Dean’s Scholar Melds Leadership Position with Two Majors


Rathi Kannan, a Dean’s Scholars biology and computer science senior, isn’t afraid of a challenge. Actually she welcomes them. After wanting more out of her education, she added computer science as a second major.

She has studied abroad in Spain and performed research here in the College of Natural Sciences. She is also serving on the Dean’s Scholars council as the elected Dean’s Scholars Chair.

I chatted with Kannan to learn about her research, her leadership experiences and how her two degrees meld.

So why did you decide to come to the College of Natural Sciences all those years ago?

Honestly, the Dean’s Scholars program is one of the main reasons I came to UT. I applied to the program and then came to a weekend at UT to learn more about it. I immediately fell in love. It was what I imagined college would be like. It’s everything I want a college to be.

What is the best part of Dean’s Scholars?

If you meet someone who is also a Dean’s Scholar you immediately know you will get along. It’s like you knew them all along. It is just a great way to make friends, study groups and connections.

So you did a study abroad program. How was that experience?

I did the evolution program in Spain. It is hard to explain my abroad experience to someone who hasn’t done it. Studying abroad was a remarkable experience that I will never forget. Hands down, if you have the opportunity to do it you should!

What spurred you to add computer science as a second major?

Starting my sophomore year I didn’t feel as if I was being challenged. I took a computational biology class, which is very accessible to biology majors, and knew I wanted to get more into computer science.

Why do you feel the double major will be valuable?

So much of biology is moving toward new technology on a much larger scale. We can no longer use small data sets. It is so much more valuable to use large amounts of data, and computer science can help us extrapolate unparalleled amounts of information.

Do you find yourself studying differently for the two majors?

It is really interesting how basic things such as studying are different between the two majors. My learning in biology is so much more passive, while in computer science it is active and I learn by doing.

What kind of research are you interested in?

I am really interested in immunology and metabolic diseases. It would be very revealing to look at various people’s genomes and look at how they are predisposed to certain diseases. With high output sequencing you can harvest so much data and use computer science and statistics to dissect that data. Research of that kind is being done already and I find it really fascinating.

Do you find you are different than other computer science majors since you were a biology major first?

I am very different from my peers in CS. They have this thing where they always have to be right. They aren’t afraid to argue with each other or even professors. It is very interesting. I think it’s great. They push me so much. They are a very driven group.

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