Kurinji Pandiyan left a closely-knit extended family in India to study in the United States. The “intellectual curiosity” in the U.S. appealed to her after growing up in a country that sometimes places a lower premium on research than business. Her impressive undergraduate research earned her a highly competitive internship last summer. Pandiyan was one of only 36 interns, out of 1,300 applicants, working at NYU’s Medical Institute in Manhattan. Her life outside the classroom is as filled as her academic schedule. She founded and now presides over the UGA chapter of the international Student Society for Stem Cell Research. She was also an officer for the UGA chapter of Blue Key National Honor Society, a teaching assistant for Honors freshmen, and vice-president of the Ballroom Dance Club. She is studying cellular biology and genetics and wants to become a scientist involved with stem cell research.
Vidya Mandir (Mylapore)
B.S. in cellular biology and genetics
University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
I was awarded a Courts International Scholarship through the Honors Program in 2005, which I used to study indigenous South and East Asian systems of medicine in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I was awarded a CAES Summer Research Fellowship in 2005 to study the genomic instability of human embryonic stem cells. I have been awarded the William Moore Crane Leadership Scholarship by the Honors Program and the Student Leadership Center. I was recognized as a CURO Scholar by the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities and was selected to participate in a summer program at the NYU Medical School, where I explored G-Protein Coupled Receptor Signaling in Drosophila germ cell movement. I am currently the Treasurer of the Blue Key Honor Society, and I am on the National Dean’s List. I am founder and president of the UGA chapter of the Student Society for Stem Cell Research. I have served as an Ambassador to the Franklin College for more than two years, and I am currently serving on the Franklin Advisory Board as a representative of the department of cellular biology. I am also the vice-president of the Ballroom Dance Club, and I was an apprentice in the Ballroom Performance Group for a year. I have been a world ambassador for International Student Life, and I served as a world leader at their international student orientation last year. I was named ‘Programmer of the Year’ for the Reed Community when I was a Resident Assistant at Reed Hall last year. I have also been a co-teaching assistant for the honors freshman chemistry lab, and I am currently an honors teaching assistant.
I am a student grader with the department of cellular biology. I grade exams for the CBIO 3400 class (Molecular Cell Biology).
Family Ties to UGA:
My brother attended the University of Georgia for his bachelor’s degree from 2000-2004.
I chose to attend UGA because…
…to be honest, because my brother was a student here. I was seventeen, and since I was leaving my family in India to study in the U.S., my parents wanted me to be close to my brother. My brother also described in depth the rich and varied educational experience he obtained here, and he imbued in me the enthusiasm to attend UGA. I was also a finalist for the Foundation Fellowship, and I received the Vice-President’s and Charter Scholarships, which served as further attractions. Choosing to attend UGA has definitely been one of the biggest and best decisions I have ever made. It has been a challenging, exhilarating and rewarding journey that has made a deep and lasting impact on my life.
My favorite things to do on campus are…
…watch and participate in ballroom dance and other dance performances and watch plays performed by the drama department. Another favorite activity of mine is attending the International Coffee Hour sponsored by the Office of International Student Life on Friday afternoons in Memorial Hall. I like learning about different cultures by enjoying the ethnic food, watching dance/music performances and interacting with a truly global crowd!
When I have free time, I like…
…to catch up with old friends, keep abreast of current affairs, listen to music from all over the world and experiment in the kitchen!
The craziest thing I’ve done is…
…perform acupuncture on patients in Sri Lanka. I interned at a famous acupuncture clinic in Colombo, Sri Lanka, over my sophomore summer. After several weeks of training, I was allowed to “needle” people for conditions such as leucoderma, chronic backache and obesity. It was very challenging for me to look beyond my allopathic perspective and realize that there could be validity in other forms of medicine, even if it cannot be explained by modern science.
My favorite place to study is…
…the science library, if I have to cram for a test. Cups, the coffee shop on the east side, is my place for more relaxed studying and hot chocolate!
My favorite professor is…
…Steven Stice. I have worked with him in the lab for two years now. He is an incredibly intelligent scientist with numerous accomplishments. Yet, he is one of the most sincere, down to earth people I have met in the scientific world. He has been a great support and source of encouragement to me.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…
…Hercule Poirot, from Agatha Christie’s books! Even though he is only a fictional character, I grew up being mesmerized with his keen intelligence and methodical manners. “The neatness of his attire was almost incredible; I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound,” Christie writes. It would definitely be an exciting afternoon trying to understand the enigmatic complexities that are Hercule Poirot, my childhood hero!
If I knew I could not fail, I would…
…give every child in the world a happy and healthy living. I did an extensive study on child labor in India, in my ninth grade. Upon interaction with many children who were forced into labor, I found out several shocking facts about their lives and their helplessness that angered and distressed me. Every child in the world deserves to relish their childhood, and I would like to ensure that it isn’t stolen from them.
After graduation, I plan to…
…obtain my doctorate in biomedical sciences, staying involved with stem cell research, and possibly pursuing a career in research and academia. Raised in a culture of medicine and fascinated by the dynamic and tumultuous nature of science, I have been motivated to make an impact in the areas of biomedicine and health. I believe that stem cell research has the potential to revolutionize medicine and I hope to be a part of the effort to make this a reality.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…
…speaking at the re-dedication ceremony of Old College and receiving a brick from the 1806 foundation of the building! I am deeply honored for having had the opportunity to represent the student body and be a part of this historic moment at UGA.