Original Link :

http://www.rackham.umich.edu/blog/student-spotlight-shweta-ramdas

What do you do?

I’m a 5th year PhD student in the department of Bioinformatics at the University of Michigan. My research focuses on the genetic basis of psychiatric traits and aging.

In the last decade, we suddenly have access to each position in our DNA which  can tell us: about ancestry, health, and behavior.

Please tell us about your background?

Shweta is from India and completed her undergraduate degree in nearby Singapore. “It was close to home and a great school for science. I knew I wanted to go to grad school and study genetics, and I was reading papers from researchers at Michigan. It made sense to come here.”

What did you study?

I did my undergrad at NSU, Singapore (B.Sc., Computational Biology). I then moved to University of Michigan for my PhD in BioInformatics. I also have an Masters in Applied Statistics from UMich.

How was the experience at Michigan?

As many students in the Program in Biomedical Sciences (PIBS) do, Shweta touts the rotation program in the first year. “It was great to have the first year to explore without commitments to different programs or labs. It did make it difficult to choose from the great choices.”

“Coming here, I was worried about Ann Arbor being a small community, but that was totally unfounded. I like the community here so much: you can really be yourself without being judged. There are people with diverse backgrounds in my lab, and different perspectives to research in the department. It is an amazing learning environment.”

Can you tell us about your research?

Shweta’s research interest is to apply quantitative, integrative approaches to analyze genetic and genomics data, with the goal of improving our understanding of the biological basis of complex traits and common diseases, with a particular emphasis on bipolar disorder. “I knew I wanted to study the genetics of psychiatric diseases. I find them fascinating and want to see how to separate genetic influences from environmental influences. Our genes make us more or less susceptible to how our environment can affect us. Bipolar disorder is an example of a genetic condition that is one of the least understood, but one we know is highly influenced by genetics.”

Shweta says the biggest challenge to graduate school is working on something so open-ended, not knowing what the end point is. She also has had to learn to take ownership of her work, explaining, “In graduate school, we’re learning to manage that shift, take away the imbalance and become independent thinkers.”

For fun, she participates in a number of U-Move programs on campus, enjoying yoga, capoeira dancing, as well as reading and spending time with her department-mates. She volunteers at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum in her spare time as well.