Q&A with 2020 Goldwater Scholar Divyesh Kumar

Divyesh KumarDivyesh Kumar, a junior in chemical and biological engineering (pre-med) from Ames, has been named a 2020 Goldwater Scholar. The nationally renowned scholarship recognizes exceptional sophomores and juniors who aspire to work in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering research fields.

This year, three students from Iowa State University were named recipients of the prestigious award. From a nationwide pool of 1,343 students, Kumar was one of 396 students awarded with the scholarship that provides funding to help cover the costs of tuition, course fees and room and board.

After completing his Iowa State University undergraduate career, Kumar will pursue an M.D. and Ph.D. in neuroscience. He credits his Cyclone Engineering experience in preparing him for his future career goals and the honor of becoming a Goldwater Scholar.

Why did you decide to come to Iowa State?

Iowa State has a strong engineering program, plenty of research opportunities for undergraduates, and is close to home. For these reasons, ISU was my top choice.

What are your future career goals?

I hope to become a physician-scientist and operate my own lab researching stem cell-based therapies for the treatment of neurodegenerative disease.

How has your Cyclone Engineering experience made your future plans possible?

Iowa State’s chemical and biological engineering program has been instrumental in my development as a scientist by giving me the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge I have acquired in the classroom to a research setting.

Why have you decided to work in your particular area of research?

Neurodegenerative disease arises when nerve cells degenerate. As human life expectancy increases globally, so do the risks for many age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

Currently, there are no cures for such diseases. One day, I hope to contribute to such research to help better treat and possibly cure various neurodegenerative diseases.

What mentors you have valued at Iowa State?

As a rising senior in high school, I got my first taste of academic research at the placenta genomics laboratory of Geetu Tuteja, assistant professor of genetics, development and cell biology (GDCB). This experience inspired me to continue pursuing research with Morrill Professor of genetics, development and cell biology Donald Sakaguchi where I have been studying experimental strategies for brain rescue and repair. 

Over summer and winter breaks, I have also had the opportunity to conduct mitochondrial bioenergetics research under Dr. Dale Abel with the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine. The mentorship of Drs. Abel, Sakaguchi and Tuteja’s has been extremely valuable and has allowed me to develop as a researcher.

What does being named a Goldwater Scholar mean to you?

I am excited and humbled to have been selected as a Goldwater Scholar. I am grateful for the support of my family, friends, and mentors as I have gotten to this point because of them