Senior Kaamya Varagur wins Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Tuesday, Feb 20, 2018

Kaamya Varagur

Kaamya Varagur, of Edison, New Jersey, is a neuroscience major who is pursuing a certificate in vocal performance. She will study for a Master of Philosophy in Music Studies at the University of Cambridge Centre for Music and Science. Her research will examine the reciprocal effects of infant-directed singing on mother and child, looking at how lullaby singing modulates physiological arousal/stress.

Varagur plans to become a pediatric neurosurgeon and a community health professional involved with the music and medicine movement.

“I hope to better understand the effects of music on the brain, not only within the popular music and medicine narrative of the therapeutic value of music during the illness state, but also examining the effects of music on the healthy, developing brain; the value, for mothers, of singing to their infants; and the benefits of bringing music enrichment to underserved communities,” she said.

Varagur is conducting independent research about the influence of musical tempo changes on the physiological state of marmosets in the Developmental Neuromechanics and Communication Lab under the direction of Asif Ghazanfar, professor of psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute.

She worked as a summer researcher at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, where she evaluated outcomes from the Lullaby Project, which provides songwriting resources to mothers and babies in underserved areas. Previously, she conducted independent brain research at the National Institutes of Health in the lab of Avindra Nath, clinical director for neurological disorders, and also in the lab of Michael Graziano, professor of psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute.

A member of Wilson College, Varagur received the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence in 2015. She is a member of Princeton University’s Glee Club and Chamber Choir. She previously served as music director of Tigressions a capella group, and is committee chair of Women in Medicine. Varagur is a tutor in organic chemistry and biology at the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning. She also is a musician volunteer with Ascend Hospice Care.

“Among the many students I’ve worked with here at Princeton or anywhere else, and whose potential for research careers and leadership I must often assess, Kaamya is likely to turn out to be among the very best,” Ghazanfar said. “What impresses me most is her very high drive to think things through and really get moving on projects. For sure, part of this drive is that Kaamya wants to pursue many paths and time is finite; in Kaamya’s case the many paths converge at the intersection of child development, neuroscience and music. I’m excited to see what she’ll discover.”