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#IAmNYAS: Devika Varma

Meet Devika Varma, a PhD candidate who gives back to the next generation of STEM by participating in the Academy's mentoring programs.

Published October 22, 2015

#IAmNYAS: Devika Varma

Academy Member Devika Varma is a PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering at The City College of New York (CUNY). Her thesis focuses on developing novel, plant-based materials for intervertebral disc repair and regeneration. In short, she is working to figure out a non-invasive treatment for back pain. In her spare time, Devika mentors students by participating in the Academy's mentoring programs.

In addition to wanting to learn more about her time as a mentor with the Academy, for this #IAmNYAS profile we also talked to Devika about some surprising interests and also some of the ways she's been expanding her professional network. Read on to find out more.

Who has been your biggest science inspiration?

My grandfather, K.K.R Varma, has been my biggest science inspiration. He would always encourage me to read science fiction authors and push his collection of Popular Mechanics my way. Even at the age of 90 he is learning new languages like Urdu and Arabic and brushing up on his Calculus. This constant thirst for knowledge is what continues to inspire me. I am very lucky to have him in my life.

Tell us about one of your hobbies.

I love dancing, especially Salsa and Rueda de Casino these days.

What's a fun fact about you that might surprise your friends or colleagues?

I strongly believe in the power of human "poop." Human excreta is packed with nutrients and has tons of untapped energy which I believe can be manipulated to power our future and increase our agricultural productivity, organically. Resourceful sanitation can create biofuel and compost from dry toilets. Sounds like a pipe dream, but organizations such as SOIL in Haiti are setting great examples.

What is the most important benefit you feel the Global STEM Alliance provides?

The programming at the Global STEM Alliance has been very impressive in terms of how impactful they are for young professionals in STEM and how genuine their outreach efforts have been. Their mentoring programs such as the Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program and its "Food Connection" project have really helped me tap into the inner mentor in me.

They are making genuine efforts to connect professionals like me in STEM to the youth to garner their interest in these daunting fields through fun programs. Further initiatives like Scientist-in-Residence expose graduate students and post docs to hands-on teaching at high school and middle school level which helped me assess my science communication skills while helping develop curricula for science projects outside of my research realm - that was challenging but refreshing! Most importantly, it connects you to a great network of inspiring and smart scientists, educators and innovators.

Interested in inspiring the next generation of STEM professionals? We're currently recruiting mentors! Click here to get started on your application today.