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Nicole Gunawansa – Luce Scholar

Name: Nicole Gunawansa

Class Year: 2014

Hometown: Portsmouth, VA

Major(s): Neuroscience

Opportunity and Year: Luce Scholar Program, 2014-15

Project Summary: I will be evaluating the effects of natural disasters on healthcare at the International Research Institute of Disaster Science at Tohoku University School of Medicine in Sendai, Japan. My work will include volunteering with Tohoku Medical Department of Public Relations and Planning and researching the impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on individuals affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

How did W&L prepare you for this opportunity? W&L did a tremendous job at helping me prepare for the Luce Fellowship. My four years at W&L taught me how to push my intellectual boundaries in both academic and social settings. I also reaped the benefits of attending a university with a vast array of unique learning opportunities on and off campus, including immersive study abroad programs. Additionally, the faculty at W&L did a wonderful job of aiding me in the intensive application process for the fellowship.

Why did you apply for this opportunity? The fundamental purpose of the Luce Fellowship is expanding appreciation and understanding of Asian culture, while also encouraging scholars to further their experiences in the field of their interest. I applied for this fellowship in hopes of gaining a broader view of medicine by exploring both an area of the world and of healthcare (the impact of natural disasters) in which I had little familiarity.

Post-graduation Plans: After returning to the USA, I intend to apply to medical school while I complete my Elrod Fellowship.

Extracurricular Involvement:

Bonner Scholar Program, Campus Kitchen (Leadership Staff), First Book, SAIL (Outreach Committee), and Washington and Lee University Singers.

Off-campus Experience:

Danish Institute for Study Abroad–Medical Practice and Policy Program ​(where I was able to do a comparative analysis of different healthcare systems in Europe)

Shepherd International Internship/Johnson Opportunity Grant –Internship evaluating the impact of poverty on healthcare in Accra, Ghana.

Research Experience:

Four years of research evaluating the effect of hormones and obesity on episodic and spatial memory in male and female Sprague Dawley rats with Dr. Blythe in the Biology Department

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