Amazing Students

Muktha Natrajan

Muktha Natrajan was named a CURO Promising Scholar while she was still in high school and has definitely lived up to expectations during her time at UGA. She has conducted research in China, in New York University Medical Center’s neurobiology department and in Professor Steve Stice’s lab here at UGA. Muktha served as a delegate to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and used what she learned there to further the work of the student organization Promote Africa. While interning at the World Health Organization’s Nambia branch this summer, she visited three of the five sites that were awarded grants through the Promote Africa program. Muktha was awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in 2009 and the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation Scholarship in 2010. After graduating in the spring 2011 with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Muktha plans to pursue a doctorate in neuroscience.

Hometown:

Augusta, Georgia

Degree objective:

BS in genetics and MPH in environmental health science

Expected graduation:

Spring 2011

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

After my first semester here and the valuable research I conducted early on, I was given a full scholarship for an 11-week trip to China through an NSF grant awarded to one of UGA’s genetics faculty. This was the first time I actually lived in an unfamiliar country, and I could not have asked for a better place. I made some great friends in China that I am still able to keep in touch with. My experiences in China enhanced my interest in environmental issues, so I started working with UGA’s Go Green Alliance as an executive board member and as grants committee chair when I returned to campus. My work with Go Green has varied from volunteering at waste audits of campus buildings and organizing booths at Earth Day Carnivals to writing grant proposals for increasing bicycle access and awareness in Athens. During my second year, I was very lucky to be honored with the mid-term Foundation Fellowship and the Barry M. Goldwater scholarship. UGA also has a great relationship with NYU’s summer undergraduate research program, so the summer after my 2nd-year I worked at NYU's Medical Center and conducted research in their neurobiology department on potential treatments for neurodegenerative disorders. This past December, I spent two weeks in Copenhagen, Denmark attending the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change as a delegate for the student organization Promote Africa. I gained valuable information about actions we can take toward becoming a more sustainable campus and made contacts for Promote Africa from across the world. I was also able to advertise the important work Promote Africa does for disadvantaged artisans and educational centers. We started our Bright Ideas Grant competition this year, where development projects in Africa can apply for up to $1,000 in funding to enhance their projects. We awarded five grants this year, and this summer traveled throughout Namibia to visit three of our grant sites in order to meet the people, take photos and share stories. While in Namibia, I completed my internship for public health at the World Health Organization’s regional branch in their environmental health department.

Current Employment:

I work in Dr. Steven Stice’s lab and am continuing the project I started last spring with the assistance of Jenny Mumaw, a doctoral student in the lab.

Family Ties to UGA:

My older sister, Nithya, graduated from UGA in 2009. She is now attending Dartmouth Medical School, and is definitely the most amazing student (and sister) I know.

I chose to attend UGA because…

…of the amazing research opportunities available to me. Through the CURO Apprenticeship, I’ve been doing research since my first week of college in Dr. Steven Stice’s stem cell research lab. My lab is full of amazing and supportive people, and after helping graduate students on their projects my first and second year, I was allowed to write my own research proposal and work on my own project. I think this kind of independence is hard to find as an undergraduate researcher at other schools, and it is so rewarding to really understand what you’re working on and care about the project you’re pursuing.

When I have free time, I like…

…to watch lectures on ted.com. This website is such a great resource for anyone trying to learn about any field they are interested in. There are talks on everything from sustainable architecture to the fundamentals of morality. I would certainly say that TED has been an invaluable part of my education, and I would encourage everyone to learn as much as they can from these experts.

The craziest thing I've done is…

…stay in an unknown person’s house for two weeks while attending the UN Climate Change Conference. I found a website that advertised free housing to conference participants, and I just took up the first offer I saw. It turned out to be a great choice! I lived with two graduate students studying art at Copenhagen University who were more than happy to show me around, take me to concerts, and even cook great food for me. They were so generous and kind, and I was very lucky to learn so much about Danish culture through them.

My favorite professor is…

…Dr. James Lauderdale, my neurobiology professor. Although I didn’t know him well outside of class, his teaching style was the best that I’ve experienced at UGA. He was engaging, asked questions during lecture, had great PowerPoint presentations, and was always willing to hold review sessions for students. He also solidified my plans to do a Ph.D. in neuroscience because of how interesting he made the subject matter. Of course, my research mentor and faculty mentors have been instrumental in all of the activities I choose to pursue. Dr. Steven Stice, Dr. Pamela Kleiber, Dr. Marsha Black and Dr. Daniel Promislow all give wonderful advice and are always willing to help when I need it. They really take the time to determine what I might be interested in as an individual, and I am always inspired by their ideas.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

…Dr. Arlene Blum. She has succeeded in converting scientific research to policy through the Green Science Policy Institute, and I hope to learn the path she has taken. I intend to study environmental pollutants as a potential cause of neurodegenerative disorders, and I hope to help control the release of harmful pollutants as a result of my research. I think she has done great work by actually enacting the results from her research.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

…help others realize the changes they can accomplish with the extra money they have. I would encourage others to think about global poverty and the fact that the place we are born makes such a difference in our success and our lifestyle. I think we often forget about the real value of a dollar; it can buy entire meals for an impoverished family or help build a school for those with such a bleak future. I hope people would think about what they donate to and if that donation is really going to do the most good. If everyone really considered how much change they could make with their extra time and money, people could really make so much more out of their philanthropy.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

…my freshman year on Myers 1 North. My biggest fear about UGA was that everyone would already have a group of friends from high school. I was so relieved and excited when all the girls on my hall were friendly, intelligent and interesting. We had hall parties and celebrated everyone’s birthdays together to make for a great year. And now, many of us live in the same apartment building. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to be friends with.

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