Stony Brook University junior Ruchi Shah was one of only five SUNY students to receive the Association of Council Members and College Trustees (ACT) of the State University of New York Excellence and Student Initiative Scholarship. Ruchi received the award — a $1,000 scholarship with an additional $250 given in her name to the charity of her choice — at an October 25 ceremony as part of ACT’s annual conference in Lake George, New York.
To qualify, a student must have an overall GPA of at least 3.6 and have helped to identify a need on the campus or in the community, and worked to provide a service or solution to address that need. A college council chair or college president must sign the scholarship application. Kevin Law, chair of the Stony Brook Council and president of the Long Island Association presented Ruchi with the award at the ceremony.
Ruchi qualified for this award on several counts. The biology major and journalism minor maintains a 4.0 GPA and is in the highly selective Scholars for Medicine Program. Ruchi has been working on an all-natural, low-cost mosquito repellent since in high school, when during a family trip to India, she became aware of the number of people affected by mosquito-borne disease and was moved to come up with a solution.
Through much research and experimentation, Ruchi developed the repellent — the first of its kind — that works by neutralizing components in human perspiration that are attractive to mosquitoes and by masking the scent of perspiration. Her repellent was recognized by the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, Forbes, the National Young Inventor’s Hall of Fame and the AXA Achievement Award, and her business model for this repellent won first place at both the WolfieLaunch and Long Island Entrepreneurship competitions. Ruchi’s ultimate goal is to use a portion of the profits to donate repellents to developing countries.
In addition to carrying a highly rigorous academic course load, Ruchi has been conducting research in the laboratory of Kenneth Shroyer, MD, PhD, chair of Stony Brook’s Department of Pathology, since fall 2010 on research to improve cervical cancer diagnosis.
“Ruchi is highly self-motivated and often takes initiative when she sees a problem that she might be able to help,” wrote Dr. Shroyer in his letter supporting her scholarship application. “For example, Ruchi contributes to the training of other younger students in basic and translational methods in the analysis of cancer biomarkers and has helped to encourage several other students to pursue a career in biomedical research.”
She participated in a co-funded National Science Foundation REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) fellowship at Jackson Laboratory in Maine, and her research from the summer won the best poster presentation in the category of Cancer Biology at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students.
In addition to her success in the lab and academics, Ruchi worked with a team of student leaders to begin Long Island’s first Camp Kesem chapter, which provides a free weeklong camp for children impacted by a parent’s cancer. As a freshman Ruchi was selected as one of Stony Brook’s Student Ambassador’s, and in her sophomore year was the recipient of the Stony Brook University Emerging Student Leader award. She is secretary of the Hindu Students Council, and originator and author of a weekly science column called “Under the Microscope” in the campus newspaper The Statesman. The column focuses on making research news understandable to all readers. She has interned at the World Science Festival in New York City and this past summer interned for Fox News.
“Ruchi’s passion comes through everything she undertakes,” wrote Karen Kernan, director of the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities program at Stony Brook, in her letter of support. “And with her extraordinary leadership qualities, together with the drive to inspire other women to explore the possibilities of science and technology, I know Ruchi Shah will positively change the world.”
— Joanne Morici