Six-year-old Avinash Malaviya’s piano teacher taught him to play by ear.
Malaviya, now a fourth-year ethnomusicology and neuroscience student, recalls walking into his first lesson, his nervousness stifling his normally energetic personality. His teacher was strict, but Malaviya would continue to pursue music for years to come.
When Malaviya arrived at UCLA, he began to mentor elementary school children who would often ask whether it was normal for musicians to become doctors, as he planned to do. Malaviya said he refused to give up his love for music, but still wanted to pursue a career in medicine.
He said he didn’t know whether he could feasibly pursue both majors, but Mark Tramo, a music industry professor and a neurology residency lecturer at the David Geffen School of Medicine, showed him he could do both.
“I didn’t know anyone (who had done it before),” Malaviya said. “But he’s a neurologist who studies neurological dysfunction related to aural diseases.”
Music and science is not an intuitive combination, but Malaviya has tried to interweave the two through his research in Dr. Edythe London’s lab.
London is a psychiatry and behavioral science professor who works in the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Malaviya said her research focuses on addiction.
Malaviya said he enjoys learning about different cultures, and takes a variety of ethnomusicology classes that focus on different regions.
“The cross-cultural exposure isn’t something you necessarily get in another major,” Malaviya said.
He added he hopes his exposure to different cultures will help him be more conscientious in the medical field.
Anthony Mai, a fourth-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student, said he is impressed Malaviya manages to balance his many responsibilities while still being a caring friend.
“As busy as he is juggling two majors and heaps of extracurricular activities, he never ceases to amaze me with (how deeply) he cares,” Mai said.
Malaviya is also a member of High Achievement in Math and Sciences, or High AIMS, an organization that provides academic and financial support to 10 pre-medicine and pre-health students each year.
Dr. Charles Alexander, director of High AIMS, said he has seen Malaviya mature over his three years with High AIMS.
“He’s grown from this quiet, shy, smart person to this forward-thinking, mature, happy person you just want to be around,” Alexander said.
Malaviya said he plans to take a gap year after graduation to apply to medical school but still plans to continue writing songs and performing music.
Alexander said he is confident Malaviya will be successful, regardless of whatever he does in life.
“He works hard to get to where he wants to be,” Alexander said.