Texas A&M Biomedical Sciences Student Completes MD Anderson’s Prestigious Cancer Research Program

Story by Megan Myers, VMBS Communications

Marupudi and Ayoub next to their poster
Akhil Marupudi and his mentor, Edward Ayoub, PhD, with Marupudi’s award-winning research poster.

Akhil Marupudi, a sophomore biomedical sciences major at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, was one of 13 students across the United States selected to participate in the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s 2022 Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP).

SURP is a 10-week program that offers hands-on experience in biomedical, translational, or clinical research. Each of the student participants is matched with a mentor from MD Anderson’s research or clinical faculty and spends the summer working in their lab, observing clinical duties, attending workshops, and networking.

Marupudi was the only student accepted to the program from Texas A&M. The 2022 SURP received 586 student applications, with only 2.2% selected to participate.

As one of a generation of students who lost nearly two years of in-person opportunities because of COVID-19, Marupudi found SURP to be especially helpful in getting practical experience in high-end, wet lab (a laboratory where drugs, chemicals, and types of biological matter can be analyzed and tested using various liquids) settings.

“SURP really influenced me to look into research more as a career,” he said. “Before, I was looking into more clinical medicine, but now I feel like I can pursue both the research and clinical aspects of it. That way I can eventually open my own lab and see patients at the same time, which is what my mentor does here (at MD Anderson).”

Marupudi’s research this summer has focused on discovering new therapeutic agents and drugs for acute myeloid leukemia (AML)— a type of cancer that starts in the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow—as well as learning how inhibiting certain genes affects the cancer.

By a matter of fate, this project was closely related to one of the reasons Marupudi decided at a young age to pursue a career in medicine.

Marupudi explaining his poster to a viewer
Akhil Marupudi discussing his research at the end-of-program conference.

“When I was around 8 or 9 years old, my grandfather passed away from acute myeloid leukemia. He had a very rare type of AML, the worst type of leukemia to have,” he said. “It’s really interesting because there are so many different mutations in leukemia, and somehow the project that I started working on was the exact type of AML and the same mutation that he passed away from.”

Marupudi’s interest in medicine continued to grow as he did. He attended a STEM magnet high school in Houston and had the opportunity to work on research projects concerning spinal cord injury and neuro-oncology, as well as some that extended past healthcare.

When it came time to attend college, he knew that Texas A&M’s biomedical sciences program would be a great way to prepare for medical school and a career in research.

“A&M is a tier-one research institution. You can find research in any field and it doesn’t matter what major you are,” he said. “After I visited, I felt like the school was really a good fit for me because the people here are super friendly. There is a lot of pressure in college and finding the right people is definitely important. At A&M, everyone’s super open-minded and fun, and the professors are really there to help you.”

After finishing his bachelor’s degree, Marupudi is planning to apply to medical school and potentially a M.D./Ph.D. program or research fellowship. During that time, he also plans to narrow down his focus area and set a path for his career.

“I’m interested in clinical oncology, surgical oncology, and leukemia research but also in radiology, primary care, and orthopedics,” he said.

For now, Marupudi looks forward to continuing his MD Anderson research remotely as he works on different publications regarding the lab work he did during the summer. SURP also allowed him to present his work at the end-of-program conference on Aug. 11, during which he received first place in the abstract competition and second place in the poster exhibition.

This December, he hopes to present his research again at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference in New Orleans.

“SURP opens up so many doors for meeting people and making connections with leaders in the field,” he said. “You get to meet people from all over the country and it’s a lot of exposure to the research world—not just on a Texas scale, but on a global scale.”


For more information about the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of VMBS Communications, Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, jgauntt@cvm.tamu.edu, 979-862-4216

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