- Route: Rockies
- Ride Year: 2018
- Hometown: Katy, TX
- School Year: Senior
- Major: Public Health/Biology
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi Everyone! My name is Soumya and I'm a fourth year Public Health/Biology major from Katy, TX. I was born in Chicago, IL and moved to Katy when I was 8, so I basically consider myself a Texan. I have a younger brother who goes to A&M (boo) and my parents just recently moved to Singapore. For fun, I like to run, play golf, cook, and take pictures. I love coffee and coffee shops, am a member of Yelp Elite, and love trying new foods/places. I even have a spreadsheet of all of the restaurants in Austin that I've been to/want to try with mini reviews of the places.
On campus, I've been involved with Texas Orange Jackets, Science Olympiad Alumni Association, Texas Public Health, and Junior Fellows. I also work in the lab of Dr. George Georgiou, and am looking at new avenues for cancer immunotherapy.
Why I Ride
Cancer had an impact on my life from before I was even born.
The first person I ride for is my grandmother on my dad's side. She passed away from what we believe was pancreatic cancer when my dad was in college, so I never had any memories of her. I know her death affected my dad a lot because he has never talked about her, and the only information I know about her has been from my aunt and uncle.
I also ride for my dad's father. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1993, and passed away shortly after. Since both of my grandparents on my dad's side passed away from cancer before I was born, I've always felt a void where my grandparents should have been. My dad's entire extended family has always felt more closed off to me, and I think a big reason is that both of my dad's parents died relatively young. I've always wondered what it would've been like to get to know my dad's parents and learn more about his life as a child, but unfortunately I'll never get a chance to do that because of cancer.
The biggest reality check for me with cancer happened about two weeks before I graduated from high school. I had just returned from a school trip to Orlando, and as seniors, we were basically done. But that same day I got back, my family and I found out that my grandmother (mom's mom) had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. By the end of the week, my mom was on a plane to India to be with my grandma during her initial surgery and the beginning of chemotherapy. Everything really hit me at graduation when I was taking pictures with all of my friends and their families, and during the mother/daughter photo, my mom wasn't there. That's when I truly realized that cancer has no boundaries.
Besides having family members affected by cancer, I also have been conducting cancer research since freshman year. I spent the summer after my freshman year of college working at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. I worked for an MD/PhD, so I was able to conduct research while also visiting patients in the clinic. This was one of the most transformative experiences of my life, because I met children that were receiving therapy that my lab had helped discover. This therapy, called immunotherapy, is what I believe to be the future of cancer research. The basic premise of immunotherapy is to harness the power of the immune system to attack tumors. There have been so many advances in cancer research in the last few years because of this field, and I think that it holds the key to curing cancer one day. Unfortunately, since many of these therapies are still very new, they are also extremely expensive. A big reason why I ride is so that I can help teach people about new therapies out there for cancer, and give them hope that there will be a time when this disease is a thing of the past. I also ride for all of the children I met at MD Anderson.
Finally, I ride for my childhood best friend's mom. She was diagnosed with breast cancer while we were in high school, but fought hard against it.