After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in Mumbai, India, in 2011, Chawla came to the United States to pursue a graduate degree in biomedical sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The Mumbai native’s interest in cancer research eventually led her to VCU’s Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research, where she has been performing intensive research in colon and pancreatic cancer at Massey Cancer Center since August 2013. “Understanding the complexity of the disease is my key interest,” Chawla said. The 28-year-old researcher works in the laboratory of Steven Grossman, M.D., Ph.D., who is chair of the School of Medicine’s Division of Hematology, Oncology and Palliative Care. Grossman is also the deputy director and Dianne Nunnally Hoppes Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at VCU Massey Cancer Center.
Chawla’s favorite memories at VCU have come from the time she spent with VCU’s Indian cultural organization, Tiranga.
“I love this organization,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of it because it would not only bring me closer to the VCU community, but it would also groom my organization and interpersonal skills.”
Through Tiranga, Chawla worked with other students to organize cultural events and participate in International Student Orientation. They also hosted fundraisers and welcomed new Indian students to VCU.
“As part of [Tiranga] I spent time with people from different cultures and organizations,” Chawla said. “It was the richest experience I got at VCU.”
Chawla will continue at VCU as a post-doctoral researcher in the same laboratory where she did her doctoral research. Eventually, she hopes to work as a research scientist at a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company.
“Cancer research is the need of the hour with increasing incidence rates of the disease,” Chawla said. “I want to contribute my part to the science of cancer by developing mechanisms for curing it.”
Read about more talented VCU students here: news.vcu.edu.