Amazing Students: Trisha Dalapati
Trisha Dalapati has immersed herself in everything UGA offers, from volunteering to studying abroad to conducting lab research. The future physician is committed to using this knowledge to eventually deliver care to patients in an empathetic way.
Centennial High School
Family ties to UGA:
I am the first in my family to go to Georgia! When I committed to the G, our house was divided because my brother graduated from Tech. I think I convinced everyone to cheer for the Dawgs by now, so I am sure I won’t be the last Dalapati at Georgia!
B.S. Biochemistry/Molecular Biology; A.B. Anthropology
M.S. Comparative Biomedical Sciences (Infectious Diseases)
University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
I’ve been blessed with awesome opportunities and experiences at UGA which have only been possible through the support of the incredible people here.
During my freshman fall, a friend introduced me to the Lunchbox Garden project. LBG is an afterschool outreach program where UGA students visit a local elementary school twice a week. The group plans lessons on gardening and sustainable living, and volunteers provide the hands-on support for teaching the activities. As a kid, I loved summers of gardening tomatoes and eggplants with my mom. LBG reminded me of those memories, and I quickly fell in love with the endless energy elementary schoolers have. It’s rewarding to watch these kids learn about where food comes from and the responsibility we all have in taking care of our planet. It is such a joy to pull radishes out from the ground at the end of each semester!
I joined Dr. Julie Moore’s lab in the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases my freshman year. The CTEGD is a hotspot for cutting edge infectious disease research and multidisciplinary collaboration. I was drawn to the lab due to its dual focus on maternal health and infectious diseases. The Moore Lab investigates placental malaria, a disease that develops during pregnancy and is responsible for killing over 200,000 infants annually. I specifically study a dangerous cycle of inflammation and blood clotting that occurs during placental malaria. It has been incredibly rewarding to train in the Moore Lab and to convey the gravity of the disease burden to people inside and outside of the scientific community. Through the ups and downs of research, my fellow lab mates, our resident cheerleader Julie Range, and Dr. Moore have made working in the lab so much fun.
During the second semester of my freshman year, the Biochemistry Undergraduate Society was launched. The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is thriving. Professors are making an impact on students inside the classroom and in their lab. Undergraduate students within BUS are on various pre-professional tracks and come from diverse niches across campus. Since BUS began, we have hosted an annual symposium, brought in speakers for coffee hours, held professional panels, and taken field trips like the “Biochemistry of Brewing” at Creature Comforts. BUS has been a blast!
At the end of my freshman spring, I flew to Oxford, England, to study biomedical ethics under the guidance of Dr. David Birks. Between typing papers furiously in the beautiful Radcliffe Camera overlooking the university to debating the morality of infanticide and physician-assisted suicide, this class was one of the most intellectually stimulating courses I have taken. I came to appreciate how UGA builds strong relationships with other universities and encourages students to partake in cross-cultural exchanges.
I continued living in my favorite city for the rest of summer while I interned at the Oxford Fertility Unit. My project focused on identifying what health care factors and diagnostic procedures affected the quality of life of patients with infertility. I shadowed skilled physicians and learned both the art and science of in vitro fertilization. Most importantly, I witnessed patient-physician bonds form during consultations.
In spring 2018, I left the day after my last final for the Bali Maymester. The term is led by Dr. Pete Brosius, Dr. Sarah Hitchner and their fearless and adorable toddler, Naia Bulan. For four weeks, a dozen of my peers and I studied Balinese Hinduism, the vibrant arts of the island, ecotourism, and the Tolak Reklamasi (“Reject Reclamation”) movement against the invasive mega-development on the island. I often reminisce about eating excessive amounts of papaya and coconut water, hiking Gunung Batur (the second tallest and sacred water mountain on the island) in my Chacos to watch the sunrise, and hanging out with one of Indonesia’s most famous punk rock bands after one of my friends serendipitously befriended the drummer.
I left Bali for Bangkok where I interned in the Department of Biochemistry at the Mahidol-Oxford Research Unit. This experience was generously funded by the Freeman Asia Grant. I worked under Dr. Markus Winterberg, an exceptional mentor and brilliant scientist. I analyzed blood samples from patients with tropical infectious diseases to identify biomarkers of the pathogens. Imagine how great it would be to use these biomarkers in something simple like a pregnancy test to diagnose diseases including malaria and dengue that can be quickly administered when a patient shows up with just a fever! Aside from the fun I had in lab, I ate ant egg omelets and the spiciest noodles that I believe exist on this earth, climbed to the highest point in Thailand, and visited close to 60 Buddhist temples.
I have also had the honor of being part of the Foundation Fellowship and the Honors Program. My thanks to Dr. David Williams, Jessica Hunt, Emily Myers, Maria de Rocher, Elizabeth Sears and, of course, my fabulous peers cannot be overstated. I am blown away by how much I continue to gain from this group – whether it be a book recommendation, information on an esoteric physics concept or a wonderful friendship. It is a privilege to be able to surround myself with such curious and kind individuals who are dedicated to changing the world in their own ways.
Another group I have grown in is Omicron Delta Kappa. ODK is a leadership honor society, and the chapter at UGA is dedicated to “uncommon friendships.” As a result, I’ve had the chance to have discussions every other week on topics including our campus’s history, music therapy in hospitals, and altruism with campus leaders. Other communities that have welcomed me include the Dean William Tate Honor Society, Palladia Women’s Honor Society and Blue Key Honor Society.
I chose to attend UGA because …
There are many reasons!
— Good dining halls. I am still on full meal plan and continue to eat many cookies, double chocolate chip muffins and peanut butter. It’s great.
— School spirit. I love that I see so many people wearing UGA gear every day around campus. My brother often reminds me that I can get my school spirit from anywhere, including Walmart.
— Study abroad programs. I caught the travel bug young. When speaking with current students during visits and orientation, it was obvious that I wouldn’t have to look far for these opportunities. UGA’s Office of International Education puts them on a platter for students and is working to make such experiences financially possible.
— An environment and curriculum valuing a balance between the liberal arts and science.
— Being close to my family.
My favorite things to do on campus are …
Walk through the Trial Gardens and wave at the children at the McPhaul Center! I love plants, and the novel varieties in the Trial Gardens are such a treat. It clears my mind to stroll through the garden before a test or after a long day. On my way to lab, the kids from the nursery school at the McPhaul Center are sometimes on the playgrounds. My day gets exponentially better when one of them waves at me!
When I have free time, I like …
… to run through campus and Athens! The hills in Athens were such a surprise when I first arrived. The first week I had sore legs simply from walking up from Bolton to Myers! I’ve grown fond of the hills and love to catch a quick run through the neighborhoods of Five Points in between or after classes. In the evenings, one of my favorite things to do is run laps at the Spec Towns Track with my best friend. We’re far from being D1 athletes, but it’s so much fun to run as fast as we can and race up and down the stairs. When I have a little more time, I enjoy visiting the intramural fields or Botanical Garden, especially when the leaves change color in the fall. Although it seems to defeat the purpose of exercise, I’m a big fan of running to Athens eateries like Ike and Jane or Ben and Jerry’s.
The craziest thing I’ve done is …
… snorkel along the Wallace Line! The Wallace Line separates the flora and fauna of Asia and Australia and runs between two Indonesian islands, Bali and Lombok. This excursion was one of the last items on the itinerary for the Bali Maymester. I’d been secretly anxious. After watching “Finding Nemo,” I have a grand fear of getting lost in a dark abyss.
As soon as I got into the ocean, water rushed into my mask. While I was trying to blow the water out from the mouth piece, Dr. Brosius yelled to us from the boat about not swimming too far to the right. The current gets strong and might suck us in. In such a worst-case scenario, the boat wouldn’t be able to retrieve us. As my friends calmly bobbed along the current, I flailed like a fish out of water. My deepest fear was about to come true, and I could already feel my contact lens coming out of my eye.
Noticing my panic, a friend of the program, who joined us for excursions, came to the rescue. She grabbed my hand and told me to stop moving. When I was still, she ordered me to put my head into the water. And I looked. I was awestruck by the colorful fish, including a pufferfish, swimming under. I was a little braver for the rest of the excursion, swimming close to the boat with my head submerged!
My favorite place to study is …
… changing by the semester! The Reading Room on the third floor of the MLC is a hideaway to study for science classes. I appreciate the silence and diligence of other students who are studying, which motivates me to continue working. For papers, I hole up in a coffee shop nearby. The aroma of coffee, the acoustic tunes and a warm latte never fail to give a sense of comfort and to get the gears in my head going.
My favorite professor is …
There are many things that make UGA special, but what makes it an excellent institution of higher learning are the professors. These professors have helped me lay the foundation to building scholarship, and it’s impossible to pick one as a favorite.
Dr. Claiborne Glover is the epitome of an excellent teacher. He is incredibly thoughtful, kind and patient. His passion for biochemistry shows in each lecture. He begins all his lessons with a quote or cartoon to frame the subject within a larger context of life. Dr. Glover is ready to discuss any topic, including art, travel, scientific literacy and career aspirations, and these conversations are the ones I will remember long after I have graduated from UGA. He’s a polymath, really!
Dr. Julie Moore is my mentor and provides valuable advice on both experiments and my aspirations every time I need it. She cares deeply about her students, the lab group she brings together, and vulnerable populations affected by malaria. Through all her administrative responsibilities, she still has time to run a research program, and I am so thankful she does! In the lab, I am grateful for the daily guidance of Dr. Catherine Morffy-Smith. If I’m not already following Catherine around, I’m probably looking for her for help!
This list would not be complete without three other professors: Dr. Kim Klonowski, Dr. Christina Joseph and Professor Christine Franklin. As she has reminded me to do in life, Dr. Klonowski always keeps her doors open. She’s there to clarify a topic in immunology, share invaluable advice, or just tell a funny anecdote. I accredit much of my anthropology degree to Dr. Joseph. I’ve taken four classes with her! I keep taking them because I admire her pushing students to see the beauty of different cultures and to build friendships with local communities. Finally, I am forever thankful for my STAT 2100H class which led to many friendships including one with Professor Franklin. She serves as a role model not only for her statistical prowess but also for her ability to find the silver lining in every situation.
Lastly, the best teachers I will ever have are my parents! My dad was a math teacher in his early 20s back in India, and my mom is a loving early childhood teacher. They were the first to impart the value of education to me. Both have boundless supplies of wisdom and encouragement, which I’m lucky to get.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with …
My mother’s family has a locally famous house called Laal Bari, or the Red House, in Kolkata, India. The exterior of the house is painted red, and the floors are made of a burgundy linoleum. At one point, it housed three generations of my family, three dogs, and a continuous influx of guests. My sweetest memories include staying up late with my grandfather to hear stories about his childhood and running around on the rooftop garden during monsoon rains with my brother and cousins. Although most of our relatives still live in India, Laal Bari is empty after successive younger generations have moved away. I’d love to have another summer afternoon with all my extended family from both sides together in Laal Bari.
If I knew I could not fail, I would …
… teach dance. I have trained in an Indian classical dance style called Bharatanatyam since I was 4. Bharatanatyam is a rich art form. Using facial expressions, hand gestures, and footwork, the dancer is a storyteller of Hindu myths. From my teacher Guru Chandrika Chandran, I know that teaching Bharatanatyam requires patience, creativity and scholarly interpretation. I’d love to continue learning and passing down this ancient art to others.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to …
… fund more research for studying and designing therapeutics for neglected tropical diseases. Diseases like schistosomiasis and river blindness cost vulnerable populations millions of dollars by decreasing economic productivity and increasing health care costs. Although many nonprofits and some governments are working toward eliminating these diseases, a larger and coordinated research effort could expedite clearance.
One of the hardest parts about bench research and clinical work to me is seeing the amount of waste generated. According to the WHO, about 85 percent of health care waste is nonhazardous. Unfortunately, most of this goes to landfills or is incinerated, causing deleterious environmental impacts. It’d be awesome to support systems that improve waste sorting and disposal. I’d love to fund innovation in biodegradable medical supplies and research disposables.
What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?
I find joy in learning about people and their cultures. It’s exciting to meet someone from a distant part of the world or even from my own community and exchange information on our customs and beliefs. Through studying anthropology, traveling and getting involved in this community, I’ve pursued this passion. In a clinical setting, I am interested in understanding how Western medicine mixes with traditional practices and how physicians act as mediators in these situations. I hope to recognize the diverse backgrounds of patients and deliver care to them in an empathetic way.
After graduation, I plan to …
I’ll be going back to school! I hope to attend medical school to become a physician and to attend graduate school to continue training in research.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be …
I remember my move-out day freshman year pretty vividly. My roommate and I packed up our Myers dorm while bidding our friends goodbye. I was thrilled that we made it through finals and the year. I was already excited to see everyone in the fall and hear about their summers.
After packing, I spent the day at the Athens Twilight Festival in downtown. I watched thousands of locals and students gather and cheer on the athletes in the $1,000 mile and the cycling races. It was a lively and supportive crowd. It was a perfect representation of the good vibes I had been feeling the entire year at UGA.
One of the last things I had packed in the morning was a cliché painting that says, “Home is where the heart is.” I had hung it on the dorm door to remind me of home in Roswell. As the bikers whizzed by and friends chattered around me, I felt tranquil. Thinking back to the painting, I felt incredibly happy that I had found a great home in Athens, too!
First posted at UGA Today.