Val-Sal Twins Find Perfect Match in UT Dallas Neuroscience Program

Steffy and Stella Viju

Twins Stella (left) and Steffy Viju were salutatorian and valedictorian of Poteet High School in Mesquite, respectively. They both study neuroscience at UT Dallas and plan to attend medical school.

Fellow students in Steffy and Stella Viju’s neuroscience classes might think they’re seeing double, but the identical twins could hardly blame them.

Born just a minute apart, the UT Dallas sophomores not only share the same birthday, they are both neuroscience majors with similar career interests. And they’re so alike, they often finish each other’s sentences.

“Ever since we were young, we’ve had the same interests,” said Stella, who is just slightly older than Steffy.

The twins came to UT Dallas after graduating as valedictorian (Steffy) and salutatorian (Stella) at Poteet High School in Mesquite, about 20 miles southeast of UT Dallas.

Their academic achievements were so similar — including having the same GPA and final six weeks’ grades — that school administrators had to go back further to find a tiebreaker: a one-point grade difference in a class.

“We were tied, but Texas doesn’t allow co-valedictorians,” Steffy said. “We’re not competitive, though. We both have to do well together.”

The twins chose UT Dallas because of its neuroscience program. Both enjoy studying how the brain works and are interested in doing undergraduate research on memory, brain plasticity, aging and pain.

Each received an Academic Excellence Scholarship their freshman year at UT Dallas, which covered their tuition and fees, and provided a stipend for books. This year they are recipients of the Fresenius Medical Care Scholarship through their mother’s employer.

I guess our brains just work the same way. We’d be put across the room from one another in high school, because they thought we were cheating.

Steffy Viju,
neuroscience sophomore

Born in India, the twins followed their father’s career and spent most of their elementary school years in Oman before moving to the Dallas area when they were in the seventh grade.

Their elementary school administrators tried separating the girls by putting them in different classes so they’d develop their own set of friends, but by the end of the day, the twins could hardly wait to see each other again.

“We would come home and say, ‘This is what happened to me today,’” Stella said. “And then the other one would talk about her day.”

They would even earn the same grade on tests.

“I guess our brains just work the same way. We’d be put across the room from one another in high school, because they thought we were cheating,” Steffy said.

Though the twins are highly accomplished, they were actually late bloomers.

“We didn’t speak until we were 4,” Steffy said. “Our mom sat with us and helped us learn. In first grade, we started blooming.”

But soon enough, they couldn’t get enough of reading. Their favorite genres are sci-fi, fantasy, mystery and biographies.

“Our parents would hide the books because we weren’t studying,” Steffy said.

Today, the twins speak six languages — their native Malayalam, Hindi, English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

They share an off-campus apartment and a car. “I drive here; she drives back,” Steffy said.

Each wants to attend medical school, but they have different career aspirations. Stella hopes to focus on pediatrics. Steffy would like a career in oncology.

Eventually, both would like to work for a Christian medical relief organization. The twins are active in their church, and also participate in South Asian InterVarsity, Molding Doctors and Volunteers Around the World.

“We owe everything to God and our parents’ support,” Stella said.

Though they share many of the same interests, the twins also are quick to point out their personality differences.  

“I would say that I’m the kinder one,” Steffy volunteered.

“She says that to everyone,” Stella countered.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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