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MIT student blogger Melis A. '08

Jugal Shah- Improving the technique of High Resolution Quantitative Autoradiography by Melis A. '08

Sophomore Jugal Shah is improving a boron imaging technique that may potentially enhance a promising cancer therapy.

Most universities aim to attract well-rounded individuals with varied interests and sophomore Jugal Shah is living proof of MIT’s success. Jugal is double majoring in Nuclear Engineering (Course 22) and Biology (Course 7) along with a minor in music (Course 21M). As a testament to the diversity of research opportunities on campus, he was able to cross paths with Dr. Kent Riley, a research scientist at the Nuclear Reactor Lab working with Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT), and obtained a UROP that combines both of his passions.

Jugal found his UROP by searching the websites of professors whose research involved the combination of Biology and Nuclear Engineering. He then sent out emails and began his work at the BNCT in mid-September of this year. BNCT is a potential cancer therapy that targets the disease at a cellular level and was pioneered at the Institute. It works by taking advantage of the fact that tumor cells in Glioblastoma Multiforme, a highly lethal form of brain cancer, uptake drugs containing boron at higher concentrations than healthy cells. Once the drug is absorbed, scientists can irradiate these boron atoms which fission and release radiation to destroy the cells in which they’re in, thus selectively obliterating the cancerous cells.

Jugal utilizes a unique technique called High Resolution Quantitative Autoradiography (HRQAR) to measure both the concentration of boron in mammalian tissue, as well the location of the boron atoms in the context of cell histology. In this technique, he slices mammalian tissue that has been treated with boron and mounts them onto slides, which are subsequently irradiated with a neutron beam at the MIT Nuclear Reactor. Next, the radioactive tissue is viewed under a microscope and measured. Basically, he is trying to improve the technique for producing high-quality HRQAR images, since it still has a few points which could use improvement.

The MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory was selected as the leading laboratory of the New England Consortium in DOE’s Innovations in Nuclear Infrastructure and Education (INIE) program. Getting to work in MIT-NRL is an amazing opportunity and Jugal says that his most memorable experience was “going to the neutron irradiation room and seeing the neutron flux jump from 50 mrems/hour to over 50,000.” He is quick to note, however, that “of course, safety procedures are thoroughly followed at the reactor.”

Originally from Central Islip, NY, Jugal has a killer Long Island accent and loves MIT because of the intense classes, variety of research, and interesting people. He is unbelievably passionate about every activity that he is involved in, including his research, serving as co-publicity chair for the South Asian American Students (SAAS) group, and playing the trumpet for MIT Symphony Orchestra. His advice is to “take your passion and follow through with it to the fullest extent. You are sure to find people here who share it and take the opportunities offered.”

*Source of BNCT Picture: URL: http://www.cdic.bnl.gov/bio_bnct.htm*

4 responses to “Jugal Shah- Improving the technique of High Resolution Quantitative Autoradiography”

  1. Sam says:

    I hope I get to do research like that in college.

  2. Tracy says:

    That is so amazing. I love how he majored in nuclear engineering and biology, two seemingly unrelated courses, and combined those interests into something that will truly have a future impact.

  3. Gurmeet says:

    I envy your brilliance.Congrats and wish you more success.Can I contact you for details?