Where They’re Headed: Neel Shah ’20

Biology major Neel Shah ’20 is doing cancer research in his two-year fellowship at the National Institutes of Health.

Some might guess that all Haverford graduates are ready to take a break from research on their thesis topic after they submit their senior theses, but Neel Shah ’20 says he was excited to continue research on his topic as part of his two-year fellowship at the National Institutes of Health.

“Because of the pandemic, my senior year ended just as I was about to get to the last stages of my thesis research,” said Shah, whose biology thesis focused on immunology. “So I felt like I had some unfinished business with the research field.” 

There are few better agencies to continue this work than at the National Institute of Health (NIH) where Shah is currently working in a cancer research lab with the National Cancer Institute, an agency within NIH. 

Shah’s research is focused on a specific immune cell, CD4+ helper T cells. 

“One of the major causes of death resulting from chemotherapy is your body stopping its production of these CD4+ helper T cells,” said Shah. “We are looking at that connection by looking at both the development of these cells as well as how these cells respond to cancer in mice.”

Shah’s coursework as a biology major and biochemistry concentrator made him stand out among other undergraduate fellowship applicants. His thesis experiment used a technique called flow cytometry, which is used frequently in his lab at NIH, but many undergraduate lab students don’t have the opportunity to learn it.

In his first few months in the lab, he has continued to notice the ways that Haverford prepared him. 

“Given all of the COVID restrictions at the NIH and NCI, a lot of my training and work here is fully independent,” said Shah. “I’m finding it a lot easier to manage this independence thanks to my Superlab [BIO300 & BIO303] courses with Rob Fairman, Seol Hee-Im, Kristen Whalen, Lou Charkoudian, and Bashkim Kokona, as well as my thesis and summer lab work with Karl Johnson.”

Shah intends to pursue a career in the medical field after finishing his fellowship.  

“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series chronicling the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.