Graduate assistant Pratik Chhetri wants to 'make the world a better place' with research about chemotherapy

Chuck Miller/Staff Photographer Nepal native and graduate assistant Pratik Chhetri sits talking in the Bovee UC Monday afternoon about his academic life at CMU and adjusting from an undergrad to graduate student and the classes he now teaches.

Editor's note: This is the first story in a series about graduate assistants. 

Pratik Chhetri believes health is a human right.

A masters of science candidate in the chemistry department, Chhetri said although it may sound like cliché, he wants to make a difference in the lives of others.

“I want to contribute to making the world a better place,” he said.

As a chemistry student, Chhetri said he researches platinum-based, anti-cancer medicine to find out how to reduce the side effects of those treatments, such as nausea and hair loss from chemotherapy.

Chhetri, who is from Nepal, said it was easy to adjust to being a graduate assistant, because as an undergraduate at Central Michigan University, he was a tutor and a supplemental instruction leader.

Now in his second year as a GA, he teaches three classes: CHM 131: Introduction to Chemistry, CHM 132: Introduction to Chemistry II and CHM 371A: Water as Life, Death and Power. CHM 371 is an interdisciplinary course taught by faculty from the chemistry, biology and anthropology departments in the first hour and led by students in the second hour, he said.

Aside from class time, Chhetri said his weekly schedule includes hour-long meetings for each class and six or seven hours of grading. He said his duties as a GA range from grading lab assignments to preparing slides and contacting guest lecturers.

Chhetri has about 22 students each in CHM 131 and 132, and 30 students in CHM 371A.

In addition to being a GA, Chhetri is also involved in the Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and American Indian Science and Engineering Society registered student organizations.

He helped found the UAEM chapter at CMU as a sophomore in 2008. One of the main objectives of the UAEM is to help lower-income countries gain access to essential medicines, he said.

Chhetri said he doesn’t believe it is right that some people can afford expensive medicines while other people living on less than $1 per day don’t have access to them.

“It’s a very nasty social injustice,” he said.

Between classes, GA responsibilities, and his work with UAEM, Chhetri said it can take him hours to go through all his emails. He said his biggest challenge is time management, but with a lot of coffee and the occasional all-nighter, he gets his work done.

Chhetri enjoys all of his projects, even if the combination of all of his activities can be rough sometimes. He said he doesn’t let stress deter him from his work.

“It’s my responsibility, and I have to do it,” he said.

After finishing his program this summer, Chhetri said he plans to pursue medical school, a health public policy Ph.D. or biomedical Ph.D. However, he said a lot of medical schools don’t accept international students.

Wherever he goes, Chhetri said his goal is to mitigate global health disparities.

“Whatever route I choose, I am committed to my mission,” he said.


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