Nisha Sridhar is a junior at the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon. She is passionate about understanding the effects of adversity on child development and she is making a difference through learning, leadership, and compassion. She is a recipient of the nationally prestigious, merit-based Stamps Leadership Scholarship. She is majoring in human physiology, and she assists in research examining the effects of adverse childhood events on brain development at the Stress Neurobiology and Prevention Lab. She has also conducted research at Oregon State University on caregiver-child interactions and at the YRG Center for AIDS Research and Education in Chennai, India on demographic factors affecting HIV disclosure rates. For her sustained community involvement and leadership, she was selected for the Wayne Morse Scholars Program at the University of Oregon, which provides training in leadership, public policy, and political science. During recent summer and winter breaks, she volunteers at Maris Place: a care center for underserved children. She is also passionate about advocacy and has been working with her state representative to craft a bill making education on organ donation mandatory.
I became interested in addressing issues facing children after meeting a five-year-old girl at an HIV-clinic in India; she was severely underweight and came in with a high fever. I wondered, how would her early exposure to adversity affect her health? This and other experiences, consolidated my interest in becoming a pediatrician-scientist-advocate, combining my passion for clinical care, research, and public policy. As a preschool instructor in my high school’s child development program, I learned that childhood and adolescence are characterized by heightened neural change and development, referred to as neuroplasticity. Thus, in these stages of life, the experiences and environments a child or teen are exposed to can affect their long term mental and physical health. Plasticity and developmental neuroscience fascinate me because they illuminate the incredible potential as well as the inherent vulnerability of our earliest years of human life. Exposure to early adversity can have a detrimental impact on child development. I am interested in delving deeper into research that elucidates these critical periods of life to develop public policy and continue volunteering at non-profits that support underserved youth as an undergraduate at the University of Oregon and into the future.