new information [to troubleshoot].”
At the culmination of a tiresome and demanding project, Kumar remembers why she first began and why she continued to persevere through difficult setbacks.
“It’s really rewarding when the work is complete,” Kumar said. “You can reflect on the accomplishment.”
While Bhoomika has a personal and relevant connection to cancer research, eventually is ready to branch out and would like to explore more scientific disciplines with goals that extend well past high school.
“I hope my methods are a baseline for the medical field, not just cancer research, but overall in many other fields,” Kumar said. “I hope to take [my work] into in vivo in several more years. I know there is a long way to go to make [my cure] an FDA approved drug. [I want to] start my own company for [creating] cancer preventing vaccines.”
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