Studying antibiotic-resistant bacteria during a study abroad in Gwalior, India, gave Sierra Mellor (‘24) a deep dive into microbiology. While her knowledge of microbiology expanded, so did her understanding of Indian culture.
Mellor was one of many students participating in the Gwalior study abroad that received significant financial help through travel grants. Thanks to the generosity of donors, the students had many rich experiences, both in their research and in the time they had to immerse themselves in the culture. Mellor especially enjoyed interacting with students and professors from Jiwaji University.
The students at Jiwaji University played an important role in helping BYU researchers collect samples from the water—which, in India, is a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria is an “urgent global public health threat,” according to the Center for Disease Control. Though it often flies under the radar, antibiotic-resistant bacteria has already killed at least 1.27 million people, and causes “more than 2.8 million infections each year,” as reported by the CDC. Mellor, among other researchers from Jiwaji and BYU, were on a mission to gather samples of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to test and hopefully use to further develop a cure for antibiotic-resistant infections.
Her experiences in Gwalior left Mellor with a new perspective on her own life. “I had a lot of different worries about the weather, food, and taking care of my health,” says Mellor. “But once I got there, I realized that these concerns were minimal compared to the once-in-a-lifetime experience that I had.”
For Mellor, Indian architecture was especially awe-inspiring. “My favorite part was being able to see all the architecture and temples,” she says. “We went to Delhi Varanasi, Jaipur, Agra, and we saw the Taj Mahal.” Food also provided Mellor with an immersive experience into Indian culture: “We got to visit a spice market, and eat a lot of different Indian foods, which I really enjoyed.”
Mellor is set to graduate in April 2024 and hopes to pursue a career in research or genetic counseling. With more college ahead of her, Mellor is ready to take the knowledge and ideas she acquired from Gwalior and apply them to her research at BYU. In the end, the biggest gain from her research abroad was the experience and the stories and lessons to share for years to come.
“If an internship takes you halfway around the world, do it,” says Mellor. “It will be an experience you will never forget, and it’s certainly an experience I will never forget.”