What do you do?
I just started, and I will be working to solve how Echoviruses and IgG antibodies move across our intestines and placenta via the fetal Fc receptor. Before this, until recently, I was working on gammaherpesvirus (GHV) pathogenesis using a viral genetics model to conditionally delete certain master regulator proteins in GHV in a tissue specific manner. I was able to show that repeated infections and stimulation of (virally infected) B cells can reseed and maintain GHV latency in the host. Further studies into this could reveal an added nuance of the EBV-Malaria nexus in Burkitt lymphoma.
Why did you choose this field?
I stumbled into virology accidentally. I grew up in a family of physicians, and used to be fascinated by their stories. I still remember some of their conversations I heard when I was maybe 3-4 years old, which my husband thinks is really weird, so I suppose biology always called to me. Eventually I chose to study biotechnology in college, and then decided I wanted to continue doing science. I had decided I didn't want to be a physician, but infectious diseases were too cool to give up. So I went and got my PhD in Microbiology and Immunology. Honestly, intuition and gut feeling have gone a long way in deciding my career path.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
Publications and a PhD are pretty cool! But when I was younger, I didn't know much about scientific publishing. When scientists I don't personally know comment on my work and want to discuss my science, it is just the greatest feeling. And my younger/high school self would be stoked if she knew she'd grow up and do good science some day.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I have always been a nerd. Needless to say, I was often reduced to my academic achievements as a teenager. But now I get to do what I love, being a nerd is cool, and I have a circle of people around me who celebrate my nerdiness instead of trying to bring me down. And that is why it's great working in STEM. I have found my tribe. And every day, I get to do amazing science with amazing people.
Best advice for next generation?
If you love science, keep doing it. It's simple. Don't let anyone tell you you aren't smart enough. Because you are, or you wouldn't enjoy it. And don't be afraid to use every resource at your disposal. Books, internet, people in the field...use whatever necessary to find answers to your questions. Seriously, network, reach out to people you admire. You'll be surprised at how some things just fall into place.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
My mom named after my grandad, Dr. Aurobindo (Aru) Gupta, and the star Arundhati (Alcor) in the Big Dipper. Arundhati, in Hindu mythology, is a very wise and accomplished woman. Guess, mom wanted me to have a role model from birth! More contemporarily speaking, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Michelle Obama, and Dr. Anandibai Gopal Joshi are all figures I look up to. And Captain Marvel and Hermione Granger are my ultimate (s)heroes. They are such bad-ass feminist role models!