UCI Student Earns Prestigious Key into Public Service Scholarship

The Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, the UCI Scholarship Opportunities Program, and the UCI chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society are pleased to announce that third-year student Karishma Muthukumar has been named a 2021 Key into Public Service Scholar!

With over 800 applicants, Muthukumar is one of just 20 students selected by The Phi Beta Kappa Society to receive a $5,000 undergraduate scholarship and take part in a virtual event in late June to provide them with training, mentoring, and opportunities to reflect on pathways into active citizenship. 

About The Phi Beta Kappa Society and the Key into Public Service Scholarship

Founded on December 5, 1776, The Phi Beta Kappa Society is the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society. It has chapters at 290 colleges and universities in the United States, nearly 50 alumni associations, and more than half a million members worldwide. Noteworthy members include 17 U.S. Presidents, 41 U.S. Supreme Court Justices and more than 140 Nobel Laureates. The mission of The Phi Beta Kappa Society is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, foster freedom of thought, and recognize academic excellence. 

The Key into Public Service program was launched in 2020 to recognize students who demonstrate interest in working in the public sector and possess a strong academic record in the arts, humanities, mathematics, natural sciences, and social sciences. Inspired by the many Phi Beta Kappa members who have shaped the course of our nation through local, state, and federal service, the Key into Public Service program highlights specific pathways for liberal arts and science graduates seeking public sector careers. 

Speaking on the announcement of the 2021 Key into Public Service Scholars, Phi Beta Kappa Secretary Frederick M. Lawrence explains:

“The Society selected these exemplary students for their intellectual curiosity; breadth and depth across liberal arts and sciences coursework; positive contributions on and off campus through academic research, internships, and community work; and demonstrated commitment to serve the common good. As the country tackles concurrent health, economic, and social crises, the Society applauds the 2021 Service Scholars for their pursuit of arts and sciences excellence in service of the greater good.” 

About Karishma Muthukumar

Muthukumar is a rising senior majoring in cognitive science and biology. Throughout her three years at UCI, Muthukumar has exemplified her commitment to selfless service and academic excellence through her various campus involvements and awards. In addition to founding The Patient Project and launching a globally available journal of student reflections, she joined an international cohort in 2019 as one of five Dalai Lama Fellows from North America. 

Currently, she partners with senior centers to alleviate elder isolation (particularly in quarantine) and leads the university initiative to promote altruism through handcrafted letters. Muthukumar, who was named Young Innovator to Watch 2018 at CES®, developed one of the top ideas during the National Science Foundation’s open call for future scientific directions. She is a Barnes and Noble College Scholar and a recipient of the Donald A. Strauss Scholarship for Public Service. 

Muthukumar also serves as a peer tutor in organic chemistry, ambassador at the UCI Center for Neurobiology Learning and Memory, and founder of a nonprofit for neuroscience education and outreach. Ultimately, Muthukumar aspires to combine her interests in health and public service towards a meaningful career in healthcare.

Congratulations and Words of Support

After hearing the announcement that Muthukumar had been selected to receive such a prestigious honor, Michael Dennin, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning and Dean of Undergraduate Education, expressed his excitement:

“I’m thrilled to see one of our exceptional students being recognized for all the incredible work that they do. Karishma has been instrumental in so many groundbreaking projects, competitions, and initiatives during her time at UCI, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of the Key into Public Service scholarship.”

Julia Lupton, Professor of English and President of UCI’s Mu Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, also congratulated Karishma:

“Karishma represents the spirit of PBK’s Key Into Public Service Scholarship, and we are delighted to see her being recognized for her myriad service and research projects and the work she does to improve the lives of others. Karishma will undoubtedly continue to make further meaningful contributions to healthcare. We couldn’t be happier for her for being selected for this honor.”

Scholarship Opportunities Program Support

UCI students who are interested in learning about and applying for prestigious merit-based scholarships can receive the support they need from the Scholarship Opportunities Program. From scholarship advising to application help to interview prep, the team at the Scholarship Opportunities Program can help. Visit their website to learn more about their resources and services.