Mehar (Maya) Bharatiya '21
BS Human Evolutionary Biology, BA Anthropology
Where are you originally from?
I was born and raised in India, before immigrating to America when I was little.
How did you hear about Stony Brook University?
I was really interested in Anthropology, and I saw that Stony Brook had a very prestigious Department of Anthropology and program, so I knew I needed to apply.
Why Stony Brook?
I chose to study at Stony Brook because I received multiple scholarships that made the cost more affordable. I also knew I was interested in majoring in Anthropology and was impressed by the Department and curriculum.
On her majors:
I am a double major in Human Evolutionary Biology and Anthropology. I chose Anthropology because I'm fascinated by the study of humans and our history, and I chose Human Evolutionary Biology because I'm also interested in evolutionary biology, bones, fossils, and morphology. Both of these majors allow me to combine my interests in human history and evolution to study morphological changes in the human fossil record that help us understand our own evolution.
My favorite class of all time has to be Comparative Primate Anatomy taught by Dr. Gabrielle Russo. I took this class as a freshman with a very basic understanding of anatomy, but at the end of the class, I was able to understand the morphological changes that had occurred in the human and primate skeleton throughout the course of evolution to adapt to their respective environments and diets. And, the fact that we were able to handle real bones and osteological elements in the class made everything even more exciting to me. At the end of the class, seeing the progression of a chimp cranium to successive hominin crania to a modern human cranium made the process of human evolution really click in my head and I knew that this was what I wanted to pursue.
Interests and accomplishments:
Outside of anatomy, human evolution, and anthropology I love working out. I particularly enjoy weight training, swimming, biking, and dancing. I also love traveling and have plans to go to each continent and backpack across Europe! I love the outdoors so I will take any excuse to go for a hike or go kayaking.
I would say my greatest achievement has to be the multiple fully funded PhD offers I received from several graduate schools. Last year during the height of the pandemic my self-confidence definitely plummeted and I was unsure if I would even get selected for any of the PhD programs I had planned on applying to. However, a year later, having three fully-funded offers from three amazing and highly competitive programs, and having the option to choose which program I wanted to go to was definitely a surreal feeling!
Awards & Accolades:
I am a member of both Sigma Beta Honor Society and Phi Beta Kappa. I was also the recipient of the SUNY Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women Global Affairs Scholarship and the Provostial Scholarship. I've been on the Dean's List since starting at Stony Brook and was a recipient of the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award. I also was a Campus Representative for the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for excellence in STEM. I will be graduating with an honors distinction Summa Cum Laude as well as with departmental honors in Human Evolutionary Biology.
Plans for post-graduation:
I have accepted a fully-funded offer to pursue my PhD in Biological Anthropology at Griffith University at the Gold Coast in Australia with Dr. Tanya M. Smith. My dissertation will be focusing on conducting elemental analyses of teeth to illuminate dietary changes, migratory patterns, seasonal variation, behavioral differences, neurotoxicant exposure, and skeletal remineralization in human modern populations and nonhuman primates. This will hopefully add to our knowledge of human evolution and our transition to an agricultural society as well as primate evolution.
Ideally, I'd like to continue down the academic path and eventually become a professor of anatomy, anthropology, or evolutionary biology at an R1 university where I can continue my research into human evolutionary biology.
Clubs or organizations:
I'm not currently a part of any clubs, but I was previously the Secretary for the SBU Outdoors Club and the Public Relations Officer for Sigma Beta Honor Society. I also work as a senior technology consultant for the Division of Information Technology at the SINC Sites on campus.
Advice for future Seawolves?
For students that have or will face financial hurdles as I have, make sure to enter college with a plan and goals in mind. If you know exactly what you want, make a game plan freshman year and make sure to get everything you need to get you in the right place at graduation for whatever post-graduate plans you have (applying for a job or graduate school). College is expensive, and wasting time figuring out your major, while it can be fruitful, can be a drain on your finances, especially if you have to take out a lot of loans. Be focused and always work toward a goal. Plans can go awry (like they did last year), but in my opinion, it's better to have a plan than to not have one.
Favorite SBU memory:
There is a tree across the LIRR Stony Brook Train Station that I and my good friend would often climb and just sit in while listening to music. Especially during the spring, sitting in that tree and listening as the wind whistles through the branches and as the sunlight pokes out of the leaves was truly such a calming experience. Climbing that tree with my friend and talking about our day in the warm sunny weather is a memory that I will remember fondly.
On graduating during these unusual times:
I'm honestly just extremely grateful that we are able to have an in-person commencement; I know other colleges are not doing the same. I am looking forward to a safe and socially distanced ceremony as well as being able to see my professors and advisors that I have not seen in over a year in-person. I'm also very grateful that my parents will be able to join me. Overall, I feel very lucky.
I'm very grateful to Dr. Gabrielle Russo and the members of the Functional Morphology Lab for supporting me during my undergraduate career and with my research projects!