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Vijay Yanamadala

Vijay Yanamadala ’07 says his life’s calling is research that makes an impact on society. Coming to Harvard primarily intent on taking advantage of research resources, Yanamadala has certainly made an impact beyond the laboratory.

“We can measure our success as researchers in terms of the positive benefits to society,” he says. “To do that we must remain actively engaged in society rather than conducting our research in isolation.”

Yanamadala’s outreach effort can be notably seen in his high school project where he designed a chemical filtration system to reduce the number of toxins dumped into the lakes outside Los Angeles. The system is now funded by the city of Torrance, Calif.

Yanamadala has spent much of the last four years working at Harvard Medical School studying biochemical signaling pathways related to Polycystic Kidney Disease. The biochemistry concentrator can also count a Hoopes prize for his senior thesis and a masters in Chemistry among his academic accomplishments.

In addition, Yanamadala has served as a teaching fellow for five Organic Chemistry courses, earning certificates of distinction for his high evaluation ratings. Since freshman year, Yanamadala has also done research with Gale Professor of Education Richard J. Light on the undergraduate experience in the sciences, which culminated in a 50-page report. The document, which recommended curriculum, advising, and research opportunity changes, helped develop of the Harvard College Program for Research in Science and Engineering, a 10-week residential program for students pursuing science research.

Beyond the realm of science, Yanamadala has been an active member of the community. Last year, he served as co-president of Dharma, Harvard’s Hindu students association. During his tenure, he helped launch Hinduism Awareness Week as well as a semesterly journal dedicated to informing the campus about Hinduism-related issues.

Yanamadala has also worked closely to organize events with the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations. During his sophomore year, he led the effort to organize 25 student groups to hold a banquet which benefited victims of the tsunami in Pakistan. The next year he was elected secretary of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations’ Student Advisory Council, a role in which he oversaw a budget of $50,000 for student activities.

Overall, Yanamadala sees his work outside the lab to be very important to his work as a researcher. He will commence a joint MD/PhD program at Harvard Medical School in June. He envisions his career as one in academic medicine, because he says it provides the perfect combination of research, teaching, and reaching out to society through clinical work, much like the balance he enjoyed in activities at Harvard.

“Vijay is probably one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met at Harvard,” says Shyam K. Tanguturi ’07, who was co-president of Dharma with Yanamadala. “Despite all that he has done, his activities are never driven by his own resume. His goal has always been to strengthen and motivate the community around him.”

­—Staff writer Imran M. Saleh can be reached at saleh@fas.harvard.edu.
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