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University Admit Series : An Interview With Maalavika Govindarajan

Interviewer: Alifia Sabreen A, 2nd-year student, Bachelors in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, CEG

Interviewee: Maalavika G, graduate student research assistant, Pennsylvania State University.


The interviewee is an alumna of ACT, with a BTech in Industrial Biotechnology. As a summer research fellow at the Centre for Neuroscience, IISc Bangalore, she is currently a first-year neuroscience graduate research assistant at the Huck Institutes of Life Sciences, Pennsylvania State University. She aims to pursue targeted therapeutic solutions to neurodegenerative disorders.


GT: Once you completed your degree in Industrial Biotechnology, what inspired you to pursue a graduate research assistantship in neuroscience? 

Maalavika G: I’ve always wanted to work in a field in which I can make an impact. Neuroscience has also forever been a latent passion. Preparing SOPs for internships and following WHO studies helped me in my decision. Finally, securing a summer research internship at IISc convinced me that neuroscience was my calling.  


GT: How did you start preparing for your admission requirements during your undergraduate period? 

Maalavika G: I’ve been trying to pursue research internships ever since my first year. Although I got turned down in my 2nd and 3rd years, those experiences taught me how to frame SOPs and request letters of recommendation. With my professor’s support, I worked on a mini-project with my classmates that ultimately led to a publication. Preparing for a CTDT project helped me hone my critical thinking and innovation skills.


GT: What kind of work are you involved in as a research assistant at the Huck Institutes of Life Sciences? 

Maalavika G: I am currently taking classes. I’ve worked in two different laboratories over the last three months: neuropsychiatry and neurogenesis. This term, I’m focussing on neurovirology. Working with stem cells and seeing neurons under a microscope has been a mind-blowing experience!


GT: Were there challenges during the admissions process at the Pennsylvania State University? 

Maalavika G: Making your statement of purpose to be up to the mark and getting it to sound convincing can be challenging. Reaching out to graduate program professors to understand their expectations wasn’t helpful in my case, despite it being common advice. I received vague and generic responses instead of constructive criticism. Moreover, due to the lack of clear communication during the pandemic, preparing transcripts and performing CGPA conversions following WES norms was a bit of a hassle.


GT: What advice would you give students looking to pursue research after their undergraduate degree? 

Maalavika G: Read journal papers – it helps you discover your likes and dislikes within your field of interest. You should also pursue your hobbies alongside your work and look out for anything that intrigues and inspires you.

Looking for resources both online and offline can help deal with starting trouble. Despite being social media platforms, Reddit and LinkedIn were informative about grad school applications and exams like the GRE.

Dream big! I was always motivated to aim high by my wonderful support system. Don’t let imposter syndrome get the better of you.


GT: What do you think about The Guindy Times’ initiative to interview graduate students? 

Maalavika G: I was excited to hear about this initiative since this would’ve benefited me when I was doing my applications. When alumni provide knowledge and encouragement, it helps aspiring students work towards their goals, just like GT’s Intern Diaries and placement series have helped many, including me!


The Guindy Times thanks Maalavika Govindarajan for taking the time to interact with us. We wish her the best in all her future endeavours.