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The Apprentices

The scientist: Eugene Nattie, M.D. (left)
His title: Professor of Physiology
Joined the faculty: 1975

What qualities do you look for in undergrads for your lab?
Interest, enthusiasm, and dedication.

What are the benefits of having undergrads in your lab?
Dartmouth students are very bright and dedicated. They work hard and reliably. They ask great questions, often ones that I have not thought of.

Did you work in a lab when you were an undergrad?
I did sociology research with Dartmouth Professor Derek Phillips. I correlated the geographical distribution of mental illness with so-called psychosomatic diseases. This gave me my first inkling that I could be an academician and scientist.

What kind of work do undergrads do in your lab?
We usually assign a specific task to each student. They repeat the task until they are proficient. Most students learn this quite quickly.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Having undergrads in my lab has been a highlight of my career. Dartmouth students have many interests—sports, music, dance, art—and it's fun to learn about them. Undergrads bring an enthusiasm and spirit that adds to the life of the lab.

The student: Shima Dowla '11 (right)
Major and minor: Neuroscience and Arabic
Hometown: Lexington, Ky.
Joined the Nattie lab: Fall 2007

What are your career goals?
After I graduate, I intend to take a year off before medical school—I would like to spend time in my parents' home country of Bangladesh. I hope to become a neurologist like my uncle.

What got you interested in science?
Because my parents are chemists, I was introduced to science at a very young age. By the time I was in middle school, I had a strong interest in biology and a strong dislike for physical inorganic chemistry (much to my parents' dismay). Neuroscience explains to me why I am the way I am. College is supposed to be a time for self exploration. What better way to understand yourself than to dig into your brain?

What drew you to the Nattie lab?
After doing a research project in high school, I realized I wanted to continue research in college. Last summer I came across a student position in Dr. Nattie's lab, and after talking to a number of mentors I realized that this was the right place for me. It is a small, encouraging environment with a great group of people.

What is the most difficult part of doing research as a student?
Finding time. I have had difficulty allotting large amounts of time to research because of the amount of studying I must do to keep up with my classes as well as my extracurricular activities.

What is the quality you most admire in people?
Trustworthiness. As much as I admire the ingenuity of Einstein and the creativity of Mozart, I feel that trustworthiness is very important in order to build strong and lasting relationships.

What are your interests outside of school and work?
I am a choreographer for Indian hip hop dances for a variety of shows, teach dance lessons to children in the Upper Valley, play club tennis, and am involved with the International Humanitarian Foundation. Right now, we are fund-raising for a trip to Ecuador this summer to work with children in Yambiro on English and public health.

What about you surprises others?
My interest in language and different cultures, because I am a science-oriented premed. I have family in many different parts of the world, so I'm interested in interacting with people from all over. I can speak, read, and write fluently in English, Bangla, and Arabic. Hopefully I will become fluent in Spanish after my service trip to Ecuador this summer, and I'm still learning Hindi!

Do you have any hidden talents?
If you let me listen to a random song, I can pick up its melody and play it on the piano.

What kind of music is on your iPod (or CD player) right now?
An Indian hip hop song. I usually choreograph on the way to class, at the gym, whenever I have a little bit of free time.

Finish this sentence: If I had more time I would . . .
Travel the globe!

The laboratory: Nattie, a DC '66 and DMS '68, has had undergrads in his lab since 1975—at least 90 over the years. He studies the role of the brainstem in regulating breathing and blood pressure. Dowla is looking at breathing and heart-rate responses to reflex breathing inhibition in rats as part of a study of sudden infant death syndrome.

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