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Prepared for a Bold Future

Written by Lea Hart

Aanandi Munshi moved to Minnesota from India when she was 13.

Her dad’s job brought the family to the United States, and she said Minnesota was a stark contrast to India. From there, the family moved to Florida and then landed in Raleigh for her senior year of high school.

When it came time to apply to college, she toured several and found North Carolina State University had something that just clicked for her.

“NC State was one that stood out to me; it really felt like a comfortable environment,” Munshi said. “It was close to home, but it felt like a home away from home.”

And indeed, she did make it her home. Munshi graduates from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) this December in a unique position. In just four-and-a-half years, she’ll complete her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Biochemistry.

The two degrees and the rate at which she achieved them are thanks to two factors, she said. CALS offers an accelerated M.S. in biochemistry, and Munshi said she had enough AP credits from high school that allowed her to take fewer general education courses in college.

While achieving those two degrees, Munshi made the most of her time at NC State.

She’s the founding president of the NC State chapter of Health Guardians of America, a nonprofit focusing on the national obesity epidemic through preventative medicine. It was a cause that resonated with Munshi. When she found out during her freshman year that there was a need for a chapter on campus, she decided to take it on.

“It was a very big undertaking, especially as a freshman, because I didn’t know anyone yet,” she said. “I had to get a board together and find people I trusted.”

Knowing of the link between diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and having a history of cardiovascular disease in her own family, Munshi said it was worth the effort. The campus chapter worked to raise awareness around nutrition not just on campus, but to area high schools as well.

Munshi also devoted herself to research, working with Professor José Trinidad Ascencio-Ibáñez in his lab researching the response of plants to viral infections. Thanks to that research experience, in March 2022 she collaborated with other undergraduates in the Biochemistry Undergraduate Training Program (BURT-P) and researchers at Rutgers University to publish a research paper.

a young woman in a white lab coat in a lab
Photo credit: Kourosh Salamati, NC State student

Research is an area that fascinates Munshi. She chose to pursue the AP Capstone option in high school, where one year focused on research, she said. She has family ties to research as well, with a grandfather who was a researcher and today holds several patents.

Ascencio-Ibáñez’s lab provided just the right fit.

“I had always wanted to study viruses – they’re so interesting because they’re not living things, and yet, how do these things that don’t live impact so many lives around the world?” she said.

The lab provided valuable research experience and a community, she said. Many of her closest friends came from that experience as it became a place to work, study and spend time together. “Dr. Trino,” as the students call him, became a mentor and friend.

“He’s been there for the highs and lows and I really appreciate his support for all of it,” she said.

If that isn’t enough, Munshi volunteered her time as an EMT in Youngsville and volunteered at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, even helping during the pandemic.

She served as vice president of content for the Science Olympiad Alumni Organization. Munshi participated in Science Olympiad as a student since the family first moved to Minnesota and is passionate about it. When she moved to Florida, her school didn’t have a team, so she started one.

“The Science Olympiad Alumni Organization was one of the most meaningful things I did at NC State,” she said. “It allowed me to be on the other side of the event – rather than competing, we were helping the next generation be pioneers.”

Her plans post-graduation are to become a doctor, something she’s wanted since before she enrolled at NC State.

Munshi will take some time first to apply to jobs in biotechnology or biomanufacturing in nearby Research Triangle Park before applying to medical school.

The back of a young woman wearing graduation regalia
Photo credit: Kourosh Salamati, NC State student

She’s in a somewhat unique position in that, though she’s lived in the U.S. for nearly a decade, she’s still considered an international student when applying to medical school. Only about 40 medical schools in the country accept international students, Munshi said.

She believes her decision to pursue the accelerated master of science in biochemistry will show those schools that she’s ready to work hard. Munshi said her experiences at NC State and within CALS have set her up to succeed when she takes the MCAT and applies to medical school.

“I’ve learned to think critically,” she said. “I’ve expanded on research that I’d been doing since freshman year, and gained more independent experience with the master’s – I can show medical schools that I can take on these harder classes.”

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.