By Matt Nixon
When Drashti Zalavadia was still a high-schooler, she spent her summer breaks away from the typical teen places.
Zalavadia, instead, spent her time off of school volunteering at WellStar Cobb Hospital, helping out in a new department every summer. She describes the experience—volunteering in the emergency room, pharmacy and surgical center—as “eye-opening.”
“Even before I started at the hospital, I knew I wanted to go into the health care field,” said Zalavadia. “But getting to work on both the patient care side and the business side showed me all the different kinds of career paths available outside of being a nurse or a doctor.”
She furthered her interest in health care by taking on an unusual extracurricular activity—saving lives. The Georgia State University Honors College Class of 2022 Presidential Scholar is also a certified emergency medical responder.
At Wheeler Magnet School in Marietta, Ga., biology was her primary area of interest. In addition to completing all the AP classes in her academic program, Zalavadia pursued independent studies and research projects in DNA, genetics, and neurological disorders. With a group of classmates, she conducted lab research on Alzheimer’s, a rewarding experience despite the small data set and the limitations of using sea slugs as subjects.
Zalavadia was drawn to Georgia State Honors College’s commitment to undergraduate research. As part of her Presidential Scholarship, she was awarded a research assistantship in the university’s department of nutrition, where she will be helping with Alzheimer’s-related research.
“Receiving the Presidential Scholarship was one of the deciding factors in my choice of Georgia State,” said Zalavadia. “I’m able to study and do research without putting the financial stress of paying for college on my parents.”
While Zalavadia is planning on a career in health care, she’s unsure of which specific path she will choose. She is considering majoring in biomedical science and enterprise, a new degree program at Georgia State beginning in the Spring 2019 semester.
Zalavadia’s parents, Amee and Yogi, who emigrated with her from India when she was 9 years old, emphasized hard work and financial independence. The restauranteurs exemplified these values in their persistence and entrepreneurism.
“Having a career where I’m able to help people is important to me,” Zalavadia said, “but so is being capable of supporting myself and financial independence.”