Bela looking into microscope
Bela Parekh Tawaco, NJ Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences & Management
Natural Sciences

Bela has always had broad academic interests in healthcare, the natural sciences, and business. At Penn, she selected the Life Sciences and Management Program (LSM) a dual-degree between the College of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton School, to merge her interdisciplinary interests.

In the College, Bela initially started as a Biology major. In her sophomore year with guidance from her advisor, she decided to take a class called: “Introduction to Brain and Behavior,” which is a general overview of how the brain contributes to different aspects of neural processing. This class resonated with Bela, because it addressed the brain through the body, so Bela decided to switch her major to Biological Basis of Behavior.

Knowing that research is at the center of scientific innovations, Bela chose to get involved with neuroscience research at the Smilow Center for Translational Research. She is working on two projects: one focuses on the blood-brain barrier and a new therapy to treat cancer; the other targets new therapies to treat neurodegenerative diseases.


At Wharton, Bela chose to concentrate in Healthcare Management and Policy, which focuses on the study of scholarship, education, and innovative thinking related to the business, management and policy of healthcare services. Gaining exposure to management classes and the core business curriculum helped prepare Bela for her summer internship at McKinsey & Company. During the summer before her senior year, she worked on a pharmaceutical and provider study. This experience provided insight into how to look at medicine beyond a clinical perspective. She also learned how better processes can help to improve quality and outcomes for patients. After Penn, she is planning for a career at the intersection of science and business.

Global Engagement

Bela’s interest in medicine has focused on ophthalmology, and she jumped at the opportunity to travel to Pondicherry, India with the Center for Advanced Study in India (CASI), to work at the Aravind Eye Hospital. Her internship included researching whether the use of a portable optical exam camera at outreach camps would result in more accurate diagnoses of retinal or optic nerve conditions. Bela’s findings concluded that the technology did have a positive impact, and the hospital purchased cameras based on her recommendations. Now people in areas outside the city who can’t travel to the hospital can get the same level of care close to home.


Bringing knowledge to action is a hallmark of Bela’s experience at Penn. For two years, Bela has engaged with the Wharton Small Business Development Center. This center’s mission is to help small entrepreneurial businesses in greater Philadelphia start, grow, and prosper to enhance the education of Wharton students. During Bela’s first year, she participated in the Commercialization Acceleration Program, where she worked as a consultant on ophthalmic technology for an early-stage biotech company. Bela relied on her background in research and science, and her experience with marketing and communications, to be successful in this role. During her second year, Bela worked as a project leader on cancer research with another early-stage biotech company. This leadership role gave Bela an opportunity to manage and direct the project. Through this experience, she saw the intersections where medical knowledge and business acumen merge, and the value that a holistic view can offer life sciences companies at any developmental stage.

Creative and Performing Arts

With a life-long love for dancing, Bela is part of two Indian dance groups, Penn Raas, a South Asian competitive dance team that specializes in Indian folk dance, and Penn Thillana, a classical Indian dance troupe.

Explore interests to see more you can do at Penn
Explore Interests to see where yours could go at Penn.
Show me more about