Biology major opts for "private-style" college experience and research opportunities.

When Janaki “Kiki” Patel enrolled at Georgia Gwinnett College, it wasn’t her first choice, and she didn’t initially plan to graduate as a Grizzly.

“A lot of students say they’ll come for two years and transfer, but a lot of students stay because they like the environment at GGC,” she said.

Patel puts herself in that camp. The senior biology major (biochemistry) from Grayson with aspirations to attend physician’s assistant school had a change of heart. She, again, considered transferring after three years.

“But then I realized I’m already on a track to graduate, and I do enjoy going to GGC,” Patel said. She’s built rapport with many of her professors and values all of the varied opportunities, equating it as a “private-style” college experience.

Patel applies her Grizzly enthusiasm to her duties as a student ambassador and credits the role for pulling her out of the introverted personality she had when she first enrolled. She speaks in front of large crowds during campus tours, and relates it to an unscripted presentation each week.

“I feel like I’ve grown professionally,” she said. “I would usually have to write down what I’m going to say, what’s going on, but now I just kind of free flow.”

Patel recognizes the leadership development and networking value of getting involved and becoming fully immersed in the campus community. She represents GGC as a member of the Honors Program and Four Pillar Society, volunteers for Helping Hands Outreach Health Clinic, and participates in the Student Chapter of the American Chemical Society and Tri-Beta Biological Honors Society.

Academically, Patel's particularly excited to participate in one of GGC's many faculty/student research opportunities with Dr. Ajay Mallia, assistant professor of chemistry. This collaborative coursework (generally reserved for graduate students in many other institutions) has real-world application and often leads to opportunities to present findings at conferences or STEM-related events and even co-author in peer-reviewed publications.

As a junior, Patel joined Mallia’s research to design and study molecular gels.

“During last two decades, research on gels attracted a lot of interest because of its potential application in food, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals,” Mallia said. “Janaki synthesized potential molecular gelators using multi-step organic synthesis, characterized newly synthesized molecules using various spectroscopic techniques, and also studied the thermal properties and gel melting temperatures.”

Mallia also shared that Patel has been accepted to present her research at three events – Georgia Academy of Sciences’ annual meeting, GGC’s CREATE Symposium and Herty Medal Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Whatever she decides to tackle next, Patel is Grizzly-prepared.

“I’m obtaining opportunities by working and getting references under my belt, which will help me in the future to put on my CV and resume,” she said.