Meet the CLAS commencement speaker: Kartik Sivakumar

During the CLAS commencement ceremony, graduates will hear an address from their peer who earned a neuroscience degree, found community, and gained valuable research experience while in CLAS.
Thursday, December 8, 2022

By Katie Linder

Graduating senior Kartik Sivakumar was born in India and moved to Marion, Iowa, when he was just eleven years old—that summer was a difficult one for him, until school started.  

Kartik Sivakumar
Kartik Sivakumar

Sivakumar says school provided him guidance as an immigrant child, and for that reason, it holds a special place in his heart. That now includes the University of Iowa.  

“The UI has transformed all of our lives, whether it be the expert professors, lifelong friendships, extracurricular activities, or the vibrant community—Iowa has been monumental to our personal and academic growth,” Sivakumar says.  

These are themes Sivakumar will emphasize when he delivers the student address during the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences fall 2022 commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Sivakumar will graduate with highest distinction, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience, a minor in Philosophy, and a certificate in Clinical and Translation Sciences.  

During his time at Iowa, Sivakumar has been involved with several student organizations, including the Indian Student Alliance and Improve the Dream, which provides unique opportunities to advocate for documented immigrants through meeting with journalists, lawmakers, business leaders and more. His own immigration story and advocacy for citizenship have also been featured in The New Yorker and Daily Iowan.  

The UI has been significant for his growth as a scientist. Sivakumar works as an undergraduate researcher, conducting Parkinson’s disease research in Dr. Nandakumar Narayanan’s lab, has been published, and has earned several awards, including the Iowa Neuroscience Institute Summer Scholar, and Lowden Prize for Engagement and Outreach in Biology.  

“Iowa allows students to participate in a variety of extracurricular activities. As a first-year, I dipped my toes in many different areas and found my true passion—research,” he explains. “In this field, my mentors were my biggest assets.”  

Sivakumar will continue work as a researcher full-time next semester in Dr. Narayanan’s lab and plans to attend medical school.  

For more information about University of Iowa commencement, visit

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa is a comprehensive college offering 73 majors in the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. More than 17,000 undergraduate and 1,900 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by professors at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all UI undergraduates through the General Education Program, and confers about 70 percent of the UI's bachelor's degrees each academic year.