Please tell us about yourself
Shruti received a B. Tech. in Genetic Engineering from SRM University in India in 2012 and went on to earn an M.Sc. in Molecular Biology and Human Genetics from Manipal University, India, in 2015. As part of her master’s studies and following receipt of that degree, Shruti worked at Emory University on understanding the genetic basis of complex psychiatric disorders such as PTSD. She is currently pursuing her doctoral research in the McCombie Lab at the Cold Spring Harbor Genome Center, where she uses Next-Gen sequencing technologies to gain insight into complex human diseases. When she’s not researching our genome to better understand it’s relationship to cancer and psychiatric disorders, she loves to travel, meet people, and try new things.
What do you do?
Complex disease genetics, specifically in understanding the genetic and epigenetic basis of complex human conditions such as psychiatric disorders and cancer. Currently, I work to develop experimental approaches that leverage long-read sequencing technologies to help increase the resolution with which we can look at the cancer genome. This will help humans understand large-scale genetic variations associated with cancer and may aid in the identification of regions of diagnostic and therapeutic interest.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and exciting career?
When I was in school, I was better in Biology than the other sciences and believed I’d go to med school to be a doctor or a surgeon. I’ve always wanted to help people and I believed medicine was a field that would offer such an opportunity. In high school, we had our first of two modules on genetics and it changed my whole perspective on human health and disease. Being introduced to the molecular underpinnings of life and the ways it played a role in growth, development, and disease prompted me to pursue a career in genetics. The drive to try and understand the genetic basis of susceptibility, onset, development, and progression of human disorders motivated me to earn a bachelors and then a masters in the field. As a part of my undergraduate and graduate studies, I also engaged in relevant research through internships in India and the United States. My experiences in these research groups cemented my interest in further pursuing a Ph.D. in human genetics with the goal of one day directing my own research group.
What do you think needs to happen for there to be more women in science and engineering?
Of the many aspects I can dive into, I believe encouragement and support are the two most important facets at both the personal and professional level. Instead of confining children to gender stereotypes, it should be perfectly acceptable for a girl to dream about a Pulitzer or Nobel prize instead of a dream wedding. Such acceptance has to begin at home by shaping young minds to be who they can and want to be and not who they should or should not be. Over the past decades, a lot of positive effort has been directed towards bringing women on same footing as men – providing them with the same opportunities and roles. While this is an important step, one mustn’t forget to extend that effort towards helping men support women better. This ranges from changing tables in men’s restrooms to paid paternity leave to de-stigmatizing stay-at-home dads. It includes not limiting parental roles to maternal responsibilities that often result in professional setbacks for women after childbirth. Women have broken several stereotypes to break into a ‘man’s world’, however that progress will always be stymied if social, economic, professional, and personal efforts aren’t also directed towards ensuring the reciprocal transition of men into a ‘woman’s world’ to facilitate equality in the true sense of word.
What are your Future goals?
I would love to pursue a career in research and establish my own research lab/team that focuses on the genetics of human diseases.