At just 16, Carmel Valley's Anisha Mudaliar has racked up an enviable list of accomplishments. The Pacific Ridge School junior spent last summer volunteering in India and Kenya, will represent San Diego in July's California State Junior Miss competition, won first place at the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair, and just won a $15,000 scholarship from the Young Epidemiology Scholars (YES) Competition.
The YES competition, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has students submit original research projects using epidemiological methods to discover ways to improve public health. Anisha's winning project was titled "An Epidemiological Analysis of Youth-Onset Diabetes Mellitus in India."
She submitted the same project to the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair in March and won first place out of 770 exhibitors. Anisha had the opportunity to compete at the state level but declined as she was a little busy — her four Advanced Placement tests hit during the same week.
Anisha began to be interested by epidemiology, the study of factors affecting the health and illness of populations, during her participation in the Science Olympiad's disease detective event. It was at the Olympiad that she found out about the YES competition and decided to enter.
Anisha prepared a 30-page report on youth onset diabetes based on her clinical and fieldwork at the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation during a summer 2009 trip to India.
Of 639 papers submitted nationwide, Anisha's was one of 60 selected to travel to Washington, D.C., to present her paper. The 60 students were whittled down to 12 who would receive scholarships.
"I was so shocked," Anisha said. "They describe you and your project before they announce it (the scholarship). Until they said my name I couldn't believe it was me. It was a great honor. I met a lot of amazing students and the public issues they explored I had never thought of before. I learned a lot."
After last summer's work at the diabetes research center in India and helping build schoolhouses in Kenya, Anisha will return to India this summer, this time to volunteer at an orphanage.
"I really like being able to travel to different countries and learn how they live," said Anisha. "Pacific Ridge has really encouraged us to learn about other communities as well as our own ... and to be intelligent and confident travelers."