Challa’s road to scientific conquest


Anup Challa (12) presents his research on orthostatic hypotension at NCUR.

Anup Challa (12) presents his research on orthostatic hypotension at NCUR.

From winning competitions to publishing papers to being accepted by the Royal Society of Biology, there is no stopping Anup Challa (12) from achieving his goals in the medical field.

Since he was a young child, Challa has been fascinated by science and mathematics.

“Whenever I’m curious about something, I know I can always rely on science and math to give me the answer,” Challa said.

His parents, both of whom are doctors, have instilled in Challa a love for research and discovery, a trait that would ultimately be the root of his academic accomplishments.

Starting in his sophomore year, Challa began his road in cancer research. By the end of junior year, he followed it up with publishing a paper on breast cancer and working under a clinical research internship. By the start of the next school year, Challa will first-author a second paper, which focuses on the tumor-suppressor genes BRCA1 and 2 and will be published in the Journal of Oncomedicine.

“[Writing research papers] is definitely strenuous,” said Challa. “You can’t take a break.”

In addition to publishing papers and doing research, Challa has been involved in various competitions throughout high school. He has been a 2-time semifinalist and 1-time national finalist for the U.S. Biology Olympiad Team. Challa is also a semi-finalist in a national science fair. The various competitions and research he has participated in have been based largely on his own initiative and his passion for science.  

“I love his curiosity and his passion for learning,” AP Biology teacher, Dr. Madu, said.

“He’s one of few students that has a deep interest for science-not just for grades but for the sake of enjoying learning new things.”

After reading an article junior year about the disparities in science, Challa took the initiative to create the Science National Honor Society (SNHS) in order to provide minority and impoverished populations in Memphis an opportunity to access science. Although few activities have been successfully established, there is great potential for this club in the future.

I came into this year with SNHS just thinking that I want to sow a seed. I’m not going to expect humongous results,” Challa said.

Also during the second semester of his senior year, Challa was accepted as a student member of the Royal Society of Biology, an international society of acclaimed researchers and scientists based in the UK and chartered by the queen. The RSB competition offered to students is an exam that covers nearly all biology topics, the majority of which is not taught in high school curriculums. As a gold medalist in this competition, Challa was offered a student membership to the RSB. In addition to name recognition and respect, students members of RSB are provided with numerous benefits including an enormous networking potential with leading scientists and talented young students.

“You get to collaborate with your colleagues,” Dr. Madu said. “You get a forum where you can share ideas. Students also get a sense of community.”

This summer, Challa will have the opportunity to attend the RSB acceptance ceremony in London and participate in the National Youth Science Camp in D.C. Challa was one of only two students chosen from TN who was selected to be a part of the NYSC, an international summer program that brings together students to collaborate with NSF fellows and professors. He will be attending Vanderbilt University in the fall.

There is a long road ahead for Challa, but with his experiences, the skills he has developed and the challenges he has overcome, it is clear that this senior will go very far.