Victor Sai is saying that although he is still young, growing older is often on his mind.
“We’re all aging,” he says. “It’s something no one can escape, so it’s important to understand how it happens.”
Guided by Biology Prof. Leonard Guarente, Sai has been working for the past two years on a UROP project. By studying how nematode worms age, the team can infer how people age.
“When you knock out certain genes, the worm’s lifespan can be either shortened or lengthened,” says Sai, adding that by manipulating their genes and restricting their food intake, they can infer not only how they age but their longevity.
A senior with a double major in biology and electrical engineering, Sai is planning a career in medical engineering. Since he began his UROP project five semesters ago, he says, his love of life has deepened.
“Biology is life,” he says. “It’s awesome. This project has taught me to respect life. There’s much more to it than we think.”
The biggest lessons he has learned from UROP, he says, are ones of self-knowledge. “Because research is slow and takes a long time to achieve anything worthwhile, I’ve become a more patient person. And by looking at various experiment results, I’ve learned not to be judgmental; I’m more open to all possibilities.”
Sai, who is aware every day that he is aging, says: “My grandparents are in their 80s. Aging is part of the circle of life, and it’s beautiful, but even though it’s just nature at work, when it affects people you love, it’s sad.
“Studying all this has made me realize that life is transient. We have an initial endowment of time. I see how important it is to use it wisely.”