Jun 1, 2023

Humans of LMP: Mathepan Mahendralingam

Programs: Graduate, Agile education, Inclusive community
Mathepan Mahendralingam

Each month we speak to a member of the Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology community and find out more about them as part of an initiative from our Wellness, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Committee (WIDE).

This month we feature MD/PhD candidate in lab of Dr. Adam Shlien, and Vice-President Academics of CLAMPS, Mathepan Mahendralingam.

Visit the Humans of LMP page to read more stories and nominate yourself or others to be featured.

What are you studying at LMP and why are you interested in studying it?   

For my PhD in LMP, I want to figure out why chemotherapy damages the heart of cancer survivors. Although chemotherapy does a great job at killing a patient’s tumour, it potently damages the heart. This is a longstanding issue that hinders the long-term survival of children and adult survivors of cancer. Thus, my research aims to address this problem by looking at the DNA from the hearts of cancer survivors to identify if there are chemotherapy-induced mutations.  

There are many reasons I chose to undertake this project. First, cancer survivorship is severely understudied and thus represents an unmet clinical problem I want to address as an aspiring physician-scientist. Second, I wanted to switch to a foreign field in order to challenge myself and diversify my research skillset. All my prior research experiences have been wet lab and related directly to cancer biology. So, this project provides me with the fantastic opportunity to learn about the new field of cardio-oncology and develop skills in bioinformatics and genomics.  

What is the most interesting thing you’ve done, seen or got involved with while at LMP?  

Tiffany Ni, an LMP alumnus and co-lead of the FacMed cookbook, recruited me to help with the 3D Printing in Medicine (3DMED) group, an organization motivated to provide equitable access to 3D printing knowledge and resources.

Our team partnered with UofT’s Community of Support (COS) to teach free 3D printing workshops for high school students across the GTA. I got the chance to teach them heart anatomy using 3D-printed models of normal and diseased hearts from the APIL lab (https://skfb.ly/oHDYP).

In addition, we partnered with Glia, an internationally recognized non-profit that manufactures 3D-printed medical devices for impoverished regions, to produce and distribute >270 free 3D-printed stethoscopes to first-year U of T medical students. Ultimately, we aim to inspire current and future generations of physicians to utilize sustainable 3D-printed medical devices in their practice and research. 

What was the best career advice you ever received?   

During an MD/PhD mentorship lecture given by Dr. Warren Chan (BME, U of T), he said: "Publications, awards, and other recognitions are the side-effects of excellent fundamentals in research". 

What has been an important learning experience in your life?   

Unfortunately, you cannot do all those side projects you wanted to. Stick to one topic and dig deep during your PhD. Once you get your own lab, you will have a lifetime to hopefully do all the wild projects you wanted to do.  

Who is an influential person in your life and why?  

Many individuals have impacted my life, but most recently, it would be Dr. Karl Deisseroth.

He is a physician-scientist-writer whose clinical practice and research focuses on psychiatry and neuroscience. He also authored "Projections: A Story of Human Emotions," an amazing book that shares stories of patients with different psychiatric disorders. His scientific and personal philosophy strongly resonate with me. For example, although he's a physician-scientist, Karl is a strong proponent of basic science and encourages students not to be forced to have a translational angle. He also loves poetry and has a unique perspective on the meaning and power of words. Overall, Karl Deisseroth is the epitome of the type of physician-scientist and person I want to be in the future.  

What would it surprise people to know about you?  

I love donuts. 

What activities do you enjoy doing outside of work?  

Finding the best donuts in Toronto. 

What is your favourite album, film and novel?  

Album: damnshestamil - Priya Ragu; good kid, m.A.A.d city - Kendrick Lamar; Flower Boy - Tyler, the Creator 

Film: Baasha, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Kill Bill: Volume 1, Howl's Moving Castle 

Novel: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou; The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee 

Who would be your dream dinner guests?  

Eiichiro Oda, the creator of One Piece. 

Where/what is your favourite place?  

Scarborough Bluffs in the Fall.  

If you were stuck on a deserted island but had all your basic needs taken care of (i.e. food and water), what two items would you bring with you and why? 

Any electronic device to play Candy Crush. A DVD box set that contains all the regular season and playoff games of the 2018-2019 Toronto Raptors team that won the NBA championship.