Carnegie Mellon University
May 20, 2022

Physics’ Tanvi Jakkampudi Receives Fugassi and Monteverde Award

By Kirsten Heuring

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS
  • 412-268-9982

Tanvi Jakkampudi, a 2022 graduate from the Department of Physics, has received the Dr. J. Paul Fugassi and Linda Monteverde Award. The award goes to a graduating female senior in the Mellon College of Science who has the greatest academic achievement and professional promise.

Jakkampudi entered Carnegie Mellon University intending to be a biological sciences major. However, after she took an introductory physics course taught by Manfred Paulini, professor of physics and associate dean for faculty and graduate affairs, in her first year, she realized she could explore both physics and biology.

“I was looking for a way to mesh these two interests of physics and life sciences together, and I didn't really know what that looked like at the time,” said Jakkampudi. “I came across Dr. Tristram-Nagle’s lab, where she and her students study membrane biophysics. I'm thankful that she has developed my interest in immunology research since my sophomore year.”

After Jakkampudi began working with Tristram-Nagle, research professor emerita of physics and a highly regarded membrane biophysicist, she began studying antimicrobial peptides. Peptides are short regions of proteins, and the peptides that Jakkampudi analyzed target multidrug-resistant bacteria, which do not respond well to currently available antibiotic treatments.

“The ultimate goal of our research is to alleviate the global health problem that has been caused by multidrug-resistant bacteria,” said Jakkampudi. “We're trying to see if we can one day clinically use antimicrobial peptides in place of antibiotics, as bacteria do not develop resistance to antimicrobial peptides as quickly.”

Jakkampudi will be the first author on an upcoming research paper. She has also presented her work at CMU, the University of Pittsburgh, Cornell University and the Annual Biophysical Society Meeting in San Francisco. At CMU, she won first place in the Sigma Xi research poster competition as a part of the Meeting of the Minds symposium. 

Since the first semester of her sophomore year, Jakkampudi has served as a teaching assistant for the same introductory class that led her to physics. As a TA, she has made physics more connected to biological sciences and chemistry for students who take the course.

“I think one challenge in learning physics as a biology or chemistry student is the way that introductory classes are taught,” said Jakkampudi. “I draw parallels between physics, chemistry and biology, so that it is easier to grasp. It’s the same information being taught in a slightly more quantitative or mathematical way.”

One of Jakkampudi’s proudest accomplishments is her work as a cofounder of Health Hub, a nonprofit organization that connects poor and underserved communities with free access to health care. She originally created the nonprofit in high school to serve communities in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area. However, the group has since expanded to serve communities in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. They have provided health services to over 500 people in the past five years.

“It’s been a rewarding experience to see the impact that a single one-on-one physician consultation can have on someone who's been waiting to see a doctor for many years,” said Jakkampudi.

After graduation, Jakkampudi will travel to Germany where she will continue her work with antimicrobial peptides. Afterward, she plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. program where she can continue her research endeavors and learn how to serve her communities as a physician.

“It’s a huge honor to receive this award,” said Jakkampudi. “I’m glad I’ve been able to make an impact on campus and in the communities around me, and I feel that have made the most of my time at CMU.”