Neha Paras

The Intersection Between Health and Technology

Neha Paras '25

"I promise there are a ton of things to do in the Bethlehem area! The SteelStacks hosts lots of events especially during the fall and holiday season–I went ice skating outdoors right before finals week and the whole area was lit up with decorations! There’s also plenty of options for dining on the North side and activities like rollerblading or theme parks within 20 minutes as well!"

Q: How has Lehigh prepared you to take on tomorrow’s challenges?

A: Within my first two years at Lehigh, I’ve developed a set of core skills that will stay with me beyond my college years. First and foremost, I have learned how to set goals for myself and how to keep myself accountable for those goals. College gives you the freedom to be on your own, and unlocking a sense of self-awareness and direction was life changing for me. I found out how to prioritize, more importantly, how to begin saying no. I tend to take on a lot of commitments with the excitement of trying something new, but everyone has the same 24 hours in their day and trying to squeeze everything in was not sustainable for me. I’ve been learning how to put my energy in the places that mean the most to me, and even though it can feel difficult to refuse an opportunity, I feel much more confident investing in my interests as opposed to spreading myself too thin.

Q: What drew you to a major in Population Health? Can you tell us about your experience in COH so far?

A: One of the defining factors in my decision to go to Lehigh was the chance to help design my own major–I recognized that the College of Health was just being built from the ground up, and while that can be scary in terms of a lack of structure, I saw it more as a opportunity to help craft a curriculum and build a program that suits the needs of future students like me! As someone who has always loved leadership, the idea of having valued input was more than enough to draw me to the population health major. I attended a Strategic Planning Conference for the College of Health my freshman year, where I was able to represent student input among the Dean’s Board and various faculty members from all colleges within Lehigh. I love being able to offer feedback about my experiences, and it’s been magical seeing how much change the College of Health has already endured in such a short time!

I specifically chose the population health major itself because I was interested in uncovering how lifestyle behaviors or demographics could make certain groups more susceptible to particular diseases. It fascinates me how different dimensions of health like social, political, or environmental factors can have such a drastic impact on health outcomes. After taking a couple classes with the kind-hearted COH faculty, I have found that I enjoy learning about this best through data modeling.

Q: Do you have any advice for students starting their college search?

A: I would encourage students to really consider the size of the school you would like to attend and the type of setting you would like to be in. Typically, for students more interested in research opportunities, a smaller or medium sized school could be good. I know I initially thought that 5000 undergraduate students would feel small to me, but I found that I enjoy the comfort of passing familiar faces on my walk to class even if I don’t personally know the people. I also originally was nervous about Bethlehem being sort of farther away from bigger cities, but there are plenty of things to do if you look around! Lehigh offers transportation to the closest mall and sometimes even to Philadelphia on certain weekends, so it can be nice especially for those who don’t have cars on campus.

Q: What classroom or extracurricular activity at Lehigh helped you determine what you want to pursue in the future?

A: Fall of my sophomore year, a couple students within the tight-knit College of Health banded together to help one of our fellow students carry out an idea for a research project– the goal was to create a Social Determinants of Health Index for the Bethlehem/Allentown area to better represent how different factors can play into the rates for certain infectious diseases. I saw this project not only as a valuable experience to help teach me the intricacies of working with data, but also as an opportunity to test if my interests here could translate into a future career working in health data analytics. Learning about the need for clean data coupled with my different programming classes helped me hone in on my interest in the intersection between health and technology.

Q: What has been your biggest passion project thus far over your college career?

As a very involved member of the South Asian Student Association, I was thrilled to be asked to serve as one of the emcees for our annual Diwali celebration. Diwali is known as the festival of lights, and is best celebrated with a group of people. SASA booked out the Zoellner Theatre to put on our show, full of different singing, dancing, and acting performances from the Lehigh community and our local Bethlehem area as well! As emcee, I was able to take creative liberties when preparing my lines and worked in a little impromptu dance skit with my friend to keep the crowd engaged. I truly enjoyed being myself up on the stage, feeling especially comforted knowing that I was being supported by friends and family in the audience right in front of me!

Q: What is your favorite thing about Lehigh?

A: Definitely the students and their eagerness to be involved! I like to surround myself with like-minded people who are actively following their passions, both with academics and extracurriculars. Everyone’s got something special that they dedicate time and energy to, and it is such an amazing feeling to hear all about what everyone does at Lehigh!

Q: Where is your study spot of choice on campus?

A: You can always find me soaking up the sun right by the entrance of the HST building, the booths next to the big glass window are super comfy! I love to study there so that I can look around when I need a quick break, and I can always grab a drink from Saxby’s right nearby.


Next Profile:

The Prepared Graduate

Major: Computer Science and Business
Hometown: Almaty, Kazakhstan