Ria Nandwana receives Shurter Prize

Ria Nandwana

After spending her undergraduate years at CWRU exploring her passions of materials science and medicine, Ria Nandwana was awarded the Robert L. Shurter Prize, which is awarded to a junior or senior for outstanding achievement and leadership in extracurricular activities.

Nandwana, who will graduate in May with her B.S. in materials science and engineering, has been an active member of the Undergraduate Materials Society during her years in the materials science and engineering department, serving as president in 2019, vice president in 2020 and secretary in 2018.  As a UMS officer, some of her main goals were to develop the sense of community in the department and recruit a diverse group of students to lead UMS. “In my mind UMS plays a supplemental role to promote the social, professional, and academic well-being of materials science students outside of the classroom,” she said. She has been involved with planning department open houses, glass blowing events, an event with conservators from the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the group’s signature social event, cocoavalent bonding.

Since her freshman year, Nandwana has been involved with CWRU’s Center for Civic Engagement & Learning. “While a majority portion of the program is serving the Cleveland community, I have learned more from the community than I have given to it,” she said. “The program has opened my eyes to the disparities that inflict the Cleveland community, from red lining and its lasting effects to medical deportation of undocumented immigrants in need of healthcare. Learning about these challenges has really emphasized the importance of breaking out of the CWRU bubble and integrating with our community. It has also taught me the importance of listening to and understanding the needs of the individuals I hope to serve instead of jumping in with my pre-existing assumptions, a skill that will be incredibly valuable as a physician.”

When she starts her studies at the Case School of Medicine in July, Nandwana will bring experience from the front lines. During her freshman spring semester, she got her EMT certification and has been part of CWRU’s emergency medical service ever since. In addition to serving EMT shifts and “taking calls at all hours of day and night,” she had the opportunity to teach first aid and Stop the Bleed to CWRU students and members of the Cleveland community at large. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, she was frequently a standby at events such as concerts, athletic competitions and Wade Oval Wednesdays.

Nandwana has spent her final semester as an undergraduate volunteering at CWRU’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic and others in Cuyahoga County. She has had a variety of roles at the clinics, including administering vaccinations, post-vaccination monitoring and emergency care, taking temperatures and wheeling patients. “After staying home and being unable to do anything for a year, I was thrilled at the opportunity to finally do something tangible to help my community,” she said. “It’s been a really cool and surreal experience to be part of such a large-scale, coordinated, public-health effort.”

In summer 2019, Nandwana returned to her birthplace of India for a public health internship. The internship strengthened her interest in health education and public health. She worked with community health workers to improve health education and access in underserved communities. “Even though the community health setting in India was much different from the Cleveland hospital setting that I had experience with, much of the challenges faced in the patient-clinician relationship remained the same,” she said. “I felt that I was easily able to develop trust and rapport with the communities, which allowed us to collectively succeed in increasing healthcare literacy.” She was part of initiatives focusing on  water hygiene and sanitation, anemia and malnutrition in women of reproductive age, adolescent menstrual and sexual health, and education on wheels. 

During the Fall 2020 semester, Nandwana won second place in the Materials Science & Technology Undergraduate Poster Competition. She has been a member of Associate Professor Matthew Willard’s research group during her undergraduate years and has served as an ENGR 145 TA.