Stony Brook University Senior Neha Kinariwalla Receives Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Sociology Major Working to Destigmatize Epilepsy and Other Misunderstood Illnesses

Released: 4-Mar-2014 11:00 AM EST
Source Newsroom: Stony Brook University
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Newswise — STONY BROOK, NY, March 4, 2014 – Stony Brook University senior Neha Kinariwalla of Sayville, NY, is the first Stony Brook University undergraduate to receive a prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship. As a Gates Cambridge Scholar, Kinariwalla will pursue an MPhil degree in Modern Society and Global Transformations at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. The extremely competitive Gates Cambridge Scholarship, awarded to only 40 US recipients each year, was established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 to support post-graduate study at the University of Cambridge and to build a global network of leaders dedicated to improving the lives of others.

“Throughout my life, my aspirations have always been centered in improving the lives of others. Being a Gates-Cambridge Scholar affords me the opportunity to explore aspects of sociology and medicine that can help me further my goal,” said Kinariwalla. “It’s such an honor and incredibly humbling to be selected for this scholarship.”

Kinariwalla, a WISE (Women in Science Education) student majoring in Sociology with a minor in International Studies, is enrolled in Stony Brook’s Scholars for Medicine Program (2015-2019), an integrated eight-year program that offers a combined Bachelor's/MD course of study while participating in pre-medical classes and activities. Guided by longtime mentor Dr. Catherine Marrone in the Stony Brook University Department of Sociology, and with the support of the WISE program, she founded The Humanology Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to destigmatizing illness, and is currently completing an honors thesis on the social stigma of epilepsy as well as a paper in women’s studies. She worked as part of the Epilepsy Research Team at the John Radcliffe Oxford University Hospital (OUH) under the guidance of Dr. Arjune Sen, employing patient-spouse surveys to study the psychosocial effect of epilepsy on marriages. The same project will be executed at the Stony Brook Neurosciences Institute to provide a cross-cultural perspective for the results.

She has participated in several global health initiatives, volunteering with the Manav Sadhna-Gandhi Ashram community in India; Centre ValBio at Romanafana National Park in Madagascar; and, Blanca’s House Medical Missions in Nicaragua and Ecuador. She also recently participated in the Know India Programme of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.

“As Stony Brook’s first Gates Cambridge Scholar, Neha is blazing a trail of significant achievement,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “She has already accomplished so much in her young career in academia, and she is an outstanding representative for our campus and her community. Neha epitomizes what is possible through perseverance and initiative; I am proud to know her, and look forward to seeing her back here on the Stony Brook campus after her experience at Cambridge as she pursues her medical education degree.”

Kinariwalla has received numerous honors and awards during her time as a Stony Brook undergraduate. She heads to Albany in April this year to accept a SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence; she was selected to be a presenter at the inaugural TedxSBU in October 2013; was named URECA Researcher of the Month in August 2013; and, in 2012 received a Virtual Student Foreign Service Internship from the U.S. Department of State.

“Students honored with this award truly embody the power of SUNY,” said Chancellor Zimpher. “As proven leaders and role models, scholar athletes, creative artists, and civic volunteers, each student is recognized for having a profound impact on our campuses and the communities they serve throughout New York State.”

In the summer before her senior year at Sayville High School, Kinariwalla participated in the Garcia Center MRSEC Polymer research program and was named a 2010 semifinalist in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology for her research on dental pulp stem cell growth and differentiation with Dr. Miriam Rafailovich, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Dr. Marcia Simon, Department of Oral Biology and Pathology.

"Neha came to me [already] focused in her work and so incredibly inspired that it seems completely fitting she should be recognized so early --and so powerfully-in her academic path," said mentor, Catherine Marrone. "Her work is insightful and timely and so very meaninful. In every way imaginable, it has been an utter joy to know her and to work with her. I just marvel at this young woman."

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