Extraordinary Engineer: Pravalika Irukulla

Pravalika Irukulla

Pravalika Irukulla

Cumming, Georgia

High School
South Forsyth High School

Degree Major
B.S. Biological Engineering

Other Degrees/Certificates

  • Informatics Certificate
  • Masters in Biological Engineering (Double Dawgs)

Expected Graduation
May 2023

What is your favorite thing about being a student at UGA?

My favorite thing about being a student at UGA is being involved in the community, exploring the numerous opportunities on campus and meeting new people. Though the campus is very big, there are numerous clubs and small groups that helped in making me feel connected to the college and the people.

Why did you choose engineering?

I have been interested in the healthcare industry and wanted to pursue a career where I would be able to directly impact healthcare without being involved in patient care. Math and science have been my strengths and I wanted to use them in my career. While exploring various majors, I saw that engineering perfectly combines math and science together to provide numerous solutions to a vast majority of careers in this world. I felt that an engineering degree in biomedicine will give me the benefit of both worlds, and will help me reach my goals.

Pravalika Irukulla at computer


What has been the greatest challenge you have faced while at UGA, and how did you overcome it?

The greatest challenge I faced while at UGA is getting work experience or any hands-on experience related to my degree. I went to the career fairs and many of the employer of the day events but wasn’t able to find an internship or co-op that was related to biological engineering. As I talked to other bioengineers and some alumni, I realized that work experience doesn’t necessarily entail industry jobs or internships. So I started to look at research positions under faculty, part-time jobs such as being a PLA or TA that still kept me close to my area of study. However, I still did not stop my search for an internship in the industry. I eventually found an internship that was research-based and needed biological engineering expertise.

What have you learned (or are learning) that has made a difference for you?

During my time at UGA, I realized that time flies and it’s in our hands to make the most of it, which helped me to step outside of my comfort zone and get the most out of my college experience. Another thing I recently learned and am still learning about is that there are so many medical devices in the healthcare industry that have been developed but were marketed for money purposes and not for the health of a patient. The ethical issues around biomedical devices made me realize that millions of people in the world are not educated about these devices and the possible side effects listed in the fine print. I am thankful that I was able to learn about such devices throughout my degree but there is still a lot more to learn and teach others.

What/Who has helped you become a successful student here at UGA?

My peers, friends, faculty and mentors have all helped me become a successful student at UGA. They were with me every step of the way and gave me valuable advice to push myself to the finish line.

Can you describe your research?

I am currently a research assistant in Dr. Cheryl Gomillion’s Tissue Engineering Lab, working on creating a model with diseased adipocytes (fat cells) and breast cancer cells. The purpose of my research is to develop a working model to observe the impact of diseased fat cells on breast cancer metastasis — the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.

Why did you choose this area of research?

Tissue engineering has always been one area of biological engineering that I have been interested in as it looks into how we can directly treat the patient via “fixing” their cells. When I took the class, I learned about different methods that can engineer tissue for research purposes or for patient treatment, which caught my interest even more. After joining Dr. Gomillion’s lab, I realized that the models we create with breast cancer cells can really impact the way we see cancer in the future and possibly be the best way to find personalized therapeutic treatment for patients suffering from cancer.

What is your favorite spot on campus and why?

My favorite spot on campus is Lake Herrick. It is such a wonderful spot to spend time with friends, do some work or even just take a nap. The atmosphere is so peaceful and calm, perfect for relaxing after a long day. The environment is so refreshing and makes me reflect on my day or think about new ideas.

What is your favorite restaurant in Athens?

My two favorite restaurants in Athens would be the Last Resort and Taichi Bubble Tea. I love the Tofu bowl and the customer service at the Last Resort! Taichi is also a great spot to get some tea and hangout with friends. Bubble tea holds a lot of fun memories.

What has been your favorite class at UGA?

My favorite class at UGA was Statics with Dr. Carnell. I heard so many stories about the class and was scared about it at the beginning of the semester. However, Dr. Carnell made the class easy to understand by going slowly and providing numerous examples and homework problems. He was really helpful to all the students and took time to come to the help sessions along with the TAs to help us out with our homeworks or prepare for our exams. I really appreciated that he also took the time to know everyone in his class.

Pravalika Irukulla by water fountain


What is your best memory at UGA so far?

All of the memories that I made at UGA are the best ones yet, I really can’t pick one. From freshman year, I have seen so much of Athens and met so many different people. Each experience at UGA is a wonderful memory to cherish.

What advice do you have for younger students who wish to pursue engineering?

One thing I would tell younger students who wish to pursue engineering is to know what it entails. Engineering is a rigorous program so I would tell them to take small steps towards the degree. You shouldn’t drown yourself in work, rather, you should maintain a healthy work-life balance and enjoy all the other events around/on campus. Take time to reflect and relax. Have a fresh mind and a positive attitude to get you through the day.

How do you hope to impact society with your engineering degree?

My Bachelors and Master’s degrees in engineering are making me a more knowledgeable and skillful researcher, through the classes that I take and the time I spend in the lab. I hope to be able to serve others by using my knowledge, whether it is by conducting research to bring a device into the market or working in a hospital and testing the equipment. I believe this interdisciplinary degree teaches me the skills of both engineering and medicine that I can use to tackle current healthcare problems.

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