A scientific surprise: science research student keep up surprise party tradition

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Science research does not limit surprise parties to birthdays and threw a senior farewell party for outgoing seniors, including Rajpal, Ephraim Oyetunji, Snigda Sama, Anam Ahmed, Emily Pallack, Abhitya Krishnaraj and Oleksii Volkovskyi. (Photo submitted by Hemangi Rajpal)

This article was written by Amber Bhutta, class of 2019.

While many clubs and organizations on campus advertise their traditions, often of the fundraising variety, science research offers a more unique, member-oriented tradition: surprise birthday parties.

“The first party we threw was during summer research in 2017,” senior and president of Sigma Xi, the science research honor society, Hemangi Rajpal said. “Since then, it’s become a sort of tradition for almost all of the birthdays in our research family, with each one becoming more elaborate than the last.”

As Rajpal explained, every party tends to follow the same general premise. About a week before a birthday, someone in science research, typically a senior, creates a secret group chat without the party recipient’s knowledge. Members of research then split the costs and assignments, including ordering food, picking up Publix cakes, putting up decorations and distracting the party recipient. All parties take place in 9203, Mrs. Joykutty’s room, and science research students attempt to make each party different than the last, including inviting old friends from different schools and creating photo hangers as decorations.

Rajpal and other science research students most recently threw a surprise birthday party for fellow senior Ephraim Oyetunji. (Photo submitted by Hemangi Rajpal)

“On the day of the party, there’s a lot of frantic text messaging, driving around and waiting in parked cars for just the right moments,” Rajpal said. “At this point, people usually know that they’re getting a party, but it’s still exciting to see their happiness when we open the door and poorly sing ‘happy birthday’ in their faces.”

Rajpal furthered that even though research students have come to expect these parties does not detract from the experience. As a one of many research seniors preparing to graduate next week, Rajpal hopes the tradition and the “research family” will continue next year.

“I’ve been in research for seven years,” Rajpal said. “I’ll miss the traditions and memories a lot, but they, along with the research family, have really made me a better person. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

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