Ready to Engage in Research

As Rhea Pookulangara was making her college decision, one of her priorities was finding a place that would allow her to participate in undergraduate research. Pookulangara had been involved in research projects since her junior year of high school through the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science (TAMS) at the University of North Texas. Pursuing that research passion at the collegiate level was high on her interest list.

While she had several options, Pookulangara knew that the University of Missouri would provide her those opportunities, and after being named a Stamps Scholar, she will be exposed to a variety of research early on in her college career.

“Having so many research opportunities was a big pull for me coming to MU,” Pookulangara said. “To know that I’ll have a lab spot through Stamps, as well as access to outstanding research faculty, is incredible. It’s exciting to know that I have the chance to do something that I’m passionate about. There are so many great resources at Mizzou, and I’m happy to be able to get my foot in the door.”

Mizzou has partnered with the Stamps Scholars Program since 2016 on a premier scholarship for incoming Tigers. Scholars receive a full four-year scholarship, covering up to the total estimated cost of attendance, plus an additional $16,000 enrichment fund for them to use throughout their time at MU. Scholars also have the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research right away.

Pookulangara is from Denton, Texas, just 40 miles northwest of Dallas. While she grew up nearly 600 miles away from Columbia, Mo., Pookulangara did have ties to MU. Her mother and father, who both earned their undergraduate degrees in India, received degrees from Mizzou. Her mom earned a PhD, and her dad received his second bachelor’s.

“It’s been fun to explore campus with both of them,” Pookulangara said. “They were so busy during their time in Columbia that they didn’t get to take everything in. It has been great walking around and having them relive so many memories.”

Pookulangara plans to major in computer science at Mizzou. TAMS introduced Pookulangara to computational neuroscience research, which led her to computer science – a field that she found enjoyable.

“I’ve always been interested in how people think, specifically from neuron to neuron,” Pookulangara said. “What I really enjoyed about my project was that I was working on understanding the brain better, and we were going beyond the discovery phase. We were modeling with our data.”

Pookulangara already has her eye on a handful of clubs and organizations, too, such as Mizzou’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.

“There seem to be an incredible number of supportive programs across campus, and I’m excited to dive in,” Pookulangara said. “I’m ready to build connections and networks with my peers.”

Pookulangara added that she is also excited to interact with her Stamps cohort. Scholars must be enrolled in the Honors College for all four years, working toward the completion of the Honors certificate. Scholars have a dedicated mentor, contact with campus leadership, alumni networking opportunities and funding for study abroad, too.

Pookulangara is one of eight Stamps Scholars who will be at Mizzou this fall.

“What really stuck out to me throughout the entire Stamps process was how nice everyone was,” Pookulangara said. “The campus is gorgeous and there are numerous opportunities, but I really loved how genuinely happy everyone was to help. It’s going to provide a great atmosphere and the perfect place to build relationships.

“I’m incredibly happy to have been named a Scholar. The scholarship is going to allow me to not only spread my wings, but it’s also going to help me be financially successful. I’m very honored and grateful to be a recipient of this award.”