Amazing Students

Nithya Natrajan

Nithya Natrajan cares about people. The mid-term Foundation Fellow and CURO apprentice chose UGA for her undergraduate degrees because she was able to start doing research during her first semester. Studying under genetics faculty mentor Mary Bedell, she is examining how a growth factor, Kit ligand, is processed in mammalian cells using a mouse model. Natrajan also is involved in oratory and debate with Demosthenian Literary Society and is involved with Advocating Safe Alternatives for Peers, promoting healthy lifestyle choices for students. She serves on the executive board for UGA’s chapter of the Association of Women in Science and is a member of the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children. Natrajan was inducted into the Blue Key Honor Society and was accepted into Alpha Epsilon Delta pre-medical honor society. She is a 2007 Goldwater Scholar who plans to pursue an M.D. after graduation and become a pediatric oncologist and medical researcher.

Hometown:

Augusta, Ga.

High School:

Lakeside High School

Degree objective:

B.S. in genetics; minor in Anthropology

Expected graduation:

Spring 2009

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

I entered UGA as a CURO Apprentice, which gave me the opportunity to begin doing research during my first two years here. This experience opened many doors for me and helped me make important decisions about my future career. During my second year, I received a mid-term Foundation Fellowship and a 2007 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. I spent summer 2007 working as one of ten Undergraduate Research Interns at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. I had a wonderful experience through this internship, which gave me the opportunity to research the differences between mammalian and bacterial DNA repair mechanisms. I spent time at an HIV/AIDS clinic in December 2007 and learned a great deal about this disease and about government-run health care. I went on the 2008 UGA Maymester Program to New Zealand and learned about environmental and cultural sustainability. I also worked with children with cancer in Salvador, Brazil this summer through Global Volunteers. In addition to research, academics and travel abroad, I have become involved in a number of on-campus organizations. I am currently serving as a leader of the Honors Medicine in Literature Book Group and as the co-president of the Association for Women in Science. I am also a certified Peer Educator with the University’s Peer Education Team, Advocating Safe Alternatives for Peers. Additionally, I am serving as treasurer for both ASAP and AWIS.

Current Employment:

I am working as a grant writer for Advocating Safe Alternatives for Peers. I help write ASAP’s Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) grant application each year and fill out the monthly paperwork. I also help ensure that ASAP meets all of its grant-related goals each month. .I am still working in Dr. Mary Bedell’s lab on Kit Ligand and will be starting my thesis project soon.

Family Ties to UGA:

My younger sister, Muktha, just started at UGA last fall. She is a CURO Apprentice in Steve Stice’s lab and is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology.

I chose to attend UGA because…

...the CURO Apprentice Program allowed me to begin working in a lab my first semester at UGA. This gave me the opportunity to discern whether I was interested in pursuing research as a career early in my undergraduate education. I was also able to attend an excellent university while staying close to home.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

...read in the SLC or in the Tate Center, sleep on the couches in the Coverdell Building and chat with friends as we walk around campus or when we meet between classes.

When I have free time, I like…

...visiting the Botanical Gardens, playing Apples to Apples, reading, watching and discussing movies with friends, playing tennis and baking.

The craziest thing I've done is…

...go to Houston on the spur of the moment while I was in Texas doing cancer research. My roommate and I were stuck without a car in Science Park, a research center located in a state park, for the majority of the summer. We tried to leave the campus on weekends and spend time in different cities around Texas. One Friday, our program coordinator took us to M.D. Anderson’s main campus in Houston. We decided to stay for the rest of the weekend without a clear plan for getting back or any idea of how to get around the city. It ended up being an awesome weekend of visiting various museums and parks, seeing Houston’s China town, experiencing Bubble Tea for the first time and shopping at the Galleria.

My favorite place to study is…

...the SLC study rooms. The study rooms do not have many distractions and are also great for study groups. My friends and I found out that dry erase marker comes off of the windows, so we were able to write concepts and formulas on the windows around the door and the white board while we studied last semester. The huge table also provided us with a place to spread out and organize our notes, books and other study materials.

My favorite professor is…

…Mary Bedell, my lab mentor. To me, a truly exceptional professor is someone who is able to clearly explain complex ideas and theories, is interested in getting to know his or her students, and is willing to put forth the time and effort to make a class (or lab experience) extraordinary. Dr. Bedell accepted me into her lab as a first-year student with no prior experience and very limited scientific knowledge. Over the past three years, she has taken the time to teach me about various concepts and techniques. Although I have never taken a lecture course with Dr. Bedell, I feel like she has taught me more about science than any of the other professors I have had at UGA.  She is always willing to take the time to discuss anything and everything, from the latest developments in our projects to questions about future careers. Dr. Audrey Haynes, my Introduction to Political Science professor, and Dr. Kim Osborne, my professor in New Zealand, both come in a close second. These professors were wonderful people determined to provide an excellent experience through their courses.

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

...my grandparents. I have not had the opportunity to spend very much time with three of my grandparents. One of my grandfathers passed away shortly after I was born and my mother’s parents lived over nine thousand miles away in India. Although we visit my grandparents in India every couple of years, I feel like I have missed out on really getting to know them. I also recently lost the grandmother who lived with us. I wish that I could spend more time with all of them now to get to know more about their lives and about our family’s history, which were things that I did not bother to ask about as a young child.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

...do exactly what I am doing. I have learned to pursue my dreams and interests, regardless of how ridiculous or impossible they may seem. If you do fail, you will learn something from the experience and you can always try again. As Ms. Frizzle always says, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

After graduation, I plan to…

...pursue an M.D. while continuing research at some level. After completing my education, I hope to do cancer research and practice medicine as a pediatric oncologist.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

...my Maymester trip to New Zealand this year. While I went on the trip to complete my minor in anthropology, I came out of it with wonderful friends and memories. I ended up having some of the most amazing experiences of my life while hiking countless trails on the South Island, sea kayaking for the first time and learning about the Māori culture. I also got very close to my group (the Yellow Group) while traveling around the South Island with them.

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