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Riya Shah poses at the Old Well

Studying biology at Carolina “felt like embarking on a journey where I could gain a profound understanding of life sciences and also contribute to the pursuit of knowledge and discovery within the field,” said senior Riya Shah.

Shah, who is from Wesley Chapel, North Carolina, came to UNC with an interest in becoming a doctor. Through her classes and research at Carolina and her work as a medical scribe with Piedmont Health, she feels “more driven and prepared” than ever to pursue that passion.

In her biology major, Shah’s favorite class has been “Human Diversity and Population Genetics.” Taught by Corbin Jones, associate professor, the class incorporated immersive research that connected Shah’s professional and academic interests and explored the future of personalized medicine.

“The course not only deepened my understanding of genetics, but also emphasized the importance of individualized medical strategies,” she said.

Shah has a second major in neuroscience and a minor in chemistry. The combination of studies has empowered her to “unravel complex biological questions and appreciate the interconnectedness of scientific disciplines.”

Outside class, Shah works as a research assistant at the Matthew Flick Lab in the School of Medicine, where she researches the dysregulation of the coagulation system and its impact on obesity.

In the lab, her tasks range from conducting qPCR assays — a way to measure changes in gene expression — to performing triglyceride analyses, or measuring the amount of fat in blood samples.

The combination of conducting hands-on work, pursuing independent research and writing an honors thesis — which stemmed from her research in the lab — has been especially meaningful.

“My time at Carolina has not only equipped me with the academic prowess required for medical school, but has also instilled in me a profound appreciation for the human side of medicine,” she said.

As Shah prepares to graduate on Dec. 17, 2023, she shares her advice for future Tar Heels.

“Embrace the challenges, cultivate your curiosity and savor every moment, and Carolina will make it an unforgettable journey!”

By Jess Abel, College of Arts and Sciences

Tar Heels of the Week are nominated by professors in their department. Follow us on Instagram to explore more College Up Close.