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Nishtha Modi: Dedicated to Helping Children in Need

Growing up in an upper middle class suburb of Mumbai, Nishtha Modi lived only a few miles from some of India's most impoverished areas. It wasn't until she left the country that she began to truly understand the imbalance that existed between the wealthy and poor.

"While I have a great appreciation for the culture and history of my home country, I wish I had realized the disparity that existed so that I could have done more," said Nishtha, who moved to Woodside Queens, N.Y., with her family in 2006.

UAlbany student Nishtha Modi helps builds a school in Uganda
UAlbany student Nishtha Modi is helping to build schools for HIV-positive orphans in Uganda.

Since then, Nishtha is committed to improving the lives of the less fortunate. In her freshman year at UAlbany's Honor College, she began volunteering with Third World Impact (TWI), a nationally-recognized community service group. TWI was founded on the principle of engaging the university community in the difficulties confronting people all over the world.

In 2011, TWI was awarded $25,000 for first place in the Newman's Own Foundation national campus community service challenge to build a pre-school in Uganda. Nishtha and three other UAlbany students spent two weeks in Uganda. They taught classes on hygiene, health, and HIV-AIDS prevention, and started the process of building a primary school in Wairaka, a small village in Jinja.

As president of TWI, Nishtha is working on plans to build a second facility for children in need as well as a dormitory to house UAlbany students who will one day volunteer to teach at the school.

Nishtha, a biology and chemistry major, credits her education at UAlbany as the biggest asset for launching a career where she can make the greatest difference. Her work on drug development for drug-resistant infectious diseases with Dr. Paul F. Agris at UAlbany's RNA Institute was the impetus for landing a research position with the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. In this post, she will continue to work on infectious disease by working on drug-resistant HIV vaccine development. It comes as no surprise that Nishtha is most interested in advancing effective treatment for children who suffer from the disease.

Her accomplishments and aspirations have not gone unnoticed. Recently, Nishtha received the Chancellor's Award and President's Award for Student Excellence for her work both in and out of the classroom. She will also be a co-author on a paper from Dr. Agris' lab.

Post commencement, Nishtha plans to travel with her sister, Prachi Modi, and Chase Brisbois, from the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, to Jacmel, Haiti, where she will assist UAlbany Chemistry Professor Charles Scholes at Pazapa, a school for children with disabilities.

For more graduation profiles, please visit our 2012 commencement page

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