Roja Baruwal

Photo of Roja Baruwal
Major: Biochemistry

As an international student from Nepal, Roja Baruwal has found great joy in sharing the culture of her country with the Walsh University campus. Through her passion for science and research, she hopes to use her Walsh education to continue to break down barriers related to mental health and disease around the world.   

As a member of the World Student Organization, my goal has been to bring my global perspectives to campus and showcase the cultural richness and diversity of students at Walsh,” said Roja. “I have been performing Nepali folk dance at the International Flag Ceremony each year and International Dinner sponsored by WSO. I have also cooked Nepali dishes and desserts for those ceremonies with the hope of giving people at Walsh a taste of Nepali cuisine.  

Hailing from the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu, Roja came to the United States because of the advanced learning and research opportunities available here, especially in her field of study of Biochemistry. With two sisters in Nepal studying business, Roja is the first in her family to go into the STEM field and is actively involved in promoting her love of science to a younger generation through her involvement with Walsh’s Sigma Zeta and the Pre-Healthcare clubs to educate local elementary students.   

“Through the clubs, I have been able to go to local elementary schools and teach students about natural habitats and promote the STEM fields,” said Roja. “But it’s not just elementary aged kids. My main goal in joining the Pre-Healthcare executive board is to help Walsh students become more aware of the various research careers available in the healthcare field.  

Roja chose biochemistry because of her deep fascination with genetics and pathology. She is currently in the process of applying for doctoral programs with the goal to be a biomedical researcher exploring cures for rare diseases. After graduation from Walsh, she hopes to join a Ph.D. program focusing on molecular biology and translational medicine in the United States. After completing her studies with experience working in the leading laboratories like Hudson Alpha and the Jackson Laboratoryher long-term goal is to return to her home country of Nepal.   

“Growing up in a developing country, I have always felt the urge to break the cultural stigma related to mental health and neurodegenerative diseases. Biomedical research has provided me a way to unveil the science and break the superstitious belief regarding diseases, said Roja. “Using the connections I will build during my time in the United States, I also aim to work towards building exchange programs for students and researchers in third world countries who are heavily impacted by the cultural stigma related to diseases.”  

As an undergraduate student, Roja has worked closely with Walsh Professor of Biology Dr. Adam Underwood in biomedical research focused on identifying the pathogenicity of gene variants. In addition to authoring several published research abstracts, she was awarded a grant from the Sigma Zeta National Mathematics and Science Honor Society to further work on identifying the pathogenicity of a novel mutation of a protein called N-alpha acetyltransferase 10 (NAA10) that had been discovered during Walsh’s collaborators in Grand Rapids Michigan. This mutation is significant because it had been predicted to cause severe developmental defects.  

“I am amazed by the wonderful research opportunities at Walsh. For my field of study, being able to conduct research and work closely with a professor on research projects is a privilege at the undergraduate level,” said Roja. “I had always dreamt of creating a positive impact in society by doing biomedical research. I did not know if I could live that dream in my undergraduate studies.”   

Her research has been published in Sigma Zeta National Honor Society and Ohio Journal of Science as abstracts with Roja as the main author. She is also a co-author on a manuscript out for publication. In addition, she was invited to present her research virtually at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference this September.  

Roja credits Walsh and specifically Dr. Underwood for helping her to realize her dreams.    

“He has provided me and several other students with the opportunity to develop a skillset that would allow us to be competitive as well as thrive in graduate level and continues to do so. I would say that getting involved in research with Dr. Underwood at Walsh has given me a direction, drive, and strength to apply to rigorous Ph.D. programs and shoot for the stars.”  

Her experience at Walsh included an internship with the University of Mississippi Medical Center to conduct cancer research. Unfortunately, it was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When she couldn’t return home during the U.S. lockdown in spring, Walsh made accommodations for Roja to remain on campus during the summer.    

The offer for me to stay on campus is evident of how helpful and generous this community is” said Roja. Being here, I have made life-long friends from all over the world, the United States, Ethiopia, South Africa, Bolivia, Taiwan, Nigeria, Slovakia and Nicaragua to name a few. Because of our diverse backgrounds, we always have enriched conversations about food, festivals or just life in general. We often plan get-togethers and make our country’s dishes for each other to taste. All I can say is that I am proud to have made so many global buddies at Walsh.