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Priyadharshany Sandanapitchai

Research Associate, Rutgers University

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Believe in yourself. Challenge. Commit. Never give up.

WHAT DO YOU DO?

My work focuses on the intersection of HIV-related outcomes and mental health among sexual, gender and racial minorities. It examines the impact of mobile health interventions, mental health, healthcare professionals’ competencies around sexual health, substance use and stigma-related barriers to HIV prevention and treatment.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

Growing up as an ethnic minority in Sri Lanka at the time of civil war, I witnessed the detrimental effects of the war on victims, their families, and the community. Drastic increases in mental health issues were rampant among youth, yet under-addressed due to cultural stigma around mental health. Pursuing psychology courses helped me understand the significance of breaking this stigma and increasing awareness of mental illness.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"

As a first-generation college student, the opportunity to do my graduate studies in the US was an important milestone. In addition, receiving the 'Excellence in Graduate Studies Award' from the Department of Psychology was an unexpected reward- that I wish younger me would have known this was possible with hard work and commitment.

WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?

Working in STEM triggers my curiosity every day. What's next? What should be done? How will it benefit? These are some of the questions that keep pushing me forward and challenge my views to think critically and creatively! I look forward to learning new skills, experimenting with innovative ideas and making a positive impact!

BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?

Believe in yourself. Challenge. Commit. Never Give up.

INSPO / FUN FACT

"Success isn't about how much money you make, it's about the difference you make in people's lives." - Michelle Obama