She was put in touch with Dana Greene, a graduate student working
with Dr. Abel Bult-Ito, an associate professor in the department
of biology and wildlife at UAF, on construction of an animal model
for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Greene soon became Sangha's
"I went into Dana's lab completely clueless," said Sangha. "The
most I knew about OCD was that it stood for obsessive compulsive
disorder. Little did I know that I would be involved in validating
an animal model for the disorder. Dana helped me progress through
various stages of the scientific research process."
Sangha's project, titled "The Role of Serotonin Pathways in Mouse
Compulsive-Like Behavior: Implications for the Study of Obsessive-
Compulsive Disorder," involves studying the brains of mice to learn
about the neural mechanisms that may be linked to OCD.
This work is part of UAF's Alaska Basic Neuroscience Program (ABNP),
which is supported by NINDS and funded through a specialized neuroscience
research program (SNRP) grant. The ABNP — one of 12 SNRPs
funded by NINDS — is also supported by NIMH and NCRR. SNRPs
seek to promote and enhance neuroscience research at minority institutions.
"The brain is just a fascinating structure that remains the biggest
mystery to everyone," said Sangha. "It will absolutely be mind-blowing
if I can one day put the puzzle together for a few, maybe even
just one, of the neurological disorders."
Sangha first presented her work at the Alaska State High School
Science Symposium in Fairbanks, where she placed second in the
preliminary round and first overall, winning scholarship money
and an all-expense-paid trip to Albuquerque for the Junior Science
and Humanities Symposium.
Next she competed in Anchorage in the Alaska Science and Engineering
Fair — an Intel-affiliated showcase for Alaskan school students
in grades K-12. She placed second and won an opportunity to present
at Intel's International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in
From Anchorage she presented at the Albuquerque symposium, a program
sponsored by the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force that promotes original
research and experimentation in science, engineering and mathematics
at the high school level. Sangha won second place which, in addition
to scholarship money, included being named an alternate to the
London Youth Science Forum in England. At her final competition,
the ISEF — the world's largest pre-college celebration of
science — Sangha won a $500 award from the American Psychological
In addition to taking Advanced Placement physics next year at
West Valley High School, Sangha — now a senior — will
study science at UAF because she has already exhausted the biological
science class offerings at West Valley. She will also keep working
in Bult-Ito's lab and continue her science fair run — adding
the Siemens-Westinghouse Competition and Intel Science Talent Search
to her list of next year's contests.
Upon graduation next year, Sangha plans to enroll in an accelerated
6- or 7-year B.A./M.D. program where she will major in neuroscience. "Although
I want to be a physician, I'd still like to keep conducting research
on the side. I don't want to confine myself to just laboratory-based
research, because I absolutely love interacting with people and
I love being able to apply what I learn," said Sangha. "I think
being a physician will allow me to get the best of both worlds."