by Emily Graham, ’22 (CLAS)
Narayani Ballambat ’22 (CLAS), a senior who is double majoring in Physiology & Neurobiology (PNB) and English, was recently awarded an IDEA Grant for her project, “Lust in Music: Addressing the Double Standards of Sexually Motivated Music in the 21st Century.” The English Department interviewed Narayani to congratulate her, learn more about her project, and discuss the intellectual intersections found amongst her courses in PNB and English.
EG: Why did you choose University of Connecticut?
NB: I chose the University of Connecticut mainly because I was accepted into the Honors Program my freshman year, and I wanted to be part of a smaller community within a larger community; that definitely influenced my decision.
I think that the other reason I chose this university was because of my majors; I applied to other colleges that had programs in neuroscience, but I wanted something that was a bit more exploratory in terms of its related subjects. PNB is like that here.
EG: Why did you choose to double major in two subjects that seem unrelated to one another?
NB: That’s a good question. Personally, I’ve always been an avid reader and writer, and I quickly discovered in PNB that I am extremely interested in scientific communications — things like effectively communicating research findings. I think that’s what drove me to pick English; I wanted to work on my writing skills and communicate effectively both personally and within the scientific community.
EG: What is an IDEA Grant?
NB: The IDEA Grant is essentially what the name says; it’s a grant which stems from a student’s idea, and it’s very broad in terms of what you can pursue. It doesn’t have to be the typical scientific research. You come up with a proposal, and if your proposal is approved, you begin the year-long process with an advisor.
EG: With your grant, what are you planning to do and/or study?
NB: I’m interested in Gender Studies, specifically in the science field. There are still many gender gaps that show women aren’t often respected in science, which is unfortunate.
Last fall, I took a Latine Literature course, and we talked about radical feminists and a woman’s sexual identity; a specific point stood out to me that, while men are encouraged and celebrated when open about their sexual history, women are neither expected to like or talk about sex.
So that inspired me to look into music since a lot of female artists have been recently releasing “scandalous” music, and I’ve seen gaps in the discussion there. Men can freely talk about sex in their music, but female artists get called “sluts” and “whores” when they do so. I’m researching that gap by talking to students and faculty here, asking their opinions on the disparity between what male artists can, and what female artists cannot, discuss in their music.
EG: What motivated you to apply for the grant?
NB: I first heard about the grant my freshman year at the Involvement Fair, and I liked how the grant could combine my interest in research writing with an engagement between people that I may not have known otherwise. So I applied since I wanted to take an opportunity to push myself, as I don’t often take risks like this.
A lot of people have asked me why I chose a grant related to English when there is so much that I could’ve studied with PNB, and I think that the tendency to associate a grant with science is the exact reason why I chose to research something geared towards the humanities. I wanted to try something new and something that I’ve never heard anyone else do before.
EG: What are your plans after completing your undergraduate education?
NB: I am probably going to take a gap year, getting my CNA (certified nursing assistant) certification. I plan on applying to medical school after that gap year. And then hopefully, I’ll be a doctor, preferably neurology, but I know that those plans often change.
EG: Why should you study English, and why should it be at the University of Connecticut?
NB: I think that people should study English because it exposes you to a lot of different cultures, opinions, and backgrounds that you wouldn’t necessarily hear outside of the classroom. I’m a big supporter of having this worldly type of knowledge; it’s valuable to know and understand people’s histories, where they might’ve come from, and what they might’ve grown up in. English is crucial for that because literature and writing enriches those histories, and it’s not something that you can get elsewhere.
You should study English here because it’s fun. It’s fun to read, learn about other people, and have the opportunity to learn about different worlds that you will never get to experience. Studying English is an adventure in itself, since you take yourself out of your usual world or reality and find yourself in a new one.
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about or applying for an IDEA Grant, please visit https://ugradresearch.uconn.edu/idea/. The application for Summer 2022 funding will open this October, and it must be submitted by December 10, 2021.