Sister’s legacy guides, inspires Kennesaw State senior

KENNESAW, Ga. | Dec 9, 2021

As a freshman in 2018, Kennesaw State University student Shania Kalladanthyil sought solace in the classroom and laboratory following the tragic death of her older sister.


Through that immersion and the lessons passed onto her from her sister, Shania has excelled. She has participated in the Advanced Majors Program in the College of Science and Mathematics and has made the President’s and Dean’s lists throughout her tenure at KSU. This month, she will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, focused on cellular, molecular and developmental biology. She plans to pursue a doctorate starting next fall.

“My sister, Shayan, was the person who guided me and gave me the tools to handle life; she taught me how to navigate school,” Kalladanthyil said.

As children of Indian immigrants who stressed the importance of education, Shania said she and her siblings aimed high from their first days of school. Shayan, a registered nurse at the age of 21, set the standard for Shania, their younger sister, Shawna, and younger brother, Joseph.

In elementary school, Shayan tested into an academic enrichment program in Gwinnett County, so Shania did the same a couple of years later. While enrolled at Mountain View High School, Shayan took classes at Georgia Gwinnett College, so Shania did, too. When the time came for Shania to apply for colleges, Shayan showed her where to file for financial aid, and how to find other scholarships.

When the grief of Shayan’s death became overwhelming, Shania immersed herself in school.

“After she died, I looked at Kennesaw State to be the place where I could just focus on my grades and on what I love, which is biology.”

Shania has volunteered to assist with research in the laboratory of associate professor of developmental biology Anton Bryantsev, who uses fruit flies as the model to study genetic regulation of growth and development. Among other things, the Bryantsev laboratory is focused on the organization of the cell nucleus, with a goal of improving and making safer the methods that change traits of cells and organisms. Shania’s project was to study nuclear bodies, which are enigmatic structures formed within the nucleus. Bryantsev credited Shania with playing a key role in the lab over the past two years by running experiments and mentoring her fellow students.


“Shania will leave a long-lasting legacy in our lab,” Bryantsev said. “Not only has she created multiple new molecular tools and generated a volume of scientific data, but her passion and attitude toward research have also set a great example for fellow students to follow.”

“I really like the mentoring aspect of science because I would not be where I am today without Dr. Bryantsev's guidance,” she said. “And I’d love to provide that for other students in the future.”

Shania said that she’s inspired by how Shayan lived her life — without fear and with love for those around her. So, she plans to follow that lead as she passes on her love for all things related to biology in the future as a professor.

“The way my sister conducted herself in day-to-day life and all the things that people loved about her — I try to keep these qualities in mind, and I want to emulate them,” Shania said. “We are all little pieces of the people that we've loved, so I try to bring all the best pieces of her with me.”

— Dave Shelles

Photos by David Caselli

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit