This summer we're profiling recipients of summer undergraduate research fellowships to learn about their academic interests and glance into their daily lives as undergraduate researchers.

Today we're speaking with MCB senior Shashank Hirani, a member of the Andrei Kuzminov lab and a 2024 recipient of the Dr. Walter and Loretta M. Zygmunt Microbiology Scholarship for Summer Research.

Why did you decide to apply for a fellowship?
I’d been involved in research throughout the school year and wanted to continue my work over the summer. Fellowships are a great way to progress your research when school is out.

How did you get involved in Dr. Kuzminov’s lab?
I always knew I wanted to get involved in molecular biology research. Dr. Kuzminov’s lab reached out to me through the MCB 290 portal and I started working in the lab during the summer of my freshman year.

Tell me about your research interests and what you’re working on this summer.
I’m working to figure out the mechanism of action of a drug called phleomycin, which is closely related to the anti-cancer drug bleomycin. It’s still not fully understood how phleomycin works. I will try to accomplish this by identifying various mutants and any substances that play a role in inhibiting or promoting phleomycin’s mechanism of action.

What does an average day look like for you?
I usually come into the lab, check in with my mentor, and plan out what I’m going to do for the day. That usually involves looking at the results of the previous day and thinking about how we can build on that. I’ll usually conduct a couple of experiments, then clean up and prepare for the next day. I’m usually in the lab for about eight hours. Once a week we will have a lab group meeting where I get a chance to present my work or literature.

What do you hope to gain from this experience?
I hope to continue developing as a scientific researcher.

What are your career or academic goals?
At the end of my senior year, I plan to apply to dual MD-PhD programs.

Do you have any advice for other undergraduates who would like to get involved in research?
There’s so much research happening at Illinois, and so much diversity in the problems we examine and the way we answer them. Explore the opportunities and get involved in something that you’re passionate about.

How do you like to spend your free time?
Outside of the lab, I like spending time with my friends and going to the gym.