CAFNR Celebrates Asian American, Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Q&A with Manisha Muthukaruppan

Muthukaruppan is a freshman biochemistry major.

Manisha Muthukaruppan

Q: Why did you choose Mizzou?

A: I chose Mizzou because it offered an abundance of opportunities. Not only did Mizzou provide the classes I was interested in through its biochemistry major, but in addition, Mizzou also has undergraduate research and a variety of organizations to join. I love getting involved on campus, so this was amazing! Having been on campus before, through Mizzou’s Mini Med program, I also knew that I’d be surrounded by friendly students and staff who would make my college journey even more fulfilling.

Q: What inspired you to pursue your degree at Mizzou?

A: As a high school senior, looking through possible future pathways can be a daunting experience, but Mizzou really stood out to me. I knew I would love to learn about the way our body functions on the molecular level, and when I looked over the classes I’d be taking as a biochemistry major at Mizzou, I could tell it would be a great fit! It was also important to me to be able to pursue my passion and begin biochemistry related coursework as soon as my freshman year. Mizzou makes that possible! Students are exposed to biochemistry courses in their first semester at Mizzou which is incredible.

Q: How do you identify within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community?

A: Although I was born in the U.S., I am of Indian heritage.

Q: How has your heritage shaped the person you are today?

A: My heritage has allowed me to pursue and develop many different interests – one of which is learning languages. I speak Tamil, a South Indian language, at home. Being able to communicate in a different language opens a whole new world of possibilities because you can now understand movies, music, and more. It allows you to experience other cultures through a different lens. Having this experience made me eager to learn other languages, so when I was given the opportunity to learn Spanish in high school, I pursued it. Not only did I learn to communicate, but I’ve watched some Spanish shows, listened to great music, tried new foods, and have really grown to appreciate different cultures.
Being immersed in Indian culture, I was also exposed to many kinds of art, including dance. I fell in love with a dance form called Bharatanatyam. I began learning the dance in middle school, which is a lot later than most people start. However, my passion for Bharatanatyam grew the more I practiced, and before I knew it, it was time for my dance graduation, which is called an Arangetram. This is a continuous performance consisting of multiple dances, and it’s over an hour long. Preparing for this performance took countless hours of practice, but when the day finally came, I was ready to go and performed well. Experiences like these have shown me that if you work hard and put your mind to it, you can achieve your goals. I continue to follow that every day.

Q: Does your family have any traditions that are especially important to you?

A: One of my favorite family traditions is celebrating Diwali. This is known as the Festival of Lights. I enjoy this holiday because I get to spend time with my family. We get to wear colorful, traditional Indian clothing. My mom makes delicious, sweet treats from scratch which always taste amazing. Lastly, we light diyas, which are like small lamps or candles and place them in front of our house. It’s a really pretty sight to see. I was delighted when Mizzou’s South Asian Student Association also held a Diwali celebration because I got to continue that tradition with friends at college.

Q: What are the role models or mentors who have influenced you or helped guide you?

A: Mrs. Malkmus, my high school AP Chemistry teacher, has been an amazing mentor to me. She showed me the beauty of chemistry because she demonstrated how the information we learned in class is applicable to the real world. She was also the first person to introduce me to research. I’ve always wanted to get involved in research but didn’t know how. Mrs. Malkmus showed me that there were opportunities like the Missouri Tri-County Regional Science and Engineering Fair as well as the International Science and Engineering Fair. She was willing to guide me through my independent research project. Mrs. Malkmus was an incredible mentor because she always encouraged me to explore my interests and curiosities!

Q: What does Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month mean to you?

A: To me, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month means acknowledging different cultures. It’s always fascinating to learn about others’ work and contributions, different languages, various foods, music, and more!