Meet Rahul Mehta, a rising senior from West Chester, Pennsylvania, majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. From a young age, Rahul developed an interest and curiosity about how the world worked, and more specifically how “life” worked. “As a child, I’d ask lots of questions, basic questions, but still a lot. Questions like why is the sky blue, and why is night black?” said Rahul. “My parents would go online or get a book from the library and try to find the best way to explain a complex science phenomenon to a five-year-old.”
As a student in high school, Rahul had the opportunity to take several science-based courses with amazing teachers. Through these courses and with the help of his teachers, Rahul’s science interests gravitated towards biology, and more specifically, the chemistry behind biology. “I remember my ninth-grade biology teacher, he really sparked my interest in biology,” said Rahul. “When he taught certain topics, I’d ask lots of questions and even met with him after class time to dig a bit deeper into the topic being taught.”
As a sophomore, Rahul took a chemistry course taught by another great teacher, who established for him a great foundation in chemistry. “Sometimes I would stay after class and ask him questions about the chemistry related to biology,” said Rahul. “For example, in biology, we learned about hypertonic, hypotonic, and isotonic solutions. I would ask my chemistry teacher questions about the different interactions between these molecules [too hypotonic causes a cell to explode, and too hypertonic causes a cell to shrink and die].”
Rahul decided to attend Penn State as an undergraduate student due to the University’s vast alumni network, dedicated professors, and rich community-oriented environment. In fact, he drew on the alumni network early in his time with Penn State to find his first internship. “It was the summer after my first year had ended, and I went to career services to see if they had a job or internship that I could take over the summer,” said Rahul. “After I talked with [the career services associate] about my interests and future goals, she gave me a business card. This person worked at an orthopedic clinic a few miles away from home,” he said. “She [the career services associate] told me that this person had actually gone to Penn State and left his card to help other students.” That summer Rahul worked as an intern at Premier Orthopedics, where he learned to take a patient's medical history using an Electronic Health Records (EHR) system.
While a student at Penn State Brandywine, Rahul gained experience in the medical field by working at a local hospital as a patient safety assistant. In this role, he sat with mentally unstable and suicidal patients to ensure their well-being. “I made sure that they were safe in their hospital rooms,” he said. “Sometimes I would play games with them or, if needed, help feed them.”
When Rahul is not in the classroom you can find him volunteering with the on-campus organization Lifelink PSU. Lifelink PSU was founded during the 2002 – 2003 academic year and partners with the State College Area School District (SCASD) to serve special education students, engaging them in academic programs and helping them gain independence. Currently the organization has over 500 Penn State student mentors that work with students in their dedicated classroom located in room 304 of the HUB-Robeson Center.
“Having spent my first two years of college at a Brandywine Campus, close to home, I loved volunteering, it gave me something to do, and more importantly, it gave me a way to help my community,” said Rahul. When he transferred to the University Park Campus, he was unsure how and where he could, or would, get involved and volunteer. “It took me a full semester until I found out about Lifelink PSU,” he said. “The pre-dental club had reserved slots so club members could go and volunteer, so I went and absolutely loved the experience.” As a mentor with Lifelink PSU, Rahul has been paired with a SCASD student who graduated this past semester. Although Rahul’s goal was to help his student learn and engage, he says “I learned as much from him as he did from me.”
Rahul’s dedication, not only to his academics but to making a difference in whatever community in which he finds himself, is what sets him apart. His belief in selfless service along with his outlook on volunteering is to be admired. “I think volunteering has taught me to look at everything positive in my life and to live and enjoy the moment, he says. “I think volunteering, in general, is a great way to spend your time. I think everyone should give back to the community that helped them.”