Riya Shah, BHC Scholar and biomedical sciences major, is currently conducting undergraduate research on neuroglobin in the brain for her Honors Undergraduate Thesis, under the guidance of Dr. Kiminobu Sugaya at Lake Nona. Besides her research, Riya is also involved in the President's Leadership Council, Election Commission, Pre-Med AMSA, and KnightRaas. After graduation, she hopes to attend medical school to eventually become a physician and develop strong relationships with her future patients. 

Tell us about yourself. Why did you choose UCF? Why are you interested in pursuing your particular major? Is there a story there?

My name is Riya Shah, and I’m from Farmington Hills, Michigan (a suburb of Detroit). I am majoring in biomedical sciences, with a minor in Spanish. I applied to UCF as a National Merit Scholar.

What influential experiences (leadership, research, internship, study abroad, etc.) have you had while at UCF? What did you learn from them, and how do you think they helped you get where you are today?

I currently conduct research at Lake Nona under the guidance of Dr. [Kiminobu] Sugaya. I am working on my Honors [Undergraduate] Thesis, titled "Neuroglobin (NGB) and its Role in the Recovery of Neuronal Cells in Hypoxic Conditions using Hypoxia Inducible Factor – 1.” Neuroglobin is a protein in the brain that helps brain cells recover from prolonged oxygen deprivation. I am looking to see if these proteins can also aid in recovery if they are delivered via small vesicles (exosomes).

I am also involved in the President’s Leadership Council, [Student Government] Election Commission, Pre-Med AMSA and KnightRaas (a competitive garba/raas dance team). Garba/raas is a traditional folk dance in the Gujarat, the western region of India. We competed nationally last year and placed 11th in the whole country!

Last summer, I also got the opportunity to study abroad in Granada, Spain, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I love staying active and trying new things!

What is your long-term goal/future plans? How has the BHC helped you to achieve these goals?  

I am currently applying to medical school. The BHC has had a huge impact through the Burnett Medical Scholars program, but also through the many different opportunities awarded to their students; I am also a recipient of the Burnett Research Scholars grant which supports student research projects.

I want to go into medicine because I love developing relationships between people. I want to foster a relationship of trust and respect with my future patients. The Burnett Medical Scholars program has allowed me to set attainable goals for myself throughout my undergraduate career, so that I can be a well-rounded medical school applicant.

If all things go right, 10 years from now I will most likely be…

…living up north and practicing medicine!

What advice do you have for other students who may be interested in following a similar path?

My biggest piece of advice for pre-med students is to find something that they are passionate about – outside of medicine or academics. This is a great talking point for applications, but it also is a fantastic way to relieve stress.

What is your favorite movie? Hobbies? A famous person you’ve met?

[My favorite movie is a] Bollywood movie called 3 Idiots! [This is] an amazing movie that tells the everlasting bond of three friends as they navigate through a competitive college environment.

I love to read! My favorite book at the moment is A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. This is a historical fiction book that takes place in Afghanistan during the early 2000s. The characters are very realistic and the relationships between the characters are all so interesting. I highly recommend this book!

Also, eating at Taco Bell is another hobby of mine. [I once met] Shawn Mendes in Chicago at a small taco shop!