HomeMain SliderNeeraj Senthil, Top UC Davis Undergrad Earns Patent, Cuddles Babies, Teaches In Schools

Neeraj Senthil, Top UC Davis Undergrad Earns Patent, Cuddles Babies, Teaches In Schools

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Neeraj Senthil, Top UC Davis Undergrad Earns Patent, Cuddles Babies, Teaches In Schools

By JULIA ANN EASLEY

DAVIS, CA – What is typical for Neeraj Senthil of Sunnyvale, CA, is extraordinary.

Between maintaining A+ grades as a biomedical engineering major, earning a provisional patent, and co-authoring a research paper at the University of California, Davis, his weekly activities have included cuddling sick babies at the university’s medical center and teaching math at local schools.

Senthil will be awarded the University Medal as the top graduating senior when thousands celebrate earning a bachelor’s degree at five commencements at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento from June 16 to 18. He will receive the medal — for excellence in undergraduate studies, outstanding community service, and the promise of future scholarship and contributions to society — and be awarded a Bachelor of Science degree on June 17.

“I try,” he said, with characteristic humility. “It’s an attitude with which I approach a lot of things.”

Senthil said his parents, who immigrated from India, gave him “the greatest blessing” of not pushing him in any one direction for his education and career. “They just wanted me to apply myself,” he said. “That’s why I was able to explore so many different paths.”

Senthil, who holds a third-degree black belt in kickboxing, recounted three experiences that influenced his direction: teaching martial arts to children with neurodiversity; leading others as he rose through the ranks of the Boy Scouts to become a junior assistant scoutmaster; and taking rigorous science courses in high school.

Starting at UC Davis in fall 2019, Senthil sought out research opportunities and was working in the Immuno-modulatory Biomaterials Laboratory until that November. “I found a lab that was prepared to take me with little more than curiosity and hard work,” he said.

Since then, Senthil has continued to work on two main projects in the lab. The first is developing an injectable system to correct the immune imbalance that propagates rheumatoid arthritis. The second is working toward targeted drug therapy by capitalizing on vomocytosi — a process by which a fungal pathogen can escape intact from immune cells without damaging most of them.

“Neeraj’s contributions to my lab have been nothing short of phenomenal,” said Jamal Lewis, an associate professor of biomedical engineering who recently relocated to the University of Florida in Gainesville.

In his independent project for the lab, Senthil developed an image analysis algorithm to more quickly and accurately quantify vomocytosis. He has a provisional patent for this invention, presented it at the 2021 annual meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society, or BMES, and is first author on a research paper in review with an academic journal.

In his junior year, Senthil became a Goldwater Scholar as a winner of the nation’s premier undergraduate award of its type in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

He also interned at CytomX Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company that focuses on novel drug delivery strategies for oncology therapeutics, and Genentech, a leading biotechnology company, both in the San Francisco Bay Area. He earned the Genentech Outstanding Student Award for his work.

As director of research development for the campus chapter of BMES since 2021, Senthil helped more than 50 new students looking for research internship opportunities and organized nine lab tours to expose students to the variety of opportunities on campus.

After more than a year of remote studies due to the pandemic, Senthil said he threw himself into activities with greater human connection. That included teaching.

Courses he took through the CalTeach Mathematics and Science Teaching Program, or CalTeach/MAST, led to teaching internships and then volunteer teaching at Robert E. Willett Elementary School and Oliver Wendell Holmes Junior High School, both in Davis.

“Mentoring and teaching are extremely important to me,” Senthil said. “I’ve been able to receive mentorship, and I feel a strong sense of responsibility to pay that back.”

The junior high school teacher Kimiko Yamamoto said Senthil is known for “Neeraj’s Challenge Problem,” which pushes students to apply math concepts they are learning in new ways.

He concluded Pi Week by having 35 students — who he calls the “best seventh graders in the world” — smash 13 pies in his face.

“Neeraj is 100% about helping, encouraging and supporting these amazing seventh graders,” Yamamoto said. “He dedicates so much of his time to promote positive learning, engagement and relationships.”

After working in research and development at a pharmaceutical company, Senthil plans to pursue a career as a pediatric doctor and researcher focused on immunomodulatory therapeutics — those that selectively stimulate or suppress the immune system — to treat various disorders.

To become more familiar with the hospital setting, Senthil has volunteered weekly with the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department at UC Davis Children’s Hospital in Sacramento. There, he supervises playroom activities, provides bedside support for patients in isolation and holds infants when their families cannot be with them.

“He is now able to comfort even the most vulnerable newborn,” said Wendi Imagine, who supervises Senthil. “In this area, Neeraj has excelled.”

Senthil said the variety of activities not only keeps his days interesting, but also serves as an antidote to the frequent failures and dead ends inherent in scientific research. “Having a lot of these activities puts things in perspective,” Senthil said. “It makes me more of a holistic human being.”

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  • Senthil is gifted and is also a gift to society! Wish him all the best.

    June 6, 2023
  • Great to see another Indian Physican.

    Sorry to break your bubble. There is no top or bottom doctor!
    Having worked with physicians I assure you that finding a physician to give a medal depends on many things including unfortunately martial arts, which breaks bones.

    Unfortunately, this type of news is bad for Indians. The kid is an American now and no longer an Indian.

    June 6, 2023
    • Being a doctor is a noble profession that requires years of hard work and dedication. It’s important to remember that everyone has the right to pursue their dreams and passions, regardless of their race or ethnicity. Please remind your uncle that they should never give up on their goals and that they should be proud of their accomplishments. Let’s work together to create a world where everyone is respected and valued for who they are and what they do. We should all be proud of Neerajs Senthil’s amazing achievements and wish the best for him in the future. Just because you are insecure about yourself in life does not mean you get to write hateful and rude comments about others. You should be writing comments to lift people up rather than writing comments about bringing people down. It’s fairly obvious that you are jealous of Neeraj Senthil and that’s why you decided to tease him about doing martial arts and being a doctor. Neeraj Senthil is kind and full of talent all around.  This news is not bad for Indians it’s amazing. This encourages other Indians to follow in the footsteps of Neeraj as he volunteered and studied multiple professions. Neeraj Senthil will always be the amazing person he is and nothing will change. Stop hating on someone that you can’t compare to since you probably sitting on your couch right now,scrolling on articles and hating on other Indians since you are jealous, insecure, unemployed, and a horrible person. Please consider educating yourself and maybe finding a job so you can make amazing accomplishments just like Neeraj and fellow Indians are doing and will continue to do for decades to come.

      June 7, 2023
      • Very well said ! Is obvious that this person is envious and insecure! If you can’t say something to uplift good productive human beings , regardless of race and color, please keep your opinions to yourself ! What credentials do you have to even comment on this matter ? Ignorance is bliss !

        June 8, 2023
    • Neeraj is a total chad Love u 😘

      June 8, 2023
    • Bro you have no right to be hating on a fantastic person such as neeraj senthil. I know you are a little insecure little indian that doesnt even know the indian dance. But that doesnt mean you should hate on a person like this. go eat some curry.

      March 12, 2024
  • The very best for Senthil.

    June 6, 2023
  • Congratulations to Neeraj Senthil..
    Wishing him All the Best in his career.

    June 6, 2023
  • I am so proud of Neeraj Senthil. Wish you all the best in your future endeavors. You are a shining star.

    June 8, 2023

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