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ASU student launches organization that promotes STEM careers to elementary-school students

Avantika Mitbander aims to go to medical school and empower young students

Avantika Mitbander

Avantika Mitbander is a sophomore in Barrett, The Honors College, who is double majoring in psychology and neuroscience with a minor in Spanish and is also pursuing a certificate in cross-sectional leadership. Additionally, she plays the piccolo as part of the ASU Marching band. Photo by Robert Ewing/ASU Department of Psychology.

September 29, 2021

When Avantika Mitbander started at Arizona State University, she planned to prepare for medical school, so she decided that the best way to do that was to combine her interests of psychology and neuroscience. 

The Barrett, The Honors College sophomore is now double majoring in psychology and neuroscience, with a minor in Spanish, and is pursuing a certificate in cross-sector leadership.

“There's such a wide variety of ways you can go with a degree in psychology — with developmental psychology, cognitive psychology. In my second semester, I added on the neuroscience major, because I was really interested in the relationship between the mind and the body, how your emotions affect your body, how you're feeling and your biology,” said Mitbander, who also plays the piccolo as part of the ASU Sun Devil Marching Band.

“I think that both degrees complement each other really well," she said. "I get to learn anatomy in neuroscience and then in psychology, I'm able to learn what it's responsible for. It’s cool how well they play off of each other!”

Mitbander wants to go into medical school to become an OB-GYN and focus on women’s health. Currently, she is part of the Behavioral Neuroscience of Memory and Aging Lab with President’s Professor Heather Bimonte-Nelson, which focuses on how sex hormones, menopause and aging impact the brain and its functioning, including learning, memory and other behaviors.

“I really want to take all of the information that we are working on and actively help other women out,” Mitbander said.

Her interest in memory and cognition began when her own grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. While Mitbander was interested in finding a research lab, the diagnosis of this debilitating disease in someone so close to her shifted the search to memory-based research labs at ASU.

“After joining the Bimonte-Nelson lab, I found how deep it really goes. And now I'm branching into the other parts of cognition and memory as well because there's so little research done in that area right now. No one really knows what role the uterus has or ovaries really do other than reproduction,” Mitbander said.

Her time in the Behavioral Neuroscience of Memory and Aging Lab has already left a strong impression on her peers and mentor.

“Avantika is an incredibly bright, engaged and creative ASU undergraduate who shows outstanding leadership. She has innovative ideas and thinks outside of the box. Because she is dedicated and resourceful, she finds ways to bring her ideas to fruition, yielding a real impact on those around her,” Bimonte-Nelson said. “Her high level of engagement in the laboratory, behavioral neuroscience interests, and classroom, combined with her service-oriented nature, will set her up for great success as she pursues her goal of becoming a physician. Her focus on women's health is especially important, as this is an understudied area of science and translation to clinical practice. We are all very proud of her!” 

In addition to her research lab interests and the time committed to completing a double major with a minor, Mitbander also focused on pursuing another personal passion: launching a nonprofit-based club on campus. With the support of faculty mentor Gene Brewer, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology, Mitbander launched ASU’s version of Boundless Brilliance.

“Avantika is a truly incredible ASU undergraduate. Her passion for exploring the connection between neuroscience and psychology is matched by her genuine concern for the betterment of her community. Her efforts in the classroom, the laboratory and as a leader of the Boundless Brilliance student club is exemplary,” Brewer said.

Mitbander had previously served as an intern for the Occidental College's chapter and knew it was perfect for ASU.

“I loved volunteering for the organization so much. I knew that ASU needed something like this because there are so many students who want to help out and give back to the community. And this is a perfect way of doing it.”

Boundless Brilliance is an organization that brings STEM to the community and teaches important lessons like confidence and courage-building to young students who are exploring STEM careers.

“I think it's so important to start empowering people at a young age because that's when they're most impacted by the stuff that they see around them,” Mitbander said. “This is why I focus so much on elementary school students, because this is the first time they're learning about STEM — they don't really know what it is! Our goal is to get them excited at a young age because that's only going to keep growing as they go through high school and college.”

If students would like to volunteer or participate in Boundless Brilliance, they can register here.

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