Ruchi Shah and Suhani Jalota, two Indian-American women are among Glamour Magazine’s Top 10 College Women of the Year. Each of the go-getting women chosen for their leadership qualities and humanitarian work gets $20,000 in prize money.
Ruchi Shah, a biology major at Stony Brook University, was moved by problems she saw during her visit to India and applied her expertise to create a solution for real-world problems. Shah is CEO of Mosquitoes Be Gone, an all-natural mosquito repellent which could combat disease in third world countries; she has also been recognized by the American Association for Cancer Research for her research on improving cervical cancer diagnoses.
The anti-mosquito product she developed was a result of her trip to India to see her uncle when she was 15. “He was suffering from dengue fever, a disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes. Yet right outside the clinic, people were getting dozens of mosquito bites! So I decided to develop my own bug repellent.”
Once back home, she began by collecting sweat samples from athletes at school — “that wasn’t awkward at all” she quips. She built a test chamber I built in the family garage with supplies from Home Depot, and studied exactly what most attracted the bugs. After hundreds of failed compounds and many bites later, she found the winner. “Mosquitoes Be Gone is the first repellent to neutralize nitrogen-based compounds in sweat. And it’s all-natural,” she is quoted saying in Glamour. She is now at the stage of finalizing safety testing and bottle design, and expects the product on shelves within a year. She currently has a team of nine interns working to bring the repellent to the market, according to a press release from Stony Brook University.
Shah has many other accomplishments to her name. Recognized by the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, Forbes, and the AXA Achievement Award, she has worked in a cancer research lab with a team that discovered a protein that can predict cancer patient survival better than the tools doctors currently have. She was a science writing intern at the National Institutes of Health. The Ronkonkoma, NY resident is also minoring in journalism.
Twenty-one-year-old Suhani Jalota of Duke University and 22-year-old Stony Brook University student Ruchi Shah have found a place in Glamour magazine’s “Top 10 College Women of the Year” list for their leadership qualities and humanitarian work. Each Indian American undergraduate will receive a grand prize of $20,000.
Jalota, an economics and global health major, has been working to reform public health in India’s slums since she was 15. With her winnings she hopes to expand her start-up, Myna Mahila Foundation — which seeks to increase accessibility to menstrual hygiene products and public health infrastructure for economically disadvantaged women in India — to other countries.
She told Glamour magazine: “In India, where I grew up, menstruation is considered impure, and even saying the word period is taboo. It’s hard to imagine. I wanted to chip away at that stigma, but how do you change something people aren’t even willing to talk about?”