Scholar eyes career in medicine after seeing research published

Laura Zaks
December 04, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Some students spend their summers backpacking through Europe or interning for companies that add flair to their resume, but Rafay Nasir, a junior and Schreyer Scholar at Penn State, chose to spend the summer of 2018 gaining authorship of a research paper on cardiopulmonary bypass circuits, with findings that are now used in operating rooms today. 

His story, however, doesn’t start there. 

Just two years ago, Nasir’s name was on the set of 25 college applications. He was a senior in Hershey High School, with a desire to immerse himself in the STEM field, following the footsteps of his mother, a physician at Hershey Medical. 

Penn State junior and Schreyer Scholar Rafay Nasir

Rafay Nasir

IMAGE: Laura Zaks

Nasir said he wanted a school that would give him the leverage he needed to turn passion to ambition, ambition to fruition — to one day have his name be known. 

He is currently a dual major in biology and health policy administration, in the Eberly College of Science and the College of Health and Human Development (HHD).

“My experience with both HHD and Eberly has been excellent, especially supplemented with my Schreyer experience,” Nasir said. “With my dual major, I have been able to receive an education that not only prepares me well for medical school, but one that also prepares me for leadership in the healthcare industry.”

When Nasir began looking for a research opportunity for the summer, he was directed to Dr. John Myers, a cardiologist at Hershey who was no stranger to working with students from Schreyer. Myers helped Nasir obtain a summer internship in pediatric cardiology under the team of Dr. Akif Undar, a professor in the department of pediatrics, surgery and biomedical engineering at Penn State.

The research that Nasir conducted with other medical students and doctoral research assistants was performed in a biomedical research lab at Hershey Medical, and was specifically designed to use the same exact setup that is used in heart surgery at Penn State Health, rendering the results applicable to an operating room. 

“It was a translational research project,” Nasir said. “We were specifically comparing two different oxygenators, which are components of cardiopulmonary bypass.”

Cardiopulmonary bypass is used in open-heart surgery to pump and oxygenate blood outside the body so that surgeons can effectively work on the heart.

Nasir and the team looked at two oxygenators — Capiox Baby RX05 oxygenator with separate AF02 arterial filter and a Capiox FX05 oxygenator with integrated arterial filter — marking the pros and cons of each in their ability to capture gaseous microemboli (air bubbles) with different type of filters. 

The research proved that the FX05 oxygenator with the integrated arterial filter captured more microemboli than the RX05 oxygenator and was published in the journal Artificial Organs in December 2018, with Nasir’s name on the front.

“We’d have real human blood and we’d see the size and quantity of the bubbles and we can see how well the tube was working and which oxygenator was better,” Nasir said.  

Nasir said he is excited to have an authorship through Hershey Medical at his age and is even prouder to be accepted into the medical school through Schreyer’s Early Assurance program, with a conditional acceptance, meaning Nasir must still maintain a certain grade-point average and pass the Medical College Admissions Test in order to uphold the offer. 

“No one in my cohort of premedical students can say that they’ve already been accepted to med school, and I can,” Nasir said, smiling. “I couldn’t have done it without Schreyer.” 

About the Schreyer Honors College

The Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective, and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars total more than 2,000 students at University Park and 20 Commonwealth Campuses and represent 38 states and 28 countries. More than 14,000 Scholars have graduated with honors from Penn State since 1980.

Last Updated December 04, 2019