Priya Aggarwal '21
BS Human Evolutionary Biology
Where are you originally from?
I was born in Elmhurst, Queens, but grew up in Levittown, New York.
How did you hear about Stony Brook University?
Growing up on Long Island, I was always a bit aware of Stony Brook University. During high school, many of my upperclassmen friends committed to Stony Brook, and during my senior year, Rick Gatteau actually visited my school (W.T. Clarke, which was also his high school) and gave a talk about college admissions — so I learned more about Stony Brook then too.
Why Stony Brook?
Stony Brook was the right choice for me for a number of reasons. Firstly and most foremost, I was incredibly excited by the prospect of my major (Human Evolutionary Biology, or EBH) and the courses available within that realm. I was also excited by the WISE Honors Program, in which I saw myself growing into a better researcher and advocate for the sciences. Stony Brook was also very close to home, so I would be able to be a car (or train) ride away from my family and stay connected with my younger sister before she graduated from high school, too. Finally, I loved the campus — when I first visited, it was actually the day of Roth Regatta, and while I unfortunately did not get to see the boat race, I still fell in love with the campus and its culture.
On her major:
My major is Human Evolutionary Biology. I feel like I partially chose this major because of the NOVA Science Now documentary series on human evolution. I was fascinated by the concept of human evolution — of learning about selection, its nuances, the role it plays within genetics, and how everything contributes to a larger timeline and story.
It's hard to choose one favorite class; I've enjoyed EBH 200, ANP 201, ANT 536, EBH 380, and BIO 312 immeasurably. The biggest unifying idea behind those courses was the way that they bridged together (at least, in my mind) seemingly disparate fields and concepts. One course that was an exciting turning point for me was BIO 312: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. Not only was I able to learn about genetics (which has always been one of my favorite topics!) from an interesting perspective (gene evolution), but I was also able to learn Linux (which I never imagined myself learning going into college). It fostered a greater love for coding, which developed into my TAing for the course the following year, and even doing research in bioinformatics. It was amazing to work with Dr. Rest, Clara Tucker, and the students!
Interests and accomplishments:
Outside of school, I enjoy dancing, listening to music (oftentimes bridging the two!), and spending time with my friends and family. My accomplishments include being an older sister, my growth as a dancer from freshman year, my growth as a researcher and person from being on the Stony Brook iGEM Team, starting the Young Investigators Writing Competition, and gearing up to graduate!
Personally, I think the Young Investigators Writing Competition is the biggest mark that I have left on the world thus far. It came from a place of understanding that many Long Island high school students — largely as a result of the pandemic — were likely to have felt a major disconnect with what they were interested in and what they could feasibly do. Many of them didn't have access to any kind of scientific opportunity. I had the wonderful opportunity to work alongside Stephanie Budhan (co-founder of the YIWC) and other members of SBYIR (notably Jessica Hui, Hannah Philipose, Debolina Chanda, and Rohan Dayal) to create a competition that was free and accessible to all, and had opportunities for engagement for students from a variety of different fields! We were able to engage a large group of students, and for me, what makes it so great is that this was able to empower those students in some way and give them an outlet. I'm currently working together with members of SBYIR on getting our second annual competition started, and I hope that this will continue to be something accessible for Long Island students who are interested in science and want more experience thinking about it from a critical perspective.
Awards & Accolades:
Dean's List (Every semester, Fall 2017 - Fall 2020)
Academic Achievement Award (February 2018, 2019, 2020)
iGEM Gold Medal (Awarded to the Stony Brook iGEM Team, for which I was one of the co-captains)
Nominated for Best Energy Project (Awarded to the Stony Brook iGEM Team)
Plans for post-graduation:
I will be attending medical school this coming fall!
In the future, I hope to help bridge together fields that are disparate and make them inclusive to all. To that extent, I aim to enter the field of precision medicine as a physician, using insights from genetics to support patients of all backgrounds.
Clubs and organizations:
I am the Head of Cabinet for the Stony Brook Young Investigators Review, the student-run research journal on-campus! I actually began in SBYIR as a copy editor, then switched branches to be a layout editor (which I also still am!), and am now in-charge of our events, outreach, and public engagement. Outside of SBYIR, I am a performing member of the Stony Brook Bhangra Team!
Advice for future Seawolves?
Growth is something that doesn't always happen overnight. If you join something that you're not quite the best in (yet), don't be afraid to give it your all! With time, not only will you get better and better, but you will appreciate yourself more for it. Taking action towards growth and improvement is something that may feel hard at first, but the friends and joy you get from the journey towards that end are unmatched.
Favorite SBU memory:
My most memorable SBU memory is and will always be the Seawolves Showcase from my Junior year. While I didn't realize it at the time, it was my final Seawolves Showcase — my last performance dedicated to the Stony Brook crowd, with my peers and alumni alike cheering me on. I will always remember the new yellow vardi (dance uniform) I wore, the rough floor, the way my feet and lungs burned, the way we cheered each other on as we danced, the way my energy was pulled from some unknown repository for the finale, and the smile I had on my face when we finished. Sometimes, when I dance, I look at the video afterwards, cringe, and critique myself. For the Seawolves Showcase performance, after the performance, I saw the growth in my own dancing — I blended in, and it made for a wonderful performance.
It was wonderful to have this opportunity and learn from so many people during my years here at Stony Brook!