Karishma Muthukumar studies cognitive science and biology as a third-year student at the University of California, Irvine, where she founded The Patient Project and launched a journal of student reflections. In 2019, Karishma joined an international cohort as one of five Dalai Lama Fellows from North America. Compassion in action, she partners with senior centers to alleviate elder isolation and leads the university initiative to promote altruism through handcrafted letters.
Karishma, named Young Innovator to Watch at CES, developed one of the top ideas during the National Science Foundation’s open call for future scientific directions. She is a Barnes and Noble College Scholar and a recipient of the Donald A. Strauss Scholarship for Public Service. In addition, she is a peer tutor in organic chemistry and founder of a nonprofit for neuroscience education and outreach. Karishma aspires to combine her interests in health and public service towards a meaningful career in healthcare.
1) If we ask one of your friends to describe you, what would they say?
That I am supportive, understanding, and relatable. That I am a big-picture thinker and consider the what-ifs.
2) What life events or personal mentorships, if any, directed you to the field of study you have chosen for your future endeavors?
Motivated by early interests in writing, chemistry, and neuroscience, I was drawn to the interdisciplinary coursework of Cognitive Science. Classes in the humanities at UCI led me to pursue public service involvements on-campus and in the broader community. With these co-curricular activities, I often lost track of time and found them deeply meaningful. While I had not previously considered a future in health policy or public service, I was inspired to explore. With that being said, my educational direction has been both predictable and slightly adventurous. I look forward to applying my studies towards healthcare and public service.
3) How and why did you choose the Strauss Scholarship opportunity and what was your experience like working under the tutelage of your SOP advisor?
The Strauss Scholarship was the perfect opportunity to grow the Patient Project. Given that the Strauss Scholarship was a unique framework dedicated to community service, I found it to be the logical next step. My SOP advisor supported me throughout the application process and beyond. From feedback on written drafts to regular discussions on project plans, SOP advisement helped in clearly describing my visions and pursuing them forward. In fact, I learned about other opportunities, including the Barnes and Noble Scholarship and the PBK Key into Public Service Scholarship, through the SOP Office.
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