Growing up in Chennai (formerly Madras), a coastal city in southeastern India, Bala Selvakumar was exposed to many cultures. He initially travelled to the United States to pursue doctoral research. After receiving his PhD in Cell Biology from Duke University, he then completed a research fellowship in Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University where he worked as Research Associate until his decision to become an independent researcher and teacher. He now calls the USA home, finding comfort in its diversity. Bala will be joining our Upper School staff this fall, using his expertise and background to guide our oldest learners to be passionate STEM students.
Childhood summers: family farm, about an hour-drive from Chennai
Working together: locals at the family farm cleaning freshly caught river crabs for lunch
Q: What would be your dream elective to teach?
A: For the last four years I have been teaching my “dream” elective, Human Interaction and Gastronomy. The course explores how food influences human interaction across the world; cross-listed under the science and humanities departments, it draws from primary research in neuroscience and behavioral biology for one semester and history, arts and literature in the second semester to explore the same question.
Q: What has been a favorite project you have completed with students?
A: A recent student-generated project completed over a period of six-weeks from the Human Interaction and Gastronomy course comes to mind: the project was designed to survey other students, especially those with an interest in arts, to smell fruits like lemons and watermelons and then paint what images they recall and emotions they experience. The painted images and comments of the survey participants - for instance, the flavor of lemons represented as a burst of fireworks in yellow and green or the flavor of watermelons and ice associated with memories of waterfalls and friends - were presented in the context of current evidence that connects the sense of smell to memory recall, mood and behavior.
Q: What are your hobbies and interests?
A: To plan, source and prepare meals for different people and occasions; to eat food from different cultures; to experience social interaction in the context of a meal and market; to research the relationship between food and human interaction and to blog about it.
Returning from a Spring strawberry picking in Delaplane, Virginia
The Normandy Coast
My childhood fascination with the way French sounded lead to my interest in French gastronomy and movies; I happily delayed saving for a house in exchange for a long trip through France that in turn lead me to attend a gastronomy program in France the next year. And my fascination with Italian movies and gastronomy as a graduate student lead me to learn Italian with my wife, one of our first post-wedding indulgences, while we dreamed of visiting the country someday.
Bala Selvakumar is just one of our faculty members passionate about igniting global education in the lives of our students. Keep an eye out for more opportunities to get to know our teachers, or attend one of our upcoming events to meet our team and learn more about our mission.