Clemson University Feature Stories

Tanzanian Tiger Gives Back

Clemson graduate Rupal Shah rubs John Harvard’s foot in the Harvard Yard. Tour guides often tell visitors it is good luck to rub the statue’s left foot.

“This really is the American Dream!” Rupal Ramesh Shah M ’07 said of her journey since immigrating to South Carolina from Tanzania in 1999. After completing her undergraduate studies in biology and chemistry at Southern Wesleyan University in 2004, Shah continued on to Clemson University for her master’s degree in microbiology, and she has been striving for excellence ever since.

For Shah, being a student in Clemson’s competitive biological sciences department was key in guiding her to a successful career in research; however, Clemson shaped her in many other ways as well. The close-knit environment helped her understand that even as a student, it is important to give back to your community.

She was a member of Alpha Epsilon Delta, Blue Key and Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), and helped in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts when she participated in the Alternative Spring Break program with Clemson University in 2006. Shah’s volunteer experiences are nearly innumerable, both locally and globally.

While a Clemson student, Shah frequently dedicated her time to Hospice of the Foothills as a patient-care volunteer and taught CPR, First Aid and other classes as a volunteer with the American Red Cross in Easley. With the Volunteers in Medical Missions program, Shah traveled to Panama with other medical professionals to aid in medical relief efforts in poverty-struck villages. She also began volunteering with the Association for India’s Development while at Clemson, assuming the role of president in 2006, and she now volunteers with the organization’s chapter in Boston.

All of Shah’s hard work and dedication, both inside the classroom and out, did not go unnoticed. She received her first award from Clemson in 2005, the Jerome V. Reel Award of Academic Excellence, as an outstanding student as well as a member of ODK. She continued to be recognized by organizations she served including the Red Cross and Oconee Memorial Hospital.

One award she is particularly proud of winning is Clemson’s prestigious President’s Commission on Outstanding Women: Graduate Student Award. To be considered, Shah was formally nominated by three personal letters written by faculty and colleagues. This award is presented by the President’s Office to one female graduate student each year who has made outstanding contributions to improve the status of women on and off campus, by professional achievement, by service as a role model and by performance in unique circumstances of merit.

She credits many of her Clemson mentors for influencing her research and guiding her to her current position as a research assistant in the immunology and infectious diseases department at Harvard University, School of Public Health. Both Alfred “Hap” Wheeler, the chair of the biological sciences department, and Jeremy Tzeng, Shah’s adviser for her master’s thesis, were valuable mentors.

“I will always keep in touch with them. Not only did they help me in academic settings, but they also helped expand my research interests and get published,” Shah said. She was published in both the Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology as well as in Current Trends in Microbiology while at Clemson.

Her interest in medicine in rural communities might one day bring her back to a small town in South Carolina, or it might take her to a developing country where she can work in global health. She recently was the recipient of a Young Leader Alumni Award from her undergraduate institution, Southern Wesleyan University, for outstanding leaders in their vocation and community who show promise of future professional growth.

It is apparent that Shah has already begun her professional journey to greatness and that she will always display the core values she learned from her time at Clemson. Shah is extremely proud of her significant accomplishments, and the Clemson Family is equally proud to call her a fellow Tiger!


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