Grad Student with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Excels! Kavita’s Story

It’s a new year and it’s a great time to remind yourself of what you can and will do.  Now is a great time to dismiss the “I can’t” thoughts and to be motivated by a plan that includes several definitive “I will” statements. To increase your level of motivation, please take a minute to meet someone who excels against odds and really exemplifies the “I can” spirit.  Meet Kavita.  Kavita Krishnaswamy is one of UMBC’s NSF LSAMP Bridge to the Doctorate Fellows.  She is a 2nd year graduate student in the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering and she has an “I can” and an “I will” attitude.  Kavita, a student with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA),  can no longer physically attend classes and can only type with one finger.  Last year, with the help of her Mom and her wheelchair, Kavita was able to come to campus and attend classes and our meetings. This year, she is only able to continue her studies and classes via Skype from home.  But even from home,  Kavita continues to maintain the highest grades … a 4.0 GPA while working on her research.  Kavita’s research on “Path Planning of a Robotic Arm in Real-Time” was recently accepted for presentation at a local conference in DC.  (Kavita’s advisor is Dr. Tim Oates. )

When she graduated with her undergraduate degree from UMBC in 2007, the following article was written about her in the UMBC Insights Newsletter (, July 20, 2007):

Kavita Krishnaswamy ’07, Muddappa Gowda, Mathematics, in the Catonsville Times
Summa cum laude Kavita Krishnaswamy ’07, computer science and mathematics, was profiled in the July 18 Catonsville Times. Krishnaswamy was born with spinal muscular atrophy and is only able move the index finger of her right hand.

Despite the obstacles she faces, Krishnaswamy graduated with a 4.0 GPA. Muddappa Gowda, professor of mathematics, lauded her “tenacity and her determination” in the article and described Krishnaswamy as “a role model for me.”


So in 2011, before you say I can’t,  remember Kavita’s story and be inspired as she works on her graduate degree, one keystroke at a time. Be inspired and know that she is doing it, and you can do it too!

Read other articles about Kavita’s triumphs!

Please share this story. Kavita reads this blog, so feel free to send her a message. I’m sure that she would appreciate hearing from you!

9 replies »

  1. You’re welcome Kavita! It was my pleasure to post just a little bit of your story. You inspire so many already, but I wanted others to know about you as well.


  2. Thanks for the encouragement. It is easy to let past failures dictate future actions. We should remember that past successes should drive our future actions. The story, and the student, is motivating. Happy New Year to you, Dr. Tull.


  3. Kavita – Since the first day I met you, I have known what a gift to this world you are…and you continue to show that. I am very proud of you and proud of your mom as well for being such a big part of it. Let’s get together soon. Much love to you and your family, Robbie


  4. your a great inspiration kavi, your true winner off all odds 🙂 sailing the same boat I know what it takes to have a smile in the face.


  5. I’m amazed at how you have done more with your right index finger than most people I know that have full physical ability! You go girl! You are AMAZING!


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