Professor Anshu Agrawal began involving undergraduates in her research after interacting with students in her transfer seminar class, and mentoring these students has helped bring a fresh perspective to her own work. By allowing her students to be creative and explore new ideas, Professor Agrawal has learned a lot; understanding this has made her a better researcher herself. In return, her students develop critical thinking, time management, and other skills that will help them succeed in any future paths they may pursue. Professor Agrawal’s commitment to the students she mentors has helped many of them determine the career directions they wish to follow. UROP commends Professor Agrawal for the guidance she gives to her undergraduate students.

1. How did you develop an interest in mentoring undergraduate research or creative projects, and what type of projects have you directed?

I got to interact with the undergraduate students in my transfer seminar class and found them to be very bright and interested in learning. Their outlook was fresh and novel, therefore I felt that involving them in research would bring new perspective to the projects. The students are mainly involved in learning cell culture and flow cytometry techniques. We usually focus on studying the effect of different Toll like receptor ligands on dendritic cells. The students stain the cells with different antibodies to study their activation profile using flow cytometry.

2. What do you look for and what are your expectations of undergraduates you select to conduct research under your guidance?

My primary expectation is that they should behave in a committed and responsible manner. They should show interest and should be able to work independently once they learn the techniques.

3. Describe your level of engagement and style in mentoring undergraduates.

I am fully involved in the mentoring of students from designing the experiments to teaching techniques and analyzing the results. The students interact directly with me are and free to discuss their ideas. I encourage independent thinking and new ideas.

4. In your experience, how have your students improved or benefited as a result of their undergraduate research experience?

My experience suggests that undergraduate research greatly benefits the students in many different ways. The hands-on research increases their understanding of the basic principles of science. Their critical thinking and time management skills improve. Their appreciation for the research process increases. I also find that many students tend to enjoy their science classes a little more because of their research experience. It has helped many students determine their career path.

5. What have you learned or benefited from guiding undergraduate research or creative projects?

It has been an extremely rewarding experience for me. Interacting with students allows me to look at my projects with a fresh perspective. In teaching them I learn a lot myself.

6. What recommendations and advice would you give students embarking on undergraduate research or creative projects?

I would advise them to be creative and responsible. I would also advise them to devote a little time to research instead of attempting to do many things at the same time. It will make the research more rewarding and allow them to achieve something worthwhile.

Research Interests: Decline in immune function is a hallmark of aging, leading to increased susceptibility to infections and reduced response to vaccination in the elderly population. Paradoxically, this decline in immune function is associated with low-grade chronic inflammation. The molecular mechanisms underlying this chronic inflammatory condition and reduced immunity during cellular senescence are at present not well understood. The primary focus of my research is to understand the contribution of innate immune cells such as dendritic cells towards age-associated inflammation and reduced immunity in humans. The two major research interests are: (1) Mechanisms leading to age-associated decline in the capacity of dendritic cells to maintain peripheral self tolerance and its contribution to chronic inflammation and autoimmune disorders; and (2) Age-associated alterations in the functions of dendritic cells (Myeloid and plasmacytoid) that are responsible for reduced immunity and increased susceptibility to infections particularly, pneumonia and influenza.

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '10 Derek Dunn-Rankin
Nov. '10 Wendy A. Goldberg
Oct. '10 Bernard Choi
Sep. '10 Daniel S. Stokols
Aug. '10 James S. Nowick
Jul. '10 Thomas J. Carew
Jun. '10 Kristen Day
May. '10 Keith Woerpel
Apr. '10 Anshu Agrawal
Mar. '10 Darryl Taylor
Feb. '10 Michael J. Montoya
Jan. '10 Gregory Alan Weiss