Soumya Kamath, Biology

New opportunities provided Kamath with skills that extend beyond the classroom

Soumya Kamath

Soumya Kamath

If not for the COVID-19 pandemic, Soumya Kamath’s college pathway could have looked a lot different.

“Due to the pandemic, the majority of wet labs across East Carolina University’s campus were not taking new students,” the biology alumna said.

However, during her sophomore year, Kamath took Introduction to Hispanic Linguistics with Dr. Almitra Medina, an associate professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, as part of her Hispanic studies minor.

“This was the hardest class I have ever taken in my whole undergraduate career but by the end of the semester, I was finally fluent in Spanish after studying it for over six years,” Kamath said. “I was interested in how that happened and combined with the fact that Dr. Medina was an excellent professor, I asked her to take me on as an undergraduate research assistant during my junior year.”

Kamath focused on the variables that affect learning Spanish as a second language and how working memory plays a role in listening comprehension to hopefully create new, more effective study strategies.

“In my past Spanish classes, I was always mentally translating Spanish words into English but in this class, that wasn’t possible,” she said. “I was learning new terms that I had no idea what their English equivalent was so my brain was forced to work in Spanish.”

Kamath was extremely grateful for Medina’s guidance and noted how willing she was to meet with Kamath to work through concepts.

“She understood this was my first time conducting research and also that I was new to the field of Hispanic linguistics,” Kamath said. “She took the time out of her day to provide me with insightful information that strengthened my abilities as a researcher and developed skills that were translational to my future goals.”

Kamath has been able to take the skills learned through the signature honors project into her research at the ECU Brody School of Medicine as a master’s candidate in biomedical sciences.

“Since I had to produce a thesis for my project, I have writing experience that looks excellent on CVs as I apply for Ph.D. programs,” she said. “Many recruiters are impressed by my background in a different field and how I was able to successfully switch to a different research topic and I think that comes from the learned resilience from working on my signature honors project.