Goldwater Scholar Shwetha Mudalegundi

Shwetha Mudalegundi ’20 is a Goldwater Scholar for the 2019-2020 academic year.
goldwater scholar
The prestigious research-focused award centered on the sciences gives recipients $7,500 per year to complete their undergraduate education. 

This isn’t the first time Shwetha Mudalegundi ’20 applied for a Goldwater Scholarship. Last year, she received an honorable mention, but this year she is one of two University of Miami students who received a Goldwater Scholarship for the 2019-2020 academic year. The prestigious research-focused award centered on the sciences gives recipients $7,500 per year to complete their undergraduate education. Shwetha is a junior with dual-degrees in Neuroscience and Public Health. A&S News met up with Shwetha to talk about what type of research she’s working on at UM and what it means to be a Goldwater Scholar. 

A&S News: How excited are you to be a Goldwater Scholar?

Shwetha: I received an honorable mention last year, but I applied again and got it! My parents were super excited. I know this recognition will stay with me forever. I can’t thank my parents enough for their support in my endeavors and through this crazy application process.

A&S News: Where are you from?

Shwetha: My parents are immigrants from India, and my older brother was born in India. I was born in Alabama and stayed there for about 12 years before my family moved to Atlanta, Georgia.

A&S News: What do you love most about the University of Miami?  

Shwetha: I applied to a broad reach of schools, but in the end, I was left with two choices: the University of Pittsburg and the University of Miami. To me, Pittsburg seemed so dreary compared to Miami, so when I came down to visit UM, I fell in love with the campus and the atmosphere. Plus, UM is known as a research institution and that’s awesome. UM also makes it easy for you to do what you want while you’re here. My dual degree is a great example of that.

A&S News: What type of research are you conducting at UM?

Shwetha: I conduct research with Dr. Roberta Brambilla at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. The research I conduct in her lab deals with multiple sclerosis (MS); I work on a mouse model and started back when I was a freshman. Our research focuses on neurogenerative diseases. We study a specific receptor in the mice by knocking it out or over-expressing it. This relates to the human condition, as that receptor could be a therapeutic target that works directly in the MS pathway.

A&S News: When it comes to science, what fascinates you the most?

Shwetha: Scientific investigation, asking questions, and finding the answers to those questions is so appealing to me, which is why I participated in science fairs all through high school! I also love presenting and breaking down the research for people. I think it’s amazing that anyone can contribute to research at such a young age because, at the end of the day, it is all about what questions you want to be answered and about using your skillsets to answer them. For the record, I need to thank my post-doc mentor, Placido Iliano, who has a chemistry background and got into neuroscience, for everything. I’ve learned so much from him.

A&S News: If you could meet one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

Shwetha: Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

A&S News: What’s your favorite movie?

Shwetha: My favorite movie is “On the Basis of Sex,” which is a film inspired by the true story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she was at Harvard. That movie inspired me. She paved the way for women trying to make something of themselves in careers historically dominated by men.

A&S News: What advice would you give to young women in STEM?

Shwetha: Always try your best and if you keep putting in the work there will be a time when it will be fruitful. I love this quote: “It’s a privilege to be exhausted doing something you love.” Ken Jeong said that when he came to UM a few weeks ago, and it just stuck with me. To me, it means that if you’re working at something you love to do every day, the successes will come with time.