NISE Program Teaching Assistant wins two prestigious awards

Aditi KCongratulations to Aditi Kulkarni, NMSU graduate student and NISE program’s teaching assistant for receiving two significant awards.   Aditi won the Grad Award for Research Excellence and the Grad Award for Teaching Excellence for 2020. 

According to Dr. Tim Wright, the Awards Committee was uniformly impressed with the contributions she has made to both the research and the teaching mission of the NMSU Biology Department.  She is the first graduate student to receive both awards in the same year.  Combined, both awards provide a monetary sum of $3,000.  She plans to turn the investment in her future education and career goals.

Aditi has an impressive academic background and research skills.  She is a PhD student in Dr. Jiannong Xu’s laboratory in the NMSU Biology Department. After joining his lab in Summer 2016, Aditi has been working on deciphering the impact of gut microbial community on the evolution of mosquito immune system and elucidating parallel immune pathways in Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes.

In addition to Aditi’s dissertation project, she has also been a part of the NM Department of Health-Southwest Aedes Research and Mapping (SWARM) project at NMSU; which involved microbial and genetic characterization of wild caught Aedes aegypti mosquitoes from 8 cities in NM. Recently, we have also developed a Cas13a mediated CRISPR interference tool to target mRNA for gene silencing in mosquitoes which has drawn a lot of attention globally. 

During the course her PhD studies, Aditi has also been a teaching assistant for the Biology Department since Spring 2016. She has taught the Cellular & Organismal Biology laboratory course for 11 semesters (including 2016-2018 summers) and she’s currently teaching an HHMI sponsored Biol 309 CURE course.

Besides, being a teaching assistant for the Department of Biology, Aditi was a fundamental part of the development and success of the New Mexico INBRE (NISE) summer program.  Aditi’s primary role for the NISE program last year, was teaching and familiarizing undergraduate students from other New Mexico institutions to discovery-based research curriculum.

Aditi sees all these irreplaceable opportunities as a tool to excel in her career, “These courses have given me the opportunity to teach more than 300 undergraduate students from diverse educational backgrounds. Through my teaching, I have tried to facilitate interest in undergraduate students to conduct further scientific research. My main goal during any class activity has been to guide students to think critically and address the research question with a scientific approach.”

Aditi successfully completed and defended her Ph.D., this semester.  Aditi will be working as a post-doctoral fellow. Her long-term career plan is to remain in academia and contribute significantly in the area of functional genomics and computational biology to investigate molecular basis of vector competence in various mosquito species. 


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