For Lateef Shafau, CMU not only became a home away from home, but also a place to participate in groundbreaking research and gain valuable skills and connections he will use in his career.
The future medical professional started his CMU journey at IMPACT, an interactive two-day program focused on mentorship and making strong campus connections.
"I loved that program so much, and I encourage any incoming freshmen looking to get an eye-opening experience to participate," he said.
Lateef was impressed with the science programs on campus and knew he wanted to research in a lab. However, he had to overcome his own self-doubt and a rejection from the first lab he tried.
"Persistence and hard work are key," he said.
Lateef attended study sessions with his biology professors and reached out to them for help joining a lab. The faculty here genuinely care about students and want them to succeed, he said.
He was able to make his undergraduate research dreams come true and work with Dr. Hochgeschwender on research about spinal cord injury treatments. Lateef focuses on utilizing luminopsin proteins as a biological light source to help stimulate neurons in the spinal cords to promote recovery in the lower extremities post-injury.
"I added a therapeutic method in which swimming not only provides a way to practice using the lower extremities, but to ultimately improve recovery," Lateef said.
From his work in the lab, Lateef has gained skills, connections and experiences that will help him further his career in medicine. He also notes that his connections may be able to provide him with future research opportunities.
"I hope that my research will help create potential ways to treat spinal cord injury in humans in a noninvasive way," he said. "I also hope the methods I use can help change the way we think about neurodegenerative diseases."