Undergraduate Research Program

Annika Sahota

Annika SmilingMajor: Microbiology (B.S.), Biochemistry (B.A.)
Mentor: Pierre Mourad, Neurological Surgery; Engineering and Mathematics at UW Bothell

Contact: asahota@uw.edu

Current research project: Applying Intense Focused Ultrasound to Clear Intraventricular Catheters in the Context of Hydrocephalus in Pediatric Patients


Annika is a student studying Microbiology (B.S.), Biochemistry (B.A.), as well as Computational Neuroscience through an undergraduate certification along with completing minors in human rights and neural engineering. She is interested in using ultrasound to address global health issues, particularly those concerning maternal and child care. Additionally, she also strongly believes that in order to address any global healthcare concern we must also take the time to understand cultural and socioeconomic factors that may lead to health disparities.


Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
My research primarily revolves around the use of ultrasound technology to address neurological complications. In the past, I worked on a project in which we used ultrasound to activate microglia. This mechanism was particularly useful as it allowed us to combat the accumulation of amyloid beta which has been shown to have a correlation to Alzheimer’s disease. Microglia was the ideal target as they are the main macrophage cells in the brain– meaning they play an important role in triggering an immune response. By focusing ultrasound on the microglia, it allowed us to activate its response and essentially ‘encourage’ it to attack the amyloid beta. A few of the projects I am working on currently are: 1) using ultrasound to stimulate nerves in upper and lower extremities in order to gain a greater understanding of nerve stimulation threshold to improve communication with prosthetic limbs in amputee patients 2) the use of focused ultrasound pulses to unclog intraventricular catheters from a transcranial position 3) use of a smartphone application to determine pupillometry to diagnosis trauma brain injuries 4) independent research on congenital Toxoplasma gondii.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
My involvement in undergraduate research first began with a position off campus at a local college (Cascadia– Bothell, WA) in which I learned the basic skills and etiquette of assisting in a laboratory. This proved to be a very useful experience as it allowed me to learn and overcome the anxiety that comes with working in research– yet at lower stakes, in a safe environment. Once I felt prepared to enter a more research oriented laboratory, I began my search for applicable opportunities. Eventually, while commuting back home from campus I began a conversation with someone on the bus and expressed my interest in ultrasound application in neuroscience. Through this connection I was recommended to my current P.I. (Professor Mourad). This chance encounter was very pivotal as I had just received my first research assistant rejection and was bracing myself for many more.


What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
The most important thing is to keep yourself grounded. The fact of the matter is that the research you participate in is more likely to have a greater impact on you than you will have on the research itself. Therefore it is essential to learn what the ideal fit is for you, so you can absorb as much knowledge as possible, allowing you to grow into the career and person you wish to become. Also, do not discourage yourself. Oftentimes we do not have all the tools we want and others have, but that does not mean you cannot achieve success of equal or greater heights.