In 2019, she participated in the inaugural UCI Brain Summer Camp as a rising 9th grader, an experience she says marks the beginning of her fascination with the brain, behavior, and the process of scientific discovery. It didn’t take long for her to realize that there were few opportunities for her to continue to engage with neuroscience as a high schooler, even before the COVID-19 pandemic brought all in-person activities to a halt. 

Nikhita Kaushik as an 8th grader in UCI Brain Camp

During the summer of 2020, after months of virtual school and isolation, Nikhita decided to build a community from her bedroom. Working with CNLM Director of Outreach and Education Manuella Oliveira Yassa, Nikhita built the foundation for what would become the Southern California Youth Neuroscience Association (SCYNA) – a platform for high school students to learn, actively participate in, and grow as aspiring neuroscientists. As its Founding President, Nikhita spent her high school years growing SCYNA from an idea to an organization that engages over 200 Southern California teens in neuroscience. Read more about the birth of SCYNA here

Last summer, Nikhita was selected to participate in the Irvine Summer Institute in Neuroscience, where she was funded by the National Science Foundation to conduct research with Dr. Elizabeth Chrastil in the UCI Spatial Neuroscience Lab. The experience only strengthened her passion for neuroscience research and her drive to pursue a PhD. She has presented posters at the Society for Neuroscience Annual Conference and the International Conference on Learning and Memory about her neuroscience research as well as her outreach and education efforts. 

Nikhita Kaushik presenting her research at the 2023 International Conference on Learning and Memory

In 2021, Nikhita was named by OC Magazine as one of 21 Gen Z Locals to Watch. In 2022, she received an award from the UCI Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory for her work creating a neuroscience community for Southern California high school students. 

Nikhita’s goal in creating SCYNA was to build a community that would live beyond her own years in high school and she has done just that. This summer, SCYNA will welcome new leadership as Nikhita moves to an advisory role as a SCYNA alumna. 

Nikhita was faced with a tough challenge in deciding between UC Berkeley and UC Irvine to pursue her undergraduate studies after graduating from Arnold A. Beckman High School. We are thrilled and proud to welcome her to the UCI Anteater community as an undergraduate student this Fall, where she will study Cognitive Sciences. We think she made the right choice. Welcome to UCI, Nikhita!

Nikhita Kaushik celebrates her acceptance to UCI at the Celebrate UCI event.