News & Ideas

Student Spotlight: Sonya Gupta AM ’24

Sonya Gupta smiles at the camera
Courtesy of Sonya Gupta

Sonya Gupta is pursuing a master of arts in regional studies—Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia—at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and was awarded a Radcliffe Engaged Student Grant to fund her project GeoAdvocates (formerly Mapping Chicago). 

As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois Chicago, Gupta started noticing health disparities in the surrounding area, which she learned were indicative of a 30-year life expectancy gap between Chicago communities that were just a few miles apart.

Gupta learned about geographic information systems (GIS) and used her research to further understand the factors contributing to these health disparities. Through this process, she found that learning GIS through traditional channels was often confusing and its potential for interdisciplinary research was impeded by the lack of accessible learning resources.

Gupta and her cofounder created and taught a two-part workshop series, with the goal of equipping workshop participants with tools to help improve their communities. The first part of the workshop series focused on health disparities in Chicago and how they are related to social and environmental factors, and the second part aimed to teach participants about GIS.  

The Radcliffe Engaged Student Grant enabled Gupta to expand the project beyond Chicago and establish partnerships in Boston. She also used the funding to begin developing an online Coursera-style course and to convert her curriculum from ArcGIS, a paid software tool, to QGIS, which is free, in order to make her workshop more accessible to community members. 

Gupta, who wants to be a physician, says working on this project has changed her approach to medicine and inspired her to incorporate social medicine into her current thesis project. 

Sam Zuniga-Levy is a writer at Harvard Radcliffe Institute.

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