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2015 Woman of the Year finalist: Supriya Davis

The Swarthmore swimmer is taking her smarts – and her sport – to India to give back

The traffic never completely stops in New Delhi, so Supriya Davis quickly had to learn how to weave through the gaps between moving cars when crossing the street. It’s fortunate, then, that the accomplished student and swimmer already knew how to navigate challenges far more complex.

Davis learned she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship shortly before graduating in May from Swarthmore College with degrees in chemistry and computer science. So, in August, she used the scholarship to move to India, where she will spend nine months researching tuberculosis, hoping to find a simple, fast and non-invasive way to diagnose this global disease.

Davis, 21, has been interested in medicine and research since her childhood. Both of her parents are biomedical researchers, and she sometimes helped her mother with experiments in the lab. Throughout middle and high school, she participated in Science Olympiad and other events so she could learn about geology, biology, chemistry and engineering.

“I have always been curious about the world and have loved opportunities in school and camps to explore it through science,” Davis said. “In the end, though, I found that I was most passionate about medical sciences, and through volunteering in hospitals and interacting with patients, I knew I wanted to pursue medicine as a career.”

Pursuing her interest in New Delhi ties together both her passion for medical research and her heritage. Her mother hails from India, and Davis visited relatives there as a child. Her medical expertise isn’t the only thing she brought to her mother’s native country: The two-time All-American hopes to share her love of swimming, as she did throughout high school and college, as a volunteer for the Special Olympics and other groups.

“I love being in the water,” Davis said, “and love it even more when I can help others enjoy swimming, too – whether it’s by teaching them to swim by themselves or helping them with technique.”