Recent A&S Grad Earns Scholarship To Pursue COVID-19 Research in London
Rujula Upasani, a recent University of Virginia graduate, will research COVID-19 at University College London as a Rotary Global Grant Scholar.
The scholarships are for students pursuing graduate studies outside of the United States in one of Rotary International’s seven focus areas: peace and conflict prevention; disease prevention and treatment; water sanitation and hygiene; maternal and child health; basic education and literacy; community economic development; and environment.
Upasani, of Fairfax, graduated in May with a degree in human biology. In London, she will pursue a master's degree in infection and immunity with the $40,000, one-year scholarship.
“I decided to apply during the pandemic year,” she said. “With so much changing during that time and everything that was going on in the world, I took it as an opportunity to take a step back to see what I wanted the rest of my career to look like.”
Upasani examined programs that would allow her to continue her research, provide her with a foundation for a medical career and allow her to live abroad.
“After considering all my options, I decided that a master’s in London at University College London would be most beneficial,” she said. “I choose the Rotary organization to pursue this opportunity because it echoed my values on sustainable change.”
Upasani said the scholarship could give her an opportunity for personal and professional growth.
Upasani had initially applied for a Fulbright U.S. Student Award. She thinks that application helped with her Rotary application because she was familiar with the process.
“The application itself was fairly straightforward and it allowed me to explain how this grant would contribute to my future,” she said. “The process enabled me to really hone in on why I wanted this opportunity and what I would be trying to give back, if I got it.”
“Throughout our staff’s engagement with her pursuing the Fulbright, she demonstrated an enthusiasm for her future studies and the cross-cultural learning she was pursuing,” said Andrus G. Ashoo, director of UVA’s Office of Citizen Scholar Development. “It was no surprise that by the time the Rotary application came out, she was ready to demonstrate than she was an excellent fit.”
At UVA, Upasani was an undergraduate research assistant at the Center for Behavioral Health and Technology, a member of the University Judiciary Committee and a Madison House volunteer.
Kelly M. Shaffer, an associate professor at the Center for Behavioral Health and Technology in the School of Medicine, worked directly with Upasani as a research mentor.
“Rujula stands alone in her high motivation, independence and intellectual enthusiasm,” Shaffer said. “She has brilliant promise as a clinical researcher, given her excellent leadership skills and proven record of research contribution and achievement.”
The professor noted that Upasani consistently supported her fellow students in the research program and that she is a rare combination of strong leader and cooperative teammate.
“Rujula has a genuine collegial spirit that is necessary to develop strong research collaborations that will solve the biggest scientific problems of today and tomorrow,” Shaffer said.
During the past seven years, 11 UVA graduates have received Rotary Global Grant Scholarships to pursue graduate degrees outside of the U.S.