Nithesh Chandrasekharan has been named one of the first recipients of the B.R. DasGupta Graduate Award. The award provides $5,000 to an international graduate student enrolled in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences in bacteriology, biochemistry, food science, or microbiology. Dr. Vijoya (Joya) DasGupta established the award in memory of her late husband Bibhuti (Don) DasGupta, who spent over two decades of his career as a scientist at the Food Research Institute.
Chandrasekharan’s interest in biochemistry was fostered during his experiences as a high school student in Kenya.
“While I was volunteering as a clinical lab assistant at Al Farooq Hospital in Mombasa, I got hands-on experience with biomedical techniques and discovered how important science is for human survival through medicine and nutritional health. That drove me to stay in science,” Chandrasekharan says.
Chandrasekharan went on to pursue an undergraduate degree in biophysical chemistry at James Madison University, where he conducted research in structural and computational biochemistry. When those experiences fueled his curiosity about functions and applications of biomolecules, he decided to attend graduate school. Now, Chandrasekharan is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in the UW–Madison Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB), where he studies proteins involved in eukaryotic cell division and protozoan motility. His results will help scientists understand how eukaryotes organize their cytoskeleton for cellular motion in response to varying calcium signaling dynamics.
Long-term, Chandrasekharan hopes to continue conducting innovative research that improves food nutrition or drug discovery while advocating for underrepresented and marginalized groups in STEM and mentoring the next generation of scientists. This fall, he will be attending the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Students (ABRCMS) and the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National Diversity in STEM Conference to represent IPiB and introduce prospective students to the program.
“I am very humbled and honored to receive the B.R. DasGupta Graduate Award, and I’m thankful to Dr. DasGupta and the CALS Scholarship committee, as well as the biochemistry department for nominating me for this award,” Chandrasekharan says. “Being an international student has come with many challenges during my study, and opportunities to acquire funding to supplement my stipend and increase financial security are especially limited. With the current global economic uncertainty and civil unrest back home in Sri Lanka, this award is a much-needed resource for me to support my family and focus on my research to complete my degree.”
Chandrasekharan is a member of the Coyle Lab. He was a Graduate Leadership & Development Committee Social Chair (now Events and Communications Chair) from 2020-2022. Other recipients of the award this year are: Aakash Varsha Swaminathan (Food Science), Dasol Choi (Food Science), and Shruthi Magesh (Microbiology).