Biological Engineering Sophomore Conducts Cancer Research at MD Anderson

 From becoming involved in many campus organizations to completing her first year of the BAE Fast Path program, Sheila Mallenahalli accomplished much in her freshman year at the LSU College of Engineering. It only seemed right that an elite summer internship would be the perfect transition to her sophomore year.

The Lafayette, Louisiana native has spent the summer researching Lynch Syndrome—a common inherited disorder that increases the risk of many types of cancer—at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

Mallenahalli knew she wanted to contribute to the research that MD Anderson was conducting and came across the Cancer Prevention Research Training Program after a brief visit to their website.

She began the 10-week program as a Summer Trainee at the beginning of June. On an average day, she said, she is either attending lectures given by faculty at MD Anderson or shadowing physicians and surgeons in the clinic and the operating room.

Mallenahelli also works daily with Mala Pande, Assistant Professor of Gastroenterology at MD Anderson, on research focused on Lynch Syndrome. The syndrome is the most common hereditary colon cancer disorder and can increase the risk of many other types of cancer.

“About 80 percent of people with Lynch Syndrome get colon cancer during their lives, and usually at a much younger age as well,” she explained. “I am trying to see if an increased amount of physical activity decreases the chances of a Lynch Syndrome patient developing colon cancer.”

Her favorite part of the internship has been learning the different areas and levels of patient care, she said, adding that the institution has “the whole spectrum of care under one roof.”

“The first few days in the lab were extremely fast paced, and they still are,” Mallenahalli said. “I had to get used to a lot of new institutional policies that were in place and a lot of protocols that had to be followed, so it was definitely an adjustment.”

When she isn’t engaged in research, after work and on weekends, Mallenahalli and her fellow summer trainees take advantage of the downtime to discover more about the area.

“Honestly, just exploring the medical center with the other interns in my program has been a blast—it seems like we’re always finding something new,” she said. “In addition to that, we’ve tried to try a lot of the great and diverse food that Houston has to offer.”

Mallenahalli eventually hopes to enter both the medical and research fields. The internship program will end in mid-August, she said, adding that interning at an institution that specializes in both fields has been an invaluable experience.

“I love the drive of biological engineering to develop new innovations that could potentially help make life a little bit easier for people all over the world,” she said. “Getting to witness both the clinical and academic side of things has helped to better shape my idea of the health care field overall. I am hoping that everything I do here will translate to what I end up doing in the future.”

After the internship, Mallenahalli will return to Baton Rouge to resume her studies in biological engineering, as well as her various extracurricular activities. This fall, the STAMPS Scholar will be an Engineering Ambassador, a College of Engineering Senator for the LSU Student Government Senate and will continue active membership in three honor societies.


For more information, please contact communications assistant M.B. Humphrey at 225-578-5660 or