International Students Join Biology Program

February 19, 2010

International Students Join Biology Program

VALDOSTA -- The Department of Biology Master of Science degree program accepted its first international students this spring. Arjun Adhikari and Heera Malik have provided the department with sociocultural perspectives and knowledge of habitats unique to India.

Dr. Michael Smith, professor of limnology and invertebrate zoology, said the program of 22 students is fortunate to have gained the global perspectives of such talented students, who earned undergraduate degrees from India’s oldest and most prestigious agriculture and technology university -- Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology.

"International students diversify the program. Arjun and Heera have knowledge of different habitats, specific flora/fauna, and environmental systems that can be imparted to our graduate students,” Smith said. “Additionally, Indian curriculum is very rigorous; thus, students are expected to have a strong dedication to studies, well-developed work ethic, ability to work independently, and must exhibit exceptional performance.”

Adhikari and Malik are engaged in fresh water ecology research, specifically studying the ecosystem of invertebrates that live in the sediment of streams and lakes. The pair also teaches introductory biology courses to excite undergraduates about the living world.

"My batchmate (colloquialism used in India for fellow undergrad student in the same year of study), Heera, and I had read a few research articles published (in scientific journals) by some professors in the Department of Biology at Valdosta State University,” Adhikari said. “About a year before I applied, I viewed the VSU and biology Web sites for courses offered and other faculty in the department with research interests in freshwater systems. I looked at other universities also, finding the master’s program in biology at VSU best for me."

The Master of Biology, which began in 2005, offers students a personalized educational setting for students to participate in a variety of research and scholarship opportunities often not as accessible at larger institutions. Smith said that for Adhikari and Malik, the region’s more than 450 families of Indian descent have come together to interact with the students and help ease their transition to life in the United States.

For more information about the master’s program or graduate research studies in biology, e-mail Smith at or call him at 229-333-7175.