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Big Lick of Science


What is DNA and how does it shape our traits? How do our brains store memories? How does electrical activity travel from one heart cell to another, and how can this go wrong in diseases like heart failure? Tune in to hear the answers to these questions and more, as we interview experts in the health sciences. Join us as we explore groundbreaking biomedical research and how it is relevant to your life and health. 

Meet Our Team

Image result for fralin biomedical research institute paras patel

Paras Patel: Co-host 

I was born and raised in Roanoke with no scientific or academic background in my family. I first became interested in science when I was in high school - one excellent teacher in particular sparked my passion for learning; both learning what is already known and asking new questions about what is not yet known.

I then went to get a Bachelors of Science from Wake Forest University where my attention became focused on neuroscience. As I was interested in learning, I naturally gravitated towards that organ, the brain, which does that for us. This crystallized in a single question: what makes humans special? In this pursuit, I studied neuroscience and linguistics in college; if I want to know what makes humans special, I figured I should study that most uniquely human ability: the ability to communicate anything, highly specifically using language.

I am now pursuing a PhD in Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in Roanoke, VA. Currently, I study the proteins involved in supporting the function of neurons (a type of brain cell) and in particular the connections between neurons, called synapses. The major question I am working on is: how is the rich diversity of molecules inside neurons regulated and how do their interactions affect the function of those neurons in a developing brain, an adult brain, and an aging brain?



Rachana Somaiya: Co-host 

I was born and raised in India and got my undergraduate degree in Pharmacy from NMIMS University, Mumbai. I, then, came to the US in 2015 to pursue Master of Science in Pharmacology from Northeastern University in Boston and worked in Dr. Greg Miller’s lab on a research project focused at the intersection of neuroscience and immunology. To develop as an independent researcher, I am now pursuing a Ph.D. in Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health at Virginia Tech in Dr. Mike Fox’s lab. My current research project is focused on understanding how different cell types in the brain interact with each other during early development.

Outside of the lab, I am passionate about science communication to non-scientists and lead a science outreach called Virginia Tech Carilion Student Outreach Program to organize many outreach activities in my local community. My long-term goal is to not only become a well-rounded researcher but also make substantial contributions to my scientific community and also to broader society. Apart from that, I like to dance and go on long hikes!"


Rachel Padget: Communications Director

I am from just outside of Kansas City, Missouri where I grew up in a very rural town. I studied biochemistry at the University of Central Missouri and got my Master's in Biology at Missouri State University, I studied vascular development and am now a Ph.D. student at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in the Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health program at Virginia Tech. I am part of Dr. Jamie Smyth’s lab and am researching how viral infection during the early change can alter heart function.
In my free time, I enjoy running, getting lost in the woods, and playing video games. On the weekends I am frequently found out at Carvins Cove, the second-largest city-owned park in the United States!



Jeremy Myslowski: Producer 

I grew up on a Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania. I trained as an engineer during my undergraduate years. Now I’m a PhD student at the FBRI studying neuroscience. My research focus in on using fMRI and neuromodulation to study the effectiveness of new therapeutic interventions for substance use disorders and other conditions.

I like to play music and ski and play grass volleyball and eat breakfast food. Having to replace bagels (north) with biscuits (south) has been an incredibly challenging transition.



Carleigh Studtmann: Communications Director


Disclaimer: All views, thoughts, and opinions expressed on this site and podcast belong solely to the Big Lick of Science team and do not represent the position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company. Views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by interviewees are solely their own and do not represent the position of any other entity, unless otherwise specified.