Room to Grow

Aryan Mitta ’23 finds connections between the real world and SPS during bioengineering-focused summer externship


When Aryan Mitta ’23 considers his externship at Northeastern University’s Drug Delivery Laboratory and the way in which he was able to apply his St. Paul’s School education and participation in its Applied Science and Engineering Program (ASEP) to a degenerative disease that 10% of Americans live with, the word he turns to is surreal.

“I never imagined I would be working with drug delivery within a year of joining ASEP,” says Mitta. “I love biology but didn’t know much about bioengineering. I took this opportunity and now I love it because I get to put a creative spin on biology and solve problems. It’s taught me to try new things.”

Over the course of six weeks this summer, Mitta worked alongside graduate students under the supervision of Dr. Ambika Bajpayee, associate professor of bioengineering at Northeastern, to improve the treatment of osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the result of the cartilage between two bones in a joint breaking down, which causes the bones to grind and results in chronic pain. Common though it is, osteoarthritis can be hard to treat with medications: Drug penetration is hindered by the proteins found in cartilage, and drugs that do make it through are flushed out by the joint’s synovial fluid. Cartilage also happens to be one of several negatively charged tissues in the human body; Bajpayee’s team is using that characteristic to its advantage, Mitta explains, by coupling drugs to a positively charged carrier so they can bind to the cartilage and stay where they are needed.

“It’s surprising how much high school biology can relate to research in the real world,” says Mitta, who drew on his SPS biology and chemistry classes as well as his ASEP seminar to fulfill his duties. Building on his SPS foundation, Mitta refined his micro pipetting skills, added more cell culture techniques and assays to his arsenal, and learned software related to computational modeling. Beyond lab skills, he also honed his research and scientific journal reading skills while making valuable connections.

Alongside the high of creating a fusion protein with a drug inhibitor and a carrier that he built manually for a related project (that one focused on the eye disorder macular degeneration), Mitta wrestled with data analysis and how best to present findings. This, however, may be where he learned the most valuable lesson of all: that there’s a lot more to learn.

“There were many times when I messed up simple numbers. I was always a pretty good presenter but going into a real lab and giving a presentation is very different,” Mitta says. “It’s a friendly reminder that we are still only in high school, with a lot of room to grow.”

Mitta has already done a good amount of growing at St. Paul’s School. Among other things, the Sixth Former serves as a prefect in Armour, is co-head of the South Asian Society and will be one of the captains for the spring track team.