|NINDS student intern Karishma Popli shakes hands with President Obama at the America Invents Act signing.
When President Barack Obama signed the America Invents Act recently, NINDS student intern Karishma Popli had a front row seat. In fact, she was selected to stand next to President Obama on stage as he signed the new patent reform law at her school, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va.
Popli was selected by the White House after demonstrating potential as an innovative social entrepreneur by combining technology and education in two grant competitions at Jefferson High. Her grant-winning social responsibility project, Lighting the Future with Technology!, provided solar lamps to rural, underdeveloped schools in India and Africa. It also educated more than 2,000 students about the importance of harnessing the power of the sun in order to study at night in areas where there is no access to electricity.
Popli’s NINDS internship is part of the ORWH-NIH-FAES Summer Research Program for high school students and operates in cooperation with her school’s mentorship program. At NINDS she works in the Medical Neurology Branch on GABA spectroscopy in Tourette syndrome.
This past summer, Popli looked at GABA—a neurotransmitter in the brain—and found that people with Tourette syndrome had decreased levels of GABA in the sensorimotor cortex of their brains compared to healthy volunteers. This discovery could explain the excitation/inhibition imbalance that causes involuntary outbursts or loss of movement control and may lead to the development of potential drug therapies for people with Tourette. Findings may be published in a scientific journal.
Popli’s mentors in the human motor control section are section chief Dr. Mark Hallett, staff scientist Dr. Silvina Horovitz and clinical fellows Drs. Beth Belluscio and Sule Tinaz. Popli will continue her internship, which began in June, through January 2012.
“The experience of working with such incredible doctors has inspired me to pursue further studies in neuroscience to hopefully become a neurologist in the future,” Popli said. “The exposure to research and patient clinics has been fascinating and rewarding.”