Growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Nirupama Devanathan began crafting a life full of wide interests at a young age. Active in Indian performing arts, science fairs, and community service, she viewed the world in a holistic manner. Now as a student in the IUPUI Honors College, Devanathan focuses on combining her passions for science and humanities to address disparities in medicine from both medical and social determinant levels.
The Biology and Philanthropic Studies double major was introduced to IUPUI in middle school after receiving an invitation to compete in the Hoosier Science and Engineering Fair. Throughout middle and high school, Devanathan received multiple awards and was judged by professors who would later mentor her in her undergraduate classes.
After these visits to the urban research campus, Devanathan set her eyes on IUPUI. When asked where she considered attending college, she says, “It [IUPUI] was my first choice.” She got in touch with Sarah Glener, IUPUI Honors College Director of Scholarship Programs, during her sophomore of high school and was able to tour the space she would later call her home away from home.
When the Homestead High School grad began at IUPUI, she became a mentee in the Honors Peer Mentor Program. She considers having a mentor one of the most important parts of her first year. “I got involved in the campus because of her. She opened my eyes to see that there’s more than just going to your room and studying all day,” says Devanathan. She also learned from her mentor what the best supplies were for class, what on-campus activities were occurring, and how to join student organizations. She hopes to pass along the helpful tips this year as she mentors her own mentee.
The IUPUI Honors College Bepko Scholar has collected a wide array of memories that have helped to shape her undergraduate career. She recalls construction of University Hall, home of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, while in high school. She remembers watching the building continue to rise, never considering that she would later major in Philanthropic Studies and create her own memories within its walls.
Much like the construction of a new building, Devanathan remembers staying up late with IU School of Medicine’s Dr. Ann C. Kimble-Hill going through the final draft of a publication for her lab. “It was such a beautiful moment because you saw this thing you’ve been working on for so many months tangibly sitting in front of you,” she says fondly. It is evident that Dr. Kimble-Hill has made a lasting impression on the Honors scholar, who stated the professor not only helped develop her research skills but also pushed her to be confident and advocate for herself as an undergraduate student.
“Being an Honors College scholar is learning how to be a leader and a follower. It means you have the opportunity to be a mentor and a mentee. You’re building leadership and guiding other students along with your strengths, but then you’re also learning a lot from other people. I would say it’s like this collaborative, shared learning to accomplish what you want to do from a very interdisciplinary perspective.”
In addition to pursuing two degrees and a certificate in Latino Studies, the eclectic undergraduate scholar gained a variety of experience through several research, clinical, and leadership opportunities both on and off campus. These experiences include the IUPUI Life-Health Sciences Internship Program, internships with Eskenazi Hospital and Heartland Angels, a teaching assistantship for Peer Led Team Learning, and leadership positions on-campus with Vedic Society of Indy, Honors Tower Council, Student United Way, and Medical Humanities Club. On top of these experiences, Devanathan still found time to provide service to her community by volunteering for Paws Pantry, Mental Health America, and more.
“Don’t box yourself,” advises Devanathan to future IUPUI Honors College scholars. “Don’t put limits on yourself that don’t exist. Often times, the most interesting conversations will happen from someone doing something or saying something that you’ve never heard about.”
What’s next? Medical school with a twist. She is interested in combining medical research with humanities, addressing disparities in medicine from both social and medical determinant levels. A specific interest includes the intersection between diabetes and cancer, through which she hopes her research will help to focus on historically-marginalized groups. In addition to her research, Devanathan wants to understand how non-medical, non-profit institutions support and inform medical practice.