Undergraduate Research Program

Pavithra Sundaravaradan

Pavithra in front of a cherry blossomMajor: Microbiology
Mentor: Elia Tait Wojno, Immunology

Contact: pavitsun@uw.edu

Current research project: How the Notch Signaling Pathway Regulates Basophil Gene Regulation and Function in the Helminth-Infected Intestine


Pavithra is a junior majoring in Microbiology at the University of Washington. Her research interests include utilizing bioinformatics and wet lab techniques to better understand and tackle human disease. She is currently working on investigating organismal metabolic pathways of iron regulation during helminth infection following Type 2 immune response. She is also applying bioinformatics to analyze NGS data to better understand the Notch signaling pathway and its effects on basophil responses. In her free time, Pavithra enjoys baking, cooking, dancing, and knitting. She is also very passionate about promoting and advocating for women’s empowerment and equality.


Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
My work is in the field of parasite immunology. I am currently working on two projects focusing on the regulation of immune responses and inflammation during helminth or parasitic worm infection. My first project is investigating iron metabolism during non-chronic helminth infection. Iron is very important for processes such as oxygen transport, DNA synthesis, and respiration. While chronic helminth infection is associated with iron anemia or low iron due to excess blood loss, not much is known about iron metabolism during nonchronic helminth infection. I am also applying bioinformatics to analyze RNA expression data to better understand the notch signaling pathway’s effects on basophil gene regulation and function in the intestines of helminth infected mice. This research will help inform the development of techniques aimed at decreasing the public health burden of parasitic worm infection.


When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
During my senior year of high school, I volunteered at a genomics lab at UC Davis, where I got real hands-on experience with wet-lab research. This experience fostered my interest in research and led me to pursue similar experiences at UW.

In the second quarter of my freshman year, I made an appointment to see the microbiology advisor to learn more about requirements for joining the major and possibilities for graduate school. During this conversation, I also mentioned my struggles with finding research opportunities in the microbiology department and my interest in immunology. Following our meeting, my advisor put me in touch with Dr. Wojno to see how I could get involved. After learning more about the work done at the lab and meeting with Dr.Wojno, I was offered my position.


What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
Never give up! If you ever get rejected from a lab or a research opportunity, use it as motivation to keep trying. Also, make use of the great resources that URP offers to students interested in research to explore and find projects that excite you!