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Grand Challenges Scholar, Spring 2024

Neha Balamurugan

As a computer science major in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, Neha Balamurugan learned the skills she needed to solve complex problems she is passionate about, including women’s health and education equity. 

Graduating in only three years, Balamurugan has pursued the opportunities ASU afforded her to the fullest, particularly in the rigorous Grand Challenges Scholars Program. She also served as an undergraduate teaching assistant, participated in the Desert WAVE and Sun Devil Motorsports Formula SAE clubs, worked on the SolaGrow project in the Engineering Projects in Community Service program and more.

Balamurugan, who is also a student in ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College, has earned numerous scholarships and fellowships recognizing her outstanding contributions to research and community service. She has earned a grand prize in a Hacks for Humanity competition and a best solution prize at HackMIT

The Experiential Learning Grant was instrumental in enriching Balamurugan’s educational journey, supporting her travels to hackathons, conferences and internships. 

A notable experience the grant made possible was the TreeHacks hackathon at Stanford University at which Balamurugan tackled a personally significant issue. Her team developed the youCare app to bridge the awareness gap around women’s health issues, specifically polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS.

“This project wasn’t just another hackathon challenge for me,” she says. “As someone living with PCOS, the opportunity to contribute to raising awareness and supporting others facing similar challenges was incredibly rewarding.”

The app earned the Best Use of Open Platform award and inspired Balamurugan to launch a startup company based on the project. 

Balamurugan was also active in research, participating in the Visual Media Research Experiences for Undergraduates program by the National Science Foundation the summer after her first year at ASU. During her sophomore year, Balamurugan began working at the Meteor Studio to develop virtual reality tools to enhance educational experiences and data visualization. She also researched immersive technology to reduce driver distractions with the DAAD RISE summer research internship program in Berlin, Germany.

After graduation, Balamurugan is attending Stanford University to earn a master’s degree in computer science and ultimately earn a doctorate in the field.

“I aim to study nuances of virtual reality and AI-powered educational environments that accommodate a wide range of learners, including those from varied cultural backgrounds and with different learning needs and preferences,” she says. “This involves crafting intelligent learning systems that adjust to individual learner profiles.”

Read about other exceptional graduates of the Fulton Schools’ spring 2024 class here.

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