One alumnus and one student: two brothers in BME

Abhi Anuj Kudva
Left to right: Abhi and Anuj Kudva.

Growing up in Bangalore, India, Abhijith (Abhi) Kudva and his younger brother Anuj Kudva always had an interest in medicine and engineering. Their first glimpse into the world of medicine began with trips to the hospital with their mother who worked as OB/GYN. Meanwhile, their electrical engineer father sparked their engineering interest by bringing home a Lego Minecraft kit and electronic toys from business trips.

They moved to Austin when Abhi was in the eighth grade and Anuj in the third.

In high school Abhi originally was thinking of going to medical school. He decided on getting an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering instead because it seemed like a practical step. Before graduating in 2011, he did research with Dr. Krishnendu Roy and created zonal layers of articular cartilage. Abhi said it was a this hands-on experience working with Dr. Roy that led to his inspiration to pursue a PhD, which is what he's doing now, setting aside the dream, for the moment at least, to go to medical school.

The more Abhi talked about his work with cartilage regeneration, the more interested his brother Anuj became in tissue engineering.

"I saw Abhi's tissue engineering text books and picked them up out of curiosity," Anuj says.

With some advice from his older brother, Anuj decided that he wanted to major in biomedical engineering as well. Though the two never attended The University of Texas at Austin the same time—Abhi graduated the semester before Anuj entered—Anuj benefitted from having an older brother to follow.

"Anuj and I both took the same technical track, cellular and biomolecular engineering, so I was able to make suggestions about what classes to take and how to plan his schedule so that he wasn't overwhelmed," Abhi says.

Anuj is currently a senior in BME and the president of the Student Engineering Council. He will graduate in May 2015 and is currently looking for jobs where he can incorporate his project management skills.

Abhi is currently a doctoral student at KU Leuven in Belgium working on a cartilage intermediate. It is research that will help patients who have bone fractures that don't easily heal, especially patients with NFI gene disorders. Abhi and his cohorts are creating the scaffold material that will help bones with critical-size fractures grow back together.

Abhi credits his experience at The University of Texas at Austin for opening the door to the opportunity to do research at KU Leuven.

"Another alum, Prinda Wanakule (PhD '12), passed along an email from a newer KU Leuven faculty member who was setting up her lab and seeking students who were studying the same type of research I was doing as an undergraduate," says Abhi.

Abhi plans to finish his doctorate work by December 2016, head back to the states, and to keep the medical school route open. Anuj also may go to medical school, but he would first like to try out a job in industry.

Abhi values his time abroad. "Living in Belgium, I was forced to go out and make friends, which was harder than doing so in Austin, because the culture is obviously different and because Austin is where I grew up," says Abhi.

Among the advantages of living in Belgium, Abhi lists fantastic chocolate, amazing waffles, and Stella Artois, which is brewed in Leuven where he lives.

For Anuj, one advantage of having a brother in Belgium is that he has a great excuse to visit.