Student Profiles

Thomas Uhler, LSM '19

Hometown: 
Ann Arbor, MI
College Major: 
Chemistry
Wharton Concentrations: 
Finance

On LSM:

The most interesting aspect of LSM is how specific the interests that all the students share (life sciences and business), but how non-overlapping each student in LSM is. Students can choose from a range of science majors (biology with different concentrations, neuroscience, chemistry, etc) and business concentrations (finance, healthcare management, statistics, etc), but even if you find two students who share the same major and concentration, they’ll almost certainly have different internships and careers interests. For example, two students who both major in biology and concentration in finance could have done internships in a research laboratory and an industry laboratory one summer, then a consulting firm and a policy think tank the next summer, while one plans to pursue a PhD and teach while the other plans to pursue an MD and manage a hospital.

What internships have you done?

After freshman year, I was sponsored by Penn’s International Internship Program to do research at an eye care hospital in south India. I went with four other undergraduates from Penn and was allowed a lot of autonomy to conduct my research project, which ultimately examined the link between patient education and patient outcomes and included key recommendations on how patients that are illiterate can better understand their disease, treatment, etc.

After I finished the analysis for the data I collected, I came up with a few ideas that may fix the underlying issues that hindered treatment. One idea that materialized was a medication card, that allowed patients to keep a list of their medications, along with the time to take the medication and other notes. Since many patients would take multiple medications to manage their conditions (polypharmacy) losing track of their medications or confusing the directions for each was a big problem, but keeping a structured card would keep everything organized for them. Seeing patients walk out of the hospital with their filled-in medication cards that would also serve as a reminder for instructions given by their doctor was very rewarding and made me feel like I had an impact (however small) on the patients at that hospital.

Have you done other research?

In high school, I did basic research (opposed to translational) that focused on molecular biology and the role that different plasmids and bacterial hosts played in natural light production by some species of bacteria. When I came to Penn, the lab that I joined was much different from what I was accustomed to in high school. This research involved working with live animals, as a way to model human diseases that occur in the lungs, and radioactivity, as a way to trace drug carriers through different organs in mice. My bread and butter is using flow cytometry to sort different cells and see which type of cells in the lungs would take up nanomedicine, in order to understand which types of nanomedicine are most effective and seeing which cell types take up nanomedicine most efficiently. But I also do a variety of other tasks in the lab, including making different types of nanoparticles (capable of carrying medicine as cargo), running molecular biology assays on samples, and collecting radiotracer data to follow radioactive nanoparticles.

Plans after LSM:

Currently, I plan to take a gap year after graduating to work, most likely for a start-up that I’ve been working with for the past year or so. During this time, I’m likely to apply to medical school and bide my time while I wait for the year-long application process to finish up. Further down the line, I can see myself working in the biotech/pharmaceutical industry, where understanding the two fields of science/medicine and business (particularly finance) can help me be an effective leader. At the same time, opportunities made possible by the LSM program and the advisory board have helped me get an early start in the life sciences industry that have made me more experienced and given me greater insight into how I want my future to develop.