Soumya Ravichandran

Meet Soumya Ravichandran, a UCLA senior majoring in Psychobiology. Soumya was was able to present her research at the Obesity Society Obesity Week 2020 conference. Recently, she was also published as a first author in Scientific Reports for her paper titled, “Alterations in reward network functional connectivity are associated with increased food addiction in obese individuals.”

Soumya has been conducting research as part of Dr. Arpana Gupta’s lab in the Division of Digestive Diseases in the UCLA Department of Medicine.


How did you first get involved in your research project?

While I had some exposure to research in high school, it was my interest in neuroscience that propelled me to join my current lab during my freshman year of college under my PI, Dr. Arpana Gupta. During my first few quarters in the lab, I spent my time learning the basics of neuroimaging modalities and performing literature reviews on the brain-gut axis. As I became more acclimated with the lab, my PI encouraged me to shadow another student who was researching sex differences in resting state connectivity in obese individuals. It was through this experience that I became fascinated with exploring the neural correlates of food addiction across males and females. With the help of my PI and research mentors, I decided to pursue this independent research project through the next year with the goal of finding sex-specific connectivity differences in individuals with food addiction that could clinically contribute to the variability seen in their response to diet interventions.

How would you describe your research experience at UCLA?

Extremely rewarding. Coming to college, I had no idea the extent of opportunities that undergraduates would be exposed to. With every step of the way in my project, my research mentors and fellow students have offered me such a strong support system by always offering new insights and constructive solutions to my research efforts. I am also extremely grateful to my PI for her constant encouragement, without which I would not have been able to experience such enriching opportunities such as presenting at a national conference or publishing a manuscript. In addition to deepening my own knowledge, being involved in research at UCLA has allowed me to grow as a writer, reader, and independent thinker; all skills that will carry with me onto future endeavors.

What is one piece of advice you have for other students thinking about getting involved in research?

Finding a lab that complements your research interests is incredibly important. Many students often jump into a lab for the sake of a resume boost or simply for the eagerness to get involved in a research project. However, rushing into a lab that you may not be fully interested in often leads to burnout or discouragement when faced with minor setbacks or difficulties. Taking the time to learn about the lab’s work and mentally checking if it is the right fit for you, prior to joining, can benefit you in the long run by making significant strides in your research much easier to achieve.

What are your future career goals?

I plan to attend medical school and pursue my goal of becoming a doctor after completing my undergraduate degree at UCLA. However, through this path, I plan to continue my research involvement and hopefully be able to translate the clinical implications of my research to create tangible improvements in patient care. Prior to my college, I had always thought of a career in medicine and one in research as two mutually exclusive paths. However, I now realize the interconnectedness of these two fields and the imperativeness of research efforts in order to improve the future of medicine with regards to targeted interventions, personalized medicine, and novel therapeutic techniques.