Divya Aikat is a sophomore double-majoring in biostatistics and sociology and a Chancellor’s Science Scholar within the UNC College of Arts and Sciences. She has researched HPV self-testing for under-screened women, interventions to mitigate mental health issues for women post-sexual assault, and breast cancer risks in marginalized populations.
Q: How did you discover your specific field of study?
A: Public health permeates every aspect of our lives and is fascinating to study. I’ve always loved math, and biostatistics gave me a tangible way to apply it and see change. I added a second major in sociology, because biostatistics gave me a view of the social problems, but sociology allows me to see the who, when, where, and why.
Q: Academics are problem-solvers. Describe a research challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it.
A: As a woman of color in STEM it is remarkably easy to undergo imposter syndrome and feel that sense of displacement in spaces. Finding community and hearing stories from others with similar experiences remind me that I’m not alone. I’ve chosen diverse lab spaces and have felt much more comfortable. There is a lot of truth in the expression, “Go where you’re celebrated and not where you’re tolerated.”
Q: Describe your research in five words.
A: Women’s health through new lenses.
Q: Who or what inspires you? Why?
A:Walks through the forest, weekly dinners with my family, good songs with headphones on, and loud laughs with friends. It’s so easy to get caught up in the fast pace of life. Sometimes the most rewarding moments involve taking a step back and being grateful for what we have and what we’ve overcome.
Q: If you could pursue any other career, what would it be and why?
A: I would love to teach middle school and am hoping to incorporate Teach for America into my journey in some way. Many of my formative experiences and passions were fostered by dedicated teachers, and I’d love to give back and support my community in that way. I am also an education minor and a volunteer tutor for students in fourth-grade math. I love encouraging them in their educational fruition and learning from them and their unique worldviews.