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International student excels: Ph.D canidate balances bioengineering research, multiculturalism, mentoring

Photo contributed by Komal Singh

Graduate student Astha Khanna balances a resume full of bioengineering research and leadership roles.

“We were not born to stop,” graduate student Astha Khanna said. “We were born to go. To keep going.”
As a bioengineer in in pursuit of her Ph.D., there is no one who lives by her philosophy more than Khanna herself: she is constantly moving.
The New Delhi-native has balanced her time with a schedule full of positions and achievements, ranging from subjects centered on bioengineering, to multicultural awareness, to mentorship: and she does each one of them for the love of knowledge.
“I like to involve myself in as much work as I can endure, but it helps me keep a wider perspective. I do not want to have a limited knowledge of things. I want to keep widening my knowledge … I’m a very ambitious person by nature.”
One of Khanna’s many ambitions lies within her own research, which revolves around a new medical approach to patients with high-cholesterol: her goal is to design coatings created from human serum albumin — a natural blood protein found in humans. The idea would be to coat medical devices in order to avoid a high inflammation response, or rejection, from the implantation.
“We want to make it as biocompatible as we can so that the body thinks that it is itself …. and not foreign.”
The work has been published in several conference proceedings, including the Biomedical Engineering conference proceedings and the Society for Biomaterial conference proceedings. 
“I’m really looking forward to the results of this project….because so far it has been so promising and my advisor and my committee has been very happy with the results.”
But in addition to doing her Ph.D. work, which Khanna claims is a “full-time job,” she is also involved in multiple organizations on campus. 
As the president of the International Student Association (ISA) at Clemson, Khanna leads a team of four officers and four advisors (Clemson university employees) which organize student dialogue sessions to communicate with international students about their academic and professional concerns and needs. She meets with representatives from the Lucinda and Harvey Gantt Multicultural Center every week, in which both organizations discuss the importance of “bringing different people to together.”
“So basically the mission of [The Gantt Center] is to spread multicultural awareness. And that aligns with the work that we do [at the International Student Association] as well …. there are great benefits of living in an area in which there is diversity: you can always learn something by talking with different people about different cultures, and there is a lot of diversity in Clemson.”
Khanna is also the Vice President of the Clemson Bioengineering Society and the Professional Outreach Chair for the Society for Women Engineers (SWE).
But perhaps more than her mounting activism in the university, Khanna loves to teach. She has mentored undergraduates in the department of bioengineering and she is an active advisor in the Clemson Bioengineering Society (CBS) and the Undergraduate Bioengineering Society (USBS). 
“I feel that every student should benefit from the mentoring process,” Khanna said. “I see myself working in the industry for a long time, but maybe eventually in the university as a professor.”
This year, Khanna was nominated for the Outstanding Women Awards in Clemson.
She also noted that President Dr. Clements and Robert Jones, the Executive Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Provost of Clemson University, had expressed strong interest in her working as a part of the Clemson Forward 2020 committee from Fall 2016 for the execution of the Clemson Forward goals. 
Khanna says she is prepared and excited for her future. She will graduate next year. 
“I feel like it’s about courage. I think I’m ready to graduate. I feel like I have gained a lot of knowledge in my field …. and I feel confident in the knowledge that I have gained.” 
Khanna added, “I just love learning …. and I can’t wait to learn more.”

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