By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis

For an 11-year-old Swati Pandey ’23, evening tea—a tradition in her native Kathmandu, Nepal—was a sacred time when she and her father, a journalist by trade, would exchange thoughts and ideas. Their conversations, which often centered around scientific topics like cells and organs, slowly transformed into her fascination with the complexity of nature’s architecture.

“Before I knew it, biology became my tool for unraveling and listening to the stories nature holds for us—of evolution, selection, efficiency, and chances,” Pandey says. 

Swati Pandey smiles

Swati Pandey

In 2019, Pandey left Nepal with an eagerness to pursue her passion for science and explore the world beyond the familiar. The rigorous liberal arts education, small classroom sizes, diverse community, and colorful autumns are what drew her to Lafayette College. 

Now a sophomore and a recipient of the 2020 Nalven Summer Scholarship—awarded to two students each year to support their engagement in ecological or environmental research with faculty mentors in the Department of Biology—Pandey is working alongside Daniel Strömbom, assistant professor of biology, to mathematically model the life cycle of the spotted lanternfly and analyze the effectiveness of currently proposed mitigation methods.

“This research will help in controlling the bug’s population in a greater scope by suggesting methods by which the actual impact of the proposed mitigation methods can be assessed, and resources can be effectively allocated to successfully and sustainably manage the population of this fast-growing invasive pest in the U.S.,” Pandey says. “Given the bug has been a source of distress for many, I feel content in knowing this research ties me to the broader community.”

Being her first venture in the field of biology research, the opportunity, Pandey says, has helped her hone her skills in not only science, but also mathematics. “As a biologist, I think that some of us lose touch with science in its most raw form—mathematics,” she explains. “This research experience reminded me of the intricate relationship between the two disciplines.”

After graduating, Pandey plans to employ her learnings in graduate school, and pursue a career as a biology researcher and professor. “It is my fascination with the overall process of learning that motivates my choice,” she says. “I strive to be able to not just understand existing knowledge or at least some part of it, but also synthesize new information that will hopefully benefit my fellow sapiens.”

Read about other STEM Stars.

Categorized in: Academic News, Biology, Innovation and Research, News and Features, STEM, Students

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