A 2022 University of Maryland alum who devoted much of his undergraduate career to research in cardiovascular aging, public service and leadership is one of 12 individuals named to the George J. Mitchell Scholars Class of 2024.
Bioengineering major Neelesh “Neel” Mupparapu, along with his fellow Mitchell Scholarship winners, was awarded a year of graduate study in Ireland. He will pursue a master’s degree in public health at University College Cork (UCC) and later attend medical school with the goal of addressing global health challenges, particularly health inequity and disparities.
Mupparapu is the fourth Mitchell Scholar from UMD since the program’s founding in 1999 and the first from the A. James Clark School of Engineering. Created by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance and named in honor of former U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell’s contributions to the Northern Ireland peace process, it is one of the country’s most prestigious postgraduate awards.
Mupparapu said he was “thrilled and honored” for the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of Irish culture as well as the differences between Western European health care systems and those of India and the United States.
“Through personal experiences and my bioengineering coursework, I noticed that policies and systemic barriers often prevent universal access to care,” he said. “I think my time at UCC will also allow me to see how the sociopolitical climate and the consequences of Brexit impact public health. For bioengineers and medical doctors alike, it is critical to understand how the underlying cultural, social and economic contexts shape public health issues. In this way, the Mitchell Scholarship opportunity will further provide me with a new and invaluable perspective that will forever shape my life moving forward.”
Clark School Dean Samuel Graham, Jr. called the scholarship a testament to Mupparapu’s academic achievements, leadership and service to others.
“Health care is shaped by so many factors beyond the techniques and technologies used at the point of care,” he said. “Public health awareness, socioeconomic barriers, policy and cultural influences all come into play and must be understood to deliver effective health care in any society. Even at an early stage of his career, Neel has demonstrated how important it is for engineers to work alongside scientists, public health experts, clinicians and the community to address these factors.”
A Banneker/Key Scholarship recipient and volunteer with the Johns Hopkins Senior Citizen Department and the Esperanza Clinical Center, Mupparapu spent much of his undergraduate studies investigating the molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular aging. His primary focus centered on Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, a rare childhood genetic condition that essentially takes on the characteristics of premature aging, most often leading to heart problems or strokes.
The Reisterstown, Md., native began pursuing his science education with the Academy of Health Professionals Magnet Program at Eastern Technical High School in Baltimore County. At UMD, Mupparapu studied at the nexus of bioengineering and cell biology, working in Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics Associate Professor Kan Cao’s lab while drawing research inspiration from courses taught by bioengineering Professor Alisa Clyne and Associate Professor Kimberly Stroka.
"I know I can speak for the entire Fischell Department of Bioengineering when I say that we are tremendously proud of Neel for his extraordinary achievements," said Fischell Family Distinguished Professor and bioengineering Chair John P. Fisher. "His tireless dedication to addressing gaps in human health care—as well as his compassion and empathy for others—is heartening for all of us working in this field. Having served as a vice president of our Biomedical Engineering Society chapter, as an Eagle Scout and in many other leadership positions, Neel has demonstrated how much of his success is driven by his goal to help others."
Mupparapu said he is grateful for the support and encouragement he received from UMD faculty and staff throughout the rigorous application and interview process, including history Professor and adviser for UK/Ireland fellowships Richard Bell, National Scholarships Office Director Francis DuVinage and Reed-Yorke Health Professions Advising Office Director Wendy Loughlin. Mupparapu was also inspired by Fisher as well as electrical and computer engineering Professor Patrick O’Shea. Both have family and collaborative roots in Ireland, and O’Shea served as UCC president from 2017-20 before returning to UMD.