Senior Eli Reynolds came to TCU with the expectation to one day become a doctor. “They told us from the beginning the pre-med track would be very difficult,” said Reynolds, “but I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of support I’ve received along the way from my professors and peers.” Through hard work, growing relationships with his professors and a passion for biology, Reynolds has been able to successfully pursue this dream while leaving a lasting impact on the College of Science & Engineering. Some of his most notable work has been through his current research project with biology Professor Giridhar Akkaraju.
Reynolds’ research focuses on Hepatitis C, a virus that infects the liver, and more specifically how the virus is successful at surviving in the body. Reynolds and Akkaraju have been collaborating on the project since the summer after Reynolds’ sophomore year. Akkaraju had previously collaborated with a former undergraduate student before Reynolds expressed interest in the subject and inherited the research responsibilities.
Over the past couple months, the two have directed their focus to the NS5A 10A protein, a mutant protein of NS5A which allows the virus to inhibit the innate immune system to promote the success of the virus in the body. The next step is to figure out specifically how the protein is able to do this. In order to do so, Reynolds and Akkaraju’s recent efforts have been dedicated to developing a plasmid, a DNA molecule in a cell that is separated from a chromosomal DNA and can replicate independently. “The purpose of this is to investigate the protein’s specific mechanism of inhibition,” Reynolds explained. In other words, the plasmid will serve as a method to observe the performance of the protein.
Reynolds research has left him with more than just a deeper understanding of how viruses function in the body. “Our research process has taught me many valuable skills. It has allowed me to become more comfortable with the scientific method of observing and inspired a curiosity in me that has pushed me to think beyond school. Research is about understanding things that are happening in the real world,” said Reynolds.
While Reynolds maintains a busy schedule with his research and academics, he also finds time to be involved with extracurricular activities such as campus ministry and Dream Outside the Box. Dream Outside the Box is a service organization dedicated to creating excitement and interest in school for kids of lower socioeconomic backgrounds by teaching them about career options they might not be exposed to otherwise. Reynolds even got the chance to teach the children in the organization about his future career path in the medical field.
Reynolds himself is in the processes of taking the next step into the medical field by applying to medical school. “The interviews for med school have been eye-opening, because I’ve been doing science for the past four years and now the next step of being on track to become a doctor is becoming a lot more evident,” said Reynolds. Although he does not have a specific specialty in mind, Reynolds would eventually like to apply his background in medicine to community health where he can continue to utilize his research skills and interact with patients beyond the doctor’s office.