Ishira Parikh is a recipient of a Fellowship from the Marcy Migdal Fund for Educational Equality. The award supports exceptional students engaged in activities aimed at enhancing access to education for vulnerable students, either locally or throughout the world, and helping them succeed in their education. Click here to learn more about the Marcy Migdal Fund.
Ishira is a rising senior pursuing a double degree in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology; and Disability Studies. Her project consists of an interactive, universally-accessible synthetic biology curriculum with activities specifically adapted for students with visual impairments to promote inclusive education.
Despite growing up in the greater Seattle area, Ishira was astonished to learn about the huge local educational inequity gaps as a first-year undergraduate student. As the Outreach Lead of UW’s only undergraduate-led synthetic biology research team WA iGEM at the time, she started a project to develop a curriculum with hands-on activities broadly related to synthetic biology. Hands-on activities foster better learning, but students at underserved schools and students with disabilities often do not have access to interactive curriculum. Consequently, Ishira visited underserved schools both locally and internationally to conduct these activities and refine them to make them more engaging for students.
Ishira’s curriculum is now over 250 pages long. Its activities have been translated into over 16 different languages, and have been implemented in five countries encompassing three different continents around the world. In 2019, due to her work on the curriculum, she led WA iGEM to the Best Education and Public Engagement Award at the iGEM global competition. She then went on to found Synbio for Everyone, which is an RSO and pending nonprofit that works to promote educational equity both locally and internationally by developing curriculum, conducting outreach events, and running mentorship programs for students K-12.
Currently, Ishira is finishing up improving accessibility of activities for the visually impaired and will subsequently publish the curriculum as a part of her nonprofit pursuit Synbio for Everyone. She will then use the funding from the Marcy Midgal Scholarship to give free copies of the curriculum to underserved groups, specifically targeting underserved schools and people with disabilities.