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Immersed in Research, from Solar Cells to T-Cells

July 2021
Irika Sinha in Suzzallo Library

Irika Sinha, honored by the UW College of Arts & Sciences as Dean's Medalist in the Natural Sciences.  Media credit: Bryan Nakata

 

The summer before her freshman year, Irika Sinha (BS, Chemistry, Biochemistry, 2021) began her UW education by joining a research team in the UW Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology. She has since has worked in four more research labs, gaining experience ranging from the study of solar cells in a chemistry lab to engineering T-cells for potential treatment of cancer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. All the while, she excelled in demanding course sequences in chemistry, biochemistry, calculus, and physics.

“Irika consistently performed at an astonishing level and earned 3.9-4.0 grades in almost every course,” says Munira Khalil, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Leon C. Johnson Endowed Professor of Chemistry. “This is all the more impressive in that she chose honors chemistry and biochemistry course sequences when possible.”

These accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. Sinha’s long list of awards and scholarships includes a coveted Goldwater Scholarship, an honorable mention from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, the Husky 100, five scholarships from the Departments of Biochemistry and Chemistry, and more than half a dozen other honors. In June she was honored by the UW College of Arts & Sciences as Dean's Medalist in the Natural Sciences

Irika is one of a kind. ...She never seems to duck a new challenge, and grows with each of them.

Despite her deep dive into the fields of chemistry and biochemistry, Sinha also made time for other pursuits at the UW. She joined the UW Climbing Team as a sophomore and worked as an illustrator at The Daily, the UW student newspaper. In the Department of Chemistry, she served as a teaching assistant and as vice president of the undergraduate chemistry club. She helped other students as a tutor at the UW’s Center for Learning and Undergraduate Enrichment (CLUE), the largest free tutoring program at the University.

“Irika is one of a kind,” says Alan Weiner, professor emeritus of biochemistry. “I don’t quite know whether to describe her style as life in the passing lane, life on fast forward, the hyperkinetic life, or perhaps the omnivorous life. She never seems to duck a new challenge, and grows with each of them. She is a sure bet for success and excitement in the years to come.”

This fall, Sinha will begin a PhD program in neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University and is interested in investigating the neuroimmune mechanisms of dementia.