When he was in high school, Ethan Ertel ’22, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, attended a summer program run by Srinivas Pentyala, a professor and director of translational research in the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. Sponsored by the Department of Anesthesiology, the summer program, known as SARAS — Science and Research Awareness Series — introduces high school students to a variety of healthcare workers and research scientists who discuss their work.
The experience proved transformational.
“They talked to us about what they do, simply to expose us to the different fields that health science has to offer,” said Ertel. “I heard lectures by so many different experts that specialized on different parts of the body, and all of them interested me.”
After hearing a lecture by Peter Brink, professor emeritus in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, on the use of stem cells to develop biological pacemakers, Ertel was hooked. He soon joined Brink’s lab, and he’s been conducting research in that department ever since.
Ertel, who grew up in Dix Hills, NY, applied to Stony Brook because of its highly regarded academic and research reputation, its many clubs and its strong biomedical engineering faculty and program. He began his academic journey as a University Scholar in 2018, and is majoring in biomedical engineering.
He became involved in the University Scholars program in his first semester after Jeremy Marchese, his University Scholars advisor and professor of his SCH 101 Introduction to Stony Brook class, encouraged him to join one of the program’s student-run committees. Ertel joined the Academic Committee and the Scholars Council, a student body that discusses things that students want to see added or changed in the program.
“I took part in the creation of the University Scholars Course Assistance Review Program, a campus-wide food drive, the development of Council mini-committee focus groups and other amazing additions to the Scholars Program,” he said.
He then became a scholars fellow and got a chance to TA the SCH 101 class and mentor freshmen, helping guide them through their new college experience.
“Mentoring a group of freshmen was an amazing experience,” he said. “My cohort of scholars fellows were close, and I was able to make a diverse group of friends spanning all different majors and interests. Becoming a fellow was my first leadership experience, springboarding me to other leadership opportunities on campus.”
Ertel currently works in Professor Irene Solomon‘s lab in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, investigating the underlying mechanisms of the central nervous system’s role in respiratory physiology.
“Specifically, we study the effects of lipopolysaccharide-induced, localized inflammation of the lower respiratory tract on normal breathing and the hypoxic ventilatory response,” said Ertel. “We aim to compare the effects of localized inflammation to that of systemic inflammation on the same breathing behaviors.” Ertel said this research provides insight on the respiratory physiology behind obstructive airway diseases, such as asthma, COPD and ARDS, which may help with novel treatment development.
Ertel said Solomon, Marchese and Hassan Arbab, an assistant professor in biomedical engineering and his current BME senior thesis advisor, have been his mentors.
“Ethan has been a standout since I first met him in his freshman year,” said Marchese. “When you have worked in higher education for as long as I have, you can see a spark in certain students, even during your first encounter with them. He definitely possessed that spark, and from that moment I knew he was going to be a very special addition to our program. He truly just wants to help his peers. He’s already done amazing things here, and while I really hate the thought of him leaving, I can’t wait to see the incredible things he is going to accomplish after he graduates.”
After graduation, Ertel hopes to apply to a medical scientist training program and pursue an MD-PhD, with aspirations of becoming a physician-scientist and working to improve patient care. Until then, he’s content to help his fellow students, and offers some sage advice to those just starting out at Stony Brook: “Try to get as involved as you can on campus while making sure you prioritize your schoolwork. Work on your time management skills from the get-go, and make sure that you are on top of your work and commitments.”
— Robert Emproto