Med student focusing on gut biome awarded 2019 O'Connor research grant


Simran Sandhu, a medical student at UC Davis School of Medicine, has been honored with this year’s Daniel T. O’Connor, M.D., Memorial Research Grant.

Simran Sandhu
Simran Sandhu

Sandhu earned the award for his translational research examining how different pathologies may result in gut and skin microbiome imbalance in patients.

Microbiome, the microbes residing in the gastrointestinal tract, play an important role in training the immune system, breaking down foreign products, and releasing substances that have regulatory effects on human physiology.

Sandhu works on human microbiome research with Raja Sivamani, associate professor of Clinical Dermatology at UC Davis Health.

“During my tenure under Dr. Sivamani’s microbiome lab, I realized the significance of being well versed in bioinformatics and next generation sequencing techniques,” Sandhu said. “Bioinformatics combines interdisciplinary skills needed in the analysis of the human microbiome.”

Daniel T. O’Connor, M.D., Memorial Research Grant

Daniel T. O’Connor, a 1974 UC Davis School of Medicine graduate, became an internationally renowned physician-scientist for his research work in hypertension and renal disease while at UC San Diego. He was a model for the ideal research mentor, known for providing his trainees with invaluable skills in medical investigation and scholarship.

Following O’Connor’s death in 2014, UC Davis School of Medicine, in collaboration with O’Connor’s widow, Kellie Evans-O’Connor, and other family members, friends and colleagues, established the student endowment to support deserving medical students like Sandhu.

This generous award provides Sandhu with a one-year stipend that will enable him to investigate the complex relationship humans have with the gut microbiome and how it can affect their health.

“Being selected for this grant is truly humbling in that it’s an opportunity to make a contribution to science - something Dr. O’Connor was very passionate about,” Sandhu added. “Clinical work allows the physician to make an impact on a micro level, but scientific research allows the physician to make an impact on a much larger scale.”

The UC Davis School of Medicine is among the nation's leading medical schools, recognized for its research and primary-care programs. The school offers fully accredited master's degree programs in public health and in informatics, and its combined M.D.-Ph.D. program is training the next generation of physician-scientists to conduct high-impact research and translate discoveries into better clinical care. Along with being a recognized leader in medical research, the school is committed to serving underserved communities and advancing rural health. For more information, visit UC Davis School of Medicine at

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