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Graduate Discovers New Calling at UA Little Rock

Anulika Nwashili
Anulika Nwashili

After studying computer science as an undergraduate student in Nigeria, Anulika Nwashili was intrigued by the prospect of participating in the cutting-edge research taking place at the Collaboratorium for Social Media and Online Behavioral Studies (COSMOS) Research Center at UA Little Rock.

“I had heard about COSMOS, and it was such a great opportunity,” she said. “Social computing was a new perspective on an application of computer science. COSMOS research focuses on misinformation, toxicity, and the social media space. I knew I could apply that knowledge to make sure the lives of people on social media are protected. On the other hand, I also heard about the bioinformatics program, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to work with the amazing people in the field.”

In 2022, Nwashili moved to the United States to pursue a Master of Science in Bioinformatics. She graduated during the spring semester with a perfect 4.o GPA at UA Little Rock, where she has experienced much personal growth during her graduate school experience.

“I’ve enjoyed meeting with other international students and people from other parts of the world,” she said. “When it comes to merging schoolwork and research, this has been such a growth process for me. I never thought that I would research these areas. I have grown in terms of work and research and school and building core principles like hard work and resilience.”

As a data research analyst at COSMOS, she has investigated the impact of bots on toxicity in X discussions about the South China Sea as well as analyzed COVID-19 discussions about Uyghur women on X, which led to new insights into the spread of misinformation and hate speech.

As a student researcher in the Center for Molecular Design and Development, Nwashili has been researching novel drug treatments for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Her research aims to develop more effective ALS drugs by modifying existing drug molecules that have proven to be effective in previous research.

Nwashili presented this research at three conferences this spring, and she received the People’s Choice Poster Award after presenting her research at the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Technical Research Exhibition in Atlanta.

“I had a really great experience presenting my research at NSBE,” Nwashili said. “It was my second time presenting at a conference, and it was fun to communicate with different people and share my research in a positive way. We received the People’s Choice Award, which is a huge highlight for me and puts our chapter on the map.”

She credits Dr. Nitin Agarwal, director of COSMOS, Dr. Mary Yang, director of the Bioinformatics program, Dr. Jerry Darsey, director of the Center for Molecular Design and Development, and her fellow students in COSMOS for helping her be successful in obtaining her graduate degree. Now she is excited about taking the next step in her future.

“It feels good to come this far and see this as a milestone,” Nwashili said. “The entire journey of two years here is where the beauty lies. I am so grateful for the journey and how far I’ve come. Graduation is a testament to that journey and everyone who helped me along the way. I am so excited about what the future holds. I know for a fact there are greater things to come, and it can only get better.”

After graduation, Nwashili is looking forward to a career in biotechnology and pharmaceutics.

“I definitely want to contribute to a pharmaceutical company,” she said. “My research in drug discovery is dear to me, and being able to get that industry experience would be great for me.”