By Abhigyan Ray
The process of science as a whole seems an interesting but daunting prospect. To explore the intricacies of science, join me for ~60 minutes each week as I indulge in a freewheeling conversation on science and myriad other things with an eclectic set of professors, graduate students, physician-scientists, journal editors, science communicators, ethicists, and anybody who does science! In our Random Walks, we delve deep into the numerous challenges doing science entails and how everyone charts a unique collaborative path through it. linktr.ee/randomwalks
Peregrination of a raconteur through maths, computing, and life with Chris Rackauckas (MIT)
In this episode, I converse with Dr. Christopher Rackauckas, the Research Affiliate and Co-PI of the Julia Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Director of Modeling and Simulation at Julia Computing and Creator / Lead Developer of JuliaSim, Director of Scientific Research at Pumas-AI and Creator / Lead Developer of Pumas, and Lead Developer of the SciML Open Source Software Organization. As an undergraduate at Oberlin College, Chris was awarded the NSF S-STEM scholarship and the Margaret C. Etter Student Lecturer Award by the American Crystallographic Association, an award usually given for PhD dissertations, for his work on 3+1 dimensional incommensurate crystal structure. He completed his Masters and Ph.D. at the University of California, Irvine where his research doctoral focused on the methods for simulating stochastic biological models and detailing how the randomness inherent in biological organisms can be controlled using stochastic analysis and he was awarded the Mathematical and Computational Biology institutional fellowship, the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship, the Ford Predoctoral Fellowship, the NIH T32 Predoctoral Training Grant, and the Data Science Initiative Summer Fellowship. Chris' research and software is focused on Scientific Machine Learning (SciML): the integration of domain models with artificial intelligence techniques like machine learning. By utilizing the structured scientific (differential equation) models together with the unstructured data-driven models of machine learning, our simulators can be accelerated, our science can better approximate the true systems, all while enjoying the robustness and explainability of mechanistic dynamical models. We indulge in a fantastic conversation on his wonderful Random Walks through science and life; brilliant research in building numerical methods and software for scientific machine learning, scientific machine learning as next-generation healthcare, and development of high performance solving of differential equations; straddling the industry-academia interface with great elan; mathematics as a progressive form of rock music; the revolutionary rise of computing in the last half a century; dealing with rejections and making progress when stuck; great mentors and prescient insights on mentorship; and many more things!!
December 24, 2021
Developing methods to break new grounds in science and life with James Fraser (UCSF)
In this episode, I converse with Prof. James Fraser at the University of California, San Francisco. James was an undergraduate at McGill University, where he worked in the lab of Dr. Francois Fagotto on Xenopus developmental biology. As a graduate student, with Tom Alber at UC Berkeley, James established room-temperature X-ray data collection techniques and electron density sampling strategies to define protein conformational ensembles essential for catalysis. Prior to starting an independent position at UCSF, he was a visiting EMBO Short Term Fellow in the lab of Dan Tawfik at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and developed expertise in directed evolution and high-throughput assays of enzymatic or binding activity. In January 2011, James started his independent career as a QB3 at UCSF Fellow affiliated with the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology. In January 2013, he was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences and the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) with promotion to Associate Professor in 2016, and Full Professor in 2020. James is also a Faculty Scientist in the Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. The long-term goals of James' research group is to understand how protein conformational ensembles are reshaped by perturbations, such as mutation and ligand binding, and to quantify how these perturbations impact protein function and organismal fitness. To accomplish these goals, they create new computational and biophysical approaches to study how proteins move between different conformational states. Additionally, the group uses two complementary approaches to study the relationship between protein conformational ensembles and function. To dissect consequences of mutations on organismal fitness, they use high-throughput systems biology and biophysical methods to analyze large sets of clinically or biophysically interesting mutations and to improve the ability to engineer new protein functions, they investigate changes to the conformational ensemble as new enzymatic and binding functions emerge from directed evolution studies. We indulge in a fascinating conversation on his enjoyable journey through science and life; foraying into academia from a family of non-academics; the thrill of methods development; the enormous influence of his brilliant mentors, friends, and collaborators; creating a more equitable, open, and just environment in science; and many more things!!
November 28, 2021
Constructing an edifice of life and science with Rocío Mercado (MIT)
In this episode, I converse with Dr. Rocío Mercado, who's currently a postdoc in the Coley group at MIT. Previously, Rocío was a postdoc in the Molecular AI team at AstraZeneca, where she worked on the development of deep generative models for small molecule drug discovery. Before AstraZeneca, Rocío was a PhD student in Prof. Berend Smit’s molecular simulation group at UC Berkeley and EPFL and received her PhD in Chemistry from UC Berkeley in August 2018, and her BS in Chemistry from Caltech in June 2013. Rocío's research expertise lies in data-driven molecular design, at the interface of computer science and chemistry and she's passionate about the development of computational tools which can be used to enhance the process of pharmaceutical drug discovery, such as deep molecular generative models and molecular optimization methods. We indulge in a riveting conversation on her phenomenal journey through science and life; thoroughly inspirational mentors; fascinating research; confronting the imposter syndrome; fostering a more equitable and just environment in science; and many more things!!
November 13, 2021
Blazing an outstanding trail through science and life with Rubul Mout (Harvard)
In this episode, I converse with Dr. Rubul Mout, a Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School and at the Stem Cell Program, Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH). Born, brought up, and educated in India, Dr. Mout moved to the United States to pursue his PhD from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Prior to joining Harvard/BCH, he was a Washington Research Foundation Innovation Fellow at the Institute for Protein Design, University of Washington. Dr. Mout is the inventor of numerous technologies in gene editing and protein design, and in the last decade he developed a technology for intracellular protein delivery and gene editing in mammalian cells, termed as the ‘E-tag’ method, which was in 2020, granted a patent by USPTO (the United States Patent and Trademark Office). At Harvard/BCH, Dr. Mout works to engineer bone marrow stem cells (Hematopoietic stem cells, or HSCs) to cure genetic diseases of blood origin and uses various technologies, including techniques he invented in his prior research, to engineer these HSCs. In particular, he uses patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) to differentiate them to HSC first, and then to produce and train T-cells that could potentially fight off many diseases. We indulge in a terrific conversation on his magnificent journey through science and life inspired by his innate curiosity; growing up in a poor peasant’s family in a far remote corner of Northeast India, near the Assam-Arunachal border; undertaking a majestic quest from Tinsukia to Mumbai to Amherst to Seattle to Boston; inspirational mentors like GK Johori, David Baker, Vincent Rotello, and George Daley; fantastic dedication to scientific outreach and activism; writing outstanding books including a popular bestseller that chronicled his splendid journey; and many more things!!
November 01, 2021
Untangling the complexity of science and society with Crystal Lee (MIT)
In this episode, I converse with Crystal Lee, a PhD candidate at MIT and a Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University. Previously, Crystal was a visiting research scientist at the European Commission, and graduated with high honors from Stanford University. Crystal's research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council, and the MIT Programs for the Digital Humanities. Crystal works broadly on topics related to the sociopolitical dimensions of computing, data visualization, and disability. She also conducts ethnographic and computational research on social media communities like COVID skeptics, Chinese cyber-nationalist fandoms, and data hoarders. We indulge in a fantastic conversation on her extraordinary research; the intricate relationship between politics and science; confronting the imposter syndrome; pioneering student activism and actively combating bias and discrimination in science through terrific endeavours to foster a more welcoming environment for underrepresented groups; science as a collaborative enterprise and disputing the notion of male white genius' revolutionising it; and many more things!!
October 17, 2021
Automating and integrating synthesis and life with Teodoro Laino (IBM Research)
In this episode, I converse with Dr. Teodoro Laino, a Distinguished Research Scientist and Manager at IBM Research. Teodoro received his degree in Theoretical Chemistry in 2001 at the University of Pisa and Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, and further completed his doctorate in 2006 in computational chemistry at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, Italy on "Multi-Grid QM/ MM Approaches in ab initio Molecular Dynamics", supervised by the legendary Prof. Michele Parrinello. From 2006 to 2008, he worked as a post-doctoral researcher in the research group of Prof. Jürg Hutter at the University of Zurich, where he developed algorithms for ab initio and classical molecular dynamics simulations. Since 2008, he has been working in the department of Cognitive Computing and Industry Solutions at the IBM Research - Zurich Laboratory. Teodoro's research focuses on complex material simulations for industrial-related problems (energy storage, life sciences and nano-electronics) and more recently, he has been interested in the application of machine learning/artificial intelligence technologies to chemistry and materials science problems with the purpose of developing customized solutions. We indulge in a very fascinating conversation on his terrific journey through science; fantastic mentors who inspired him; heading into theoretical chemistry at the cusp of revolution; confronting the ubiquitous imposter syndrome; the extraordinary impact of AI and ML in the natural sciences; the IBM RXN for chemistry platform; becoming an aviation pilot, and many more things!!
September 25, 2021
Building tools to elucidate life with Ryan Flynn (Harvard)
In this episode, I converse with Prof. Ryan Flynn, an Assistant Professor at Boston Children’s Hospital in the Stem Cell Program and in the Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology Department at Harvard University. Ryan completed his M.D. and Ph.D. in Cancer Biology in the MSTP at Stanford University and received his B.S. in Biology from MIT. The Flynn lab develops chemical tools to study the interface of RNA biology and glycobiology in the context of cell state transitions and cell-cell communication. We talk about his incredible journey in basic science after initially wanting to become a surgeon; outstanding mentors like Nobel laureate Phil Sharp, a legendary figure in RNA biology, and Carolyn Bertozzi, a pioneer of glycobiology; fascinating research on glycans and developing tools for glycobiology; starting a lab during a pandemic; and many more things!!
September 14, 2021
Ruminations of a savant through science, art, and life with Siranush Babakhanova (Stanford)
In this episode, I converse with Siranush Babakhanova, an artist, scientist, and engineer, creating physical and digital immersive paradigms that allow us to transcend the limitations of perception and comprehension. Siranush studied Physics and Computer Science at MIT; researched terraformation at NASA; and devised ways to read/non-invasively interact with microstructures in a brain at the Synthetic Neurobiology lab. In parallel, she also conglomerated the largest teams for fashion design and photography for MIT’s Infinite magazine and initiated award-winning (National Geographics, CAMIT) art-meets-science collaborations. Siranush is also an expert calligrapher, pianist, dancer, graphic designer, multimedia painter, and a polyglot versed in 7 languages. In the fall of 2020, Siranush joined the Stanford Biophysics PhD program as a Knight-Hennessy Scholar and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. Siranush is interested in innovative (cyber/bio) fashion design and implementation of novel materials and interfaces, creating new storytelling techniques (linguistic and semiotic) and mediums (oceanological), and making tools and experiences (choreographies, immersive environments) that help imagine the future of human experience. We indulge in a truly riveting conversation on her phenomenal journey through science and life; thoroughly inspirational mother; science as a gateway to the wider world in post-Soviet Armenia; winning a record six International Olympiad medals; eclectic research interests, right from working on exoatmosphere-wide simulations at NASA to designing tools for deep brain imaging and in situ proteomics; founding the Xapiens human augmentation initiative at MIT; heading to Stanford for grad school during pandemic times; chasing one's innate curiosity and thriving at the interface of interdisciplinarities'; and many more things!!
August 29, 2021
Breaking ceilings in life and science with Amy Zhang (UW Seattle)
In this episode, I converse with Prof. Amy X. Zhang, an assistant professor at the University of Washington's Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering. Previously, she was a Postdoc at Stanford University's Computer Science Department after completing her Ph.D. at MIT CSAIL in 2019, where she received the George Sprowls Best Ph.D. Thesis Award at MIT in computer science. During her Ph.D., she was an affiliate and 2018-19 Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University, a Google Ph.D. Fellow, and an NSF Graduate Research Fellow.Amy received an M.Phil. in Computer Science at the University of Cambridge on a Gates Fellowship and a B.S. in Computer Science at Rutgers University, where she was captain of the Division I Women's tennis team. Amy's research is in the field of human-computer interaction and social computing where she works on designing and building systems to improve discourse, collaboration, and understanding online, with applications to social media and online communities, news and civic engagement, education, and computer-supported cooperative work and collective action. Her work has received a best paper award at ACM CSCW, a best paper honorable mention award at ACM CHI, and has been profiled on BBC's Click television program, CBC radio, and featured in articles by ABC News, The Verge, New Scientist, and Poynter. She is a founding member of the Credibility Coalition, a group dedicated to research and standards for information credibility online. We indulge in a terrific conversation on her fantastic journey in science; fantastic mentors who inspired her; confronting the imposter syndrome; tennis; human-computer interaction; and many more things!!
August 25, 2021
Embarking on a serendipitous course of genome, science, and life with Vijay Ramani (UCSF)
In this episode, I converse with Prof. Vijay Ramani, Principal Investigator and Sandler Fellow at the University of California, San Francisco. He finished his B.S.E. in Chemical Engineering at Princeton University, with minors in Quantitative & Computational Biology, and Engineering Biology and then spent a year as a Computational Biology intern at Sangamo BioSciences. Vijay went on to complete his PhD studies in Jay Shendure’s lab at the University of Washington, where he invented high-throughput molecular methods to study biological phenomena at scale. These methods included an assay for studying RNA structure, as well as single-cell genomic assays reliant on in situ DNA barcoding of intact cells and nuclei, to make genome-wide measurements in thousands of single-cells without ever resorting to single-cell isolation. Vijay's lab develops novel molecular technologies to understand the regulation of biology’s central dogma – the transfer of genetic information from DNA to RNA to protein. We indulge in a terrific conversation on his extremely fascinating journey through science and life; early familial influences to foray into science; partaking in OG genome editing before the CRISPR boom; fundamental research in industry; heading to UW for grad school and working with terrific mentors like Prof. Jay Shendure; starting as a PI straight out of grad school; prescient thoughts on structural changes required in academia; the far-reaching consequences of society's understanding of science; exciting future of biotech; and many more things!!
August 15, 2021
Seamlessly navigating intersectionalities in science and life with Yangyang Cheng (Yale)
In this episode, I converse with Yangyang Cheng, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale Law School's Paul Tsai China Center. Before joining Yale, she worked on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) for over a decade and was a postdoctoral research associate at Cornell University and an LHC Physics Center Distinguished Researcher at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Yangyang received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago in 2015, and her Bachelor’s in Science from the University of Science and Technology of China’s School for the Gifted Young. Yangyang is a regular columnist for SupChina and her writings have also appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Los Angeles Review of Books, VICE World News, Foreign Policy, MIT Technology Review, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, ChinaFile, and other publications. Yangyang currently studies the ethics and governance of science in China and their global implications. We indulge in a splendid conversation on her extremely interesting and riveting journey through science and life; early fascinations about the fundamental questions of the universe and abstractions; pursuing Physics in a manner akin to a world-class athlete; her time on the ATLAS and CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC); exceptional mentors who inspired her; navigating rejections in life; diving into China studies straight from particle physics; future of fundamental curiosity-driven research; and many more things!!
August 11, 2021
Etching a revolutionary trail with Luis Soenksen (MIT)
In this episode, I converse with Luis Soenksen, a Venture Builder at MIT. Luis completed his PhD in Mechanical Engineering at MIT and he also holds a BSc in Biomedical Engineering from the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico City, and an MSc from Johns Hopkins University Bioengineering CBID-BME program. Luis currently oversees the emergence of new ventures at the intersection of AI and Healthcare, along a full lifecycle: from the discovery of ideas and resources within the MIT community; exploration of the problem-solution space; a methodical de-risking process; and building “Proto Ventures” that demonstrates the viability of the business and the robustness of the technology. Luis' research focuses on the intersection of engineering, computing, and biology. We indulge in a terrific conversation on his incredible journey; growing up in a single-parent household with his profoundly inspirational mother; foraying into biomedical engineering; dabbling in startups before heading back into academia; brilliant mentors and influences in familial and professional spheres; overcoming rejections in academia and the true essence of science; the great importance of diversity and inclusion; ethical implications of ones work; and many more things!!
August 04, 2021
Lucidly communicating science and building a just culture with Wendy Bohon (IRIS)
In this episode, I converse with Dr. Wendy Bohon, a Geologist and Senior Science Communication Specialist for the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), who studies earthquakes and works to improve the communication of hazard and risk before, during and after rapid onset geologic hazards. Wendy is an AAAS If/Then Ambassador and has served on the Executive Leadership Board of 500 Women Scientists. She has worked on many tectonics-related projects in her career, including the B4 LiDAR project in Southern California, climate and tectonics studies in Northwestern Argentina, GPS deployment projects in Bolivia, thrust fault studies in Argentina, and the tectonic evolution of the southwestern margin of the Tibetan Plateau in India. Wendy’s research uses geochronology, thermochronology, paleoseismology, geomorphology, remote sensing, and geologic mapping to understand the spatial and temporal evolution of fault systems. We indulge in a great conversation on her interesting and slightly unconventional journey in science; grad school and confronting the ubiquitous imposter syndrome; the critical importance of lucid science communication in combatting the pressing challenges of the day; engaging communities on the ground; terrific mentors who have inspired her; anthropogenic climate change; and many more things!!
July 28, 2021
Shattering stereotypes and fostering an equitable future for all with Kara Rodby (MIT)
In this episode, I converse with Kara Rodby, who's currently a Graduate Student in the Department of Chemical Engineering at MIT. Kara received her B.S. in Environmental Engineering with high honours from Northwestern University in 2017 where her undergraduate thesis was on the microbial uptake of mercury in aquatic systems. At MIT alongside her PhD, she has also worked extensively in the industrial setting as part of the MIT Chemical Engineering Practice School Program. Kara also serves on the Graduate Student Advisory Board and is the co-founder of MIT Graduate Women in Chem.E. Kara's research is both experimental and computational, focusing on systems-level engineering and techno-economic analysis of aqueous redox flow battery chemistries for long-duration grid storage. We indulge in a wide-ranging conversation about her fascinating path to science and academia; her groundbreaking research and its potentially revolutionary impact on the world; pioneering student activism and actively combating bias and discrimination in science through terrific endeavours to foster a more welcoming environment for underrepresented groups; science as a collaborative enterprise and disputing the notion of male white genius' revolutionising it; and many more things!!
July 18, 2021
Perambulations of a raconteuse through science and life with Meghana Ranganathan (MIT)
In this episode, I converse with Meghana Ranganathan, a fourth-year Ph.D student in Climate Science at the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at MIT. Meghana completed her undergraduate education at Swarthmore College and received a B.A. in mathematics, with a specialization in applied mathematics. Her past research has been on eclectic areas of interest, including focuses on El Nino-Southern Oscillation forecasting, statistical paleontology, and building queuing theory models for emergency rooms to identify bottlenecks in the intake process. Meghana is also passionate about diversity, equity, justice, and inclusion in STEM and has been actively involved in education and activism around issues of racism and colonialism in the geosciences. Meghana's current research focuses on the dynamics and energetics of ice streams in West Antarctica, illuminating processes on the micro-scale and connecting micro-scale processes with macro-scale dynamics. We indulge in a fascinating conversation on her terrific journey in science; naturally discovering maths in college and flaws with mathematical pedagogy in schools; applying a mathematical lens to solving the pressing challenge of the day - climate change; grad school and confronting the ubiquitous imposter syndrome; the importance of lucid science communication; breathtaking research on glaciology; engaging communities on the ground; forays into writing and the storytelling aspect of science; and many more things!!
July 04, 2021
Unravelling the complex secrets in matter, science, and life with Sujit Datta (Princeton)
In this episode, I converse with Prof. Sujit Datta, an Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University. Sujit earned a BA in Mathematics and Physics, and an MS in Physics, in 2008 from the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his PhD in Physics in 2013 from Harvard, where he studied fluid dynamics and instabilities in porous media and colloidal microcapsules with David Weitz after which he finished a postdoc in Chemical Engineering at Caltech, where he studied the biophysics of the gut with Rustem Ismagilov. He joined the faculty at Princeton in 2017 and been the recipient of multiple awards like the NSF CAREER Award, AIChE 35 Under 35 Award, ACS Unilever Award, APS Andreas Acrivos Award in Fluid Dynamics. Sujit's lab studies soft and living materials in complex settings, motivated by challenges like water remediation, carbon sequestration, oil/gas recovery, and targeted drug delivery, and their work integrates microscopy, microfluidics, soft materials chemistry, and biophysical characterisation. We indulge in an ebullient conversation on his wonderful journey through science and life; from early fascinations with economics and philosophy to pivoting to maths and physics; fascination with science and the fundamental role of curiosity-driven basic science research in helping shape the world; his terrific set of mentors; kickboxing the stress out of his life; the importance of diversity and inclusion in all walks of life; and many more things!!
June 20, 2021
Pioneering a trailblazing pathway through the frontiers of science, medicine, and life with George Church (Harvard/MIT)
In this episode, I converse with the legendary geneticist, an outstanding scientist, terrific engineer, inimitable mentor, and fantastic innovator Prof. George Church of Harvard and MIT. Church is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He has received multiple awards including the Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science from the Franklin Institute and election to the coveted National Academy of Sciences and Engineering for his pioneering contributions to science. He has co-authored over 600 publications, holds more than 150 patents, and published a book titled “Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves”, with more than 70 billion copies published. Church's lab researches at the frontiers of science and helped develop the methods for the first genome sequencing, and their subsequent work brought down the price of sequencing over 10-million-fold. His was one of the two groups that first got CRISPR-Cas9, subject of the latest Nobel Prize in Chemistry, to work for precise gene editing in human cells by a homologous recombination, and he has been behind countless other scientific innovations and disruptions, specifically in the world of precision genome sequencing. We indulge in an extremely riveting conversation on his absolutely stellar and thoroughly inspiring journey through science; early childhood inspirations and building his first computer in conjunction with an electrician family friend; foraying into biological sciences armed with strong physical and computational science skills right at the cusp of revolution; fascinating grad school experience, from flunking out of Duke to make giant strides at Harvard; inspirational mentors like Gail Martin, Wally Gilbert, and Sung-Hou Kim; disappointment with the Human Genome Project; breathtaking research that has hugely impacted the world; combating failures and rejections; the prospect of creating an actual living and breathing Jurassic Park; and many more things!!
June 09, 2021
Peregrinating a pioneering journey through science and life with Avanti Shrikumar (Stanford)
In this episode, I converse with Dr. Avanti Shrikumar, a Ram and Vijay Shriram Data Science Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford Data Science, where she works with Prof. Karen Casciotti in the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford, Avanti completed her B.S. in Computer Science and Molecular Biology from MIT in 2013 and took a gap year to work on the healthcare team of Palantir Technologies before beginning her graduate studies in the Computer Science department at Stanford under the aegis of Prof. Anshul Kundaje. Avanti's current research focuses on developing and applying data science techniques to improve our understanding of oceanic nutrient cycling and during her PhD she helped develop machine learning methods, with a focus on deep learning, model interpretation, and applications to regulatory genomics. We indulge in a terrific conversation on her fantastic journey in science; early familial influences and childhood initiations into science; combating biases and dealing with the ubiquitous imposter syndrome; her brilliant research and the fantastic mentors who inspired her; the globally pressing challenge of climate change and the urgent need to combat it to prevent the doomsday scenario of spraying sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere; and many more things!! *Disclaimer: This episode was recorded early this year in the month of January but is being released now due to some extraneous reasons!
May 23, 2021
Sauntering a revolutionary path through the frontiers of mathematics with Yilin Wang (MIT)
In this episode, I converse with Dr. Yilin Wang, a distinguished C.L.E. Moore Instructor in Mathematics at MIT. Yilin obtained her Ph.D. advised by the Fields Medalist Wendelin Werner at ETH Zurich and before that, she studied at Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris and University Paris-Sud (Paris-Saclay) for her bachelor's. Beginning in January 2022, Yilin will be a Strauch Postdoctoral Fellow at Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI), Berkeley. Yilin has been working on topics at the interface of Complex analysis and Probability theory and her current research focuses on themes that aim at enlightening the connections among Random Conformal Geometry, Geometric Function Theory, and Teichmueller theory. We indulge in a terrific chat about her phenomenal journey in science; mathematics as an art and the meaning it holds for her; heading to France for her mathematical education and the European system of doing maths; not getting bogged down with failures and terrific mentors who guided and inspired her; seminars and collaborations in a (post) pandemic world; diversity and representation of underrepresented groups in mathematics; and many more things!!
May 12, 2021
Traversing an intrepid trail through science and life with Jacqueline Valeri (MIT)
In this episode, I converse with Jackie Valeri, a Graduate Student in the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT where she's advised by the legendary Prof. Jim Collins. Jackie graduated with an undergraduate and masters degree in biological engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, and leads the MITxHarvard Women in Artificial Intelligence initiative, and was a BE Data Lab Fellow. Jackie's research focuses on developing machine learning tools for synthetic biology components such as toehold switches and aid computationally assisted discovery and design of new antibiotics. We indulge in a fantastic chat on her incredible journey in science; the fun of dry computational work and her fascinating research; her terrific mentors who have inspired and guided her; battling lyme disease and unwarranted skepticism; being energized by opportunities to mentor as well as promote inclusive environments; the importance of communicating science to the general public; and many more things!!
May 02, 2021
Immunologically illuminating behaviour and shattering glass ceilings with Zuri Sullivan (Harvard)
In this episode, I converse with Zuri Sullivan, an HHMI Hanna H. Gray Postdoctoral Fellow in Prof. Catherine Dulac’s lab at Harvard University. Zuri earned an AB in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Harvard and then pursued her interests in global health and host-microbe interactions as a Fulbright Scholar at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV in Durban, South Africa. Wanting to delve deeper into the biology of host defense, Zuri earned a PhD in Immunobiology as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow at Yale University under the auspice of Prof. Ruslan Medzhitov. Zuri is fascinated by interactions between the immune and nervous systems, passionate about sharing science with the public, and dedicated to increasing the representation of women and people of color in STEM. We indulge in a fantastic conversation on her stellar journey in science; brilliant research at the intersection of immunology and neuroscience; battling the ubiquitous imposter syndrome; wonderful mentors who've guided and inspired her; rooting out inequities in science and society; her passionate outreach and communication to inspire future generations to pursue science; her eclectic reading list; and many more things!!
April 18, 2021
Trailblazing a scintillating trail through science and academia with Prachee Avasthi (Dartmouth)
In this episode, I converse with Prof. Prachee Avasthi, an Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College. She completed a PhD in neuroscience under the supervision of Wolfgang Baehr at the University of Utah and a Postdoc with Wallace Marshall at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Prachee started her own research group at the University of Kansas Medical Center before moving to Dartmouth in 2020 and she also serves on the Board of Directors of eLife and is the incumbent President of ASAPbio (Accelerating Science and Publication in biology), a non-profit initiative promoting innovation and transparency via preprints and open peer review. Prachee's group uses the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii to study the formation of the cellular antenna, the cilium, and how its assembly is coordinated with other cellular processes. We indulge in a terrific conversation on her phenomenal journey through science and life; being exposed to research as an undergrad and graduate school in neuroscience; wonderful mentors who have inspired her and making mistakes by the plenty; the fun and collaborative aspects of science; the importance of fundamental research; actively reforming science and scientific publication through preprints and fixing the broken pipeline; communicating science through Twitter and stitching unexpectedly remarkable collaborations; and many more things!!
April 10, 2021
Forging revolutionary technologies and espousing an equitable future with Bharath Ramsundar (Stanford)
In this episode, I converse with Bharath Ramsundar, the creator of The DeepChem Project. Bharath received a BA and BS from UC Berkeley in EECS and Mathematics and was valedictorian of his graduating class in mathematics. He went on to finish a PhD in computer science at Stanford University where he studied the application of deep-learning to problems in drug-discovery, and was sponsored by the very prestigious Hertz Fellowship and advised by Prof. Vijay Pande. After his PhD, Bharath co-founded Computable, a startup that built better tools for collaborative dataset management. At Stanford Bharath created The DeepChem Project that seeks to create high quality, open source tools for drug discovery, materials science, quantum chemistry, and biology. We indulge in a fantastic conversation on his early fascination with quantum computing and artificial intelligence that inspired him to embark on his incredible journey in science; starting grad school as the deep learning revolution took off; how both academia and English monarchy are in need of urgent reforms; prescient insights on global manufacturing, geopolitics, and immigration; the revolutionary aspects of technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and the need to mitigate bias in these systems; and many more things!!
April 03, 2021
Stitching a dazzling collaboration through science and life with Prajakta Dandekar and Ratnesh Jain (ICT)
In this episode, I converse with Prof. Ratnesh Jain, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and Prof. Prajakta Dandekar, Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Institute of Chemical Technology. Ratnesh and Prajakta completed their graduate studies at ICT and went on to complete a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Saarland University in Germany before joining the faculty at their alma mater. Ratnesh and Prajakta direct the Nanomedicine Research Group at ICT and their interests straddle drug delivery systems, tissue engineering, and nanomedicine. We indulge in a fascinating conversation on their incredible journey in science; terrific mentors who have guided them; taking rejections in their strides; the joys and perils of doing science in India and together as a duo; the contours of industry-academia scientific collaboration; academics challenges plaguing the Indian university system at large; and many more things!!
March 31, 2021
Undertaking a gritty journey through science and life with Stacy Malaker (Yale University)
In this episode, I converse with Prof. Stacy Malaker, an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Yale University. Stacy completed her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and went on to receive her PhD in Chemistry from the University of Virginia under Prof. Donald Hunt where she focused on enrichment and mass spectrometric identification of glycopeptides presented by the MHC class I and II processing pathways. She further continued to investigate the role of aberrant glycosylation in cancer as an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow in Prof. Carolyn Bertozzi’s lab at Stanford University and used mass spectrometry and glycobiology to investigate mucinase activity on glycoproteins. Stacy seeks to develop methods that allow for mass spectrometry (MS) analysis of mucin-domain glycoproteins, a class of densely O-glycosylated extracellular proteins. We talk about her incredible journey in science; blazing a trail through academia whilst being a first generation college student; outstanding mentors like Don Hunt, a legendary figure in mass spectrometry, and Carolyn Bertozzi, a pioneer of glycobiology; fascinating research on mucins and the keys they hold to tackling various diseases like cancer and cystic fibrosis, glycoproteomics; sagacious advice to young and upcoming scientists; and many more things!!
March 27, 2021
Fabricating novel biomaterials and shattering stereotypes with Ritu Raman (MIT)
In this episode, I converse with Dr. Ritu Raman, a Bioengineer and a Postdoc in the renowned Langer Lab at MIT, funded by a Ford Foundation Fellowship and a L’Oréal USA For Women in Science Fellowship. Prior to that, Ritu completed her Undergraduate in Mechanical Engineering, with a minor in Biomedical Engineering, from Cornell University and received an M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering as an NSF Fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ritu is a member of the MIT Technology Review 35 Innovators Under 35 Class of 2019 and the Forbes 30 Under 30 Class of 2018. Her upcoming book on Biofabrication, published by MIT Press, will be out in Fall 2021. Ritu currently focuses on designing responsive materials and devices for translational medical applications. We indulge in a terrific conversation on her fantastic journey in science; growing up in a family of engineers and initial interests of becoming an astronaut; fantastic mentors like Rashid Bashir and Bob Langer; confronting the ubiquitous imposter syndrome; integrating novel responsive biohybrid materials into implantable devices and prosthetics; translatability and quickness being antithetical to each other in medicine; and many more things!!
March 21, 2021
Breaking new grounds in chemistry and life with Anant Kapdi (ICT)
In this episode, I chat with Prof. Anant Kapdi, an Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Dyes at the Institute of Chemical Technology. He received his PhD in 2008 under the supervision of Dr. Fairlamb at York University and completed a postdoc in the research group of Prof. Lutz Ackermann at the Georg-August-University Gottingen as an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow before joining the faculty at the Institute of Chemical Technology. He also served as the inaugural Deputy Director of the Institute of Chemical Technology. Prof. Kapdi's research focuses on the development of synthetically efficient processes using novel metallacycles. We indulge in a fantastic conversation on his incredible journey in science and chemistry in particular; terrific mentors who have influenced and inspired him; groundbreaking research at the frontiers of palladium chemistry; translational research and the importance of industry-academia collaboration; donning administrative roles and helping build a new institute; founding the Innovation & Sustainability Chemistry Consortium (ISCC) to answer the pressing challenges of the day; and many more things!!
March 17, 2021
Transmogrifying the frontiers of topology with Maggie Miller (MIT)
In this episode, I converse with Dr. Maggie Miller, an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in Mathematics at MIT. Maggie obtained her Ph.D. in 2020 at Princeton University advised by David Gabai and earned her Undergraduate degree in Mathematics with high honours at the University of Texas at Austin, completing a thesis under the auspice of Cameron Gordon. Beginning in July 2021, Maggie will be joining the distinguished Stanford Science Fellows and also hold the prestigious Clay Research Fellowship. Maggie's research interest lies in low dimensional geometric topology where she has tremendously advanced the understanding of manifolds in dimensions 3 and 4, powerfully wielding a wide range of creative techniques -- algebraic, combinatorial, geometric and topological. We chat about her early interests in mathematics and art while being homeschooled; early explorations in topology in an attempt to understand the old joke about a donut and coffee cup being equivalent; attending grad school at Princeton, working with terrific mentors like Gabai, and participating in the Noetherian Ring; interests in knitting, rubik's cubes, crosswords, and acrostics; diversity and representation of underrepresented groups in mathematics; and many more things!
March 13, 2021
Embarking on a serendipitous journey of discovery through life and maths with Ashvni Narayanan (LSGNT)
In this episode talk with Ashvni Narayanan, a Graduate Student at the London School of Geometry and Number Theory working under the auspice of Prof. Kevin Buzzard. Ashvni studied Galois representations of elliptic curves during her Master's at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver advised by Prof. Sujatha Ramadorai, and completed a Bachelor's in Mathematics at the Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore. Ashvni currently works on formalizing algebraic number theory in a program called Lean. We converse about her incredible random walks through life and science; her terrific mentors who've inspired her; automating mathematical theorem proving: nature of research and collaborations in a (post) pandemic world; taking care of one's mental, physical, and emotional health in academia; the fantastic Hmm podcast she started during the lockdown; and many more things! Resources to learn about the Xena Project and Lean: https://xenaproject.wordpress.com/useful-links/ https://leanprover-community.github.io/learn.html
March 07, 2021
Formulating robust models of quantum gravity and egalitarian society with Raghu Mahajan (Stanford)
In the eighteenth episode of Random Walks, I had a fantastic time conversing with Raghu Mahajan, who's currently a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. Raghu won a Gold Medal at the International Physics Olympiad and went on to start an Undergraduate degree in Computer Science at IIT Delhi before transferring to MIT where he double majored in Mathematics and Physics. Prior to starting his PhD in Theoretical Physics at Stanford University advised by Sean Hartnoll, he completed Part III of the Mathematical Tripos at Cambridge University where he was a Gates-Cambridge Scholar. Raghu’s research focuses on techniques used for strongly interacting field theories, with a view toward dynamics, holography, and quantum gravity. We indulge in a fascinating conversation about his three inspirational mentors: his father, Prof. Arvind Chauhan and Prof. Vijay Singh; getting taught by legendary professors and scientists at MIT; researching on string theory, black hole information paradox, and his time with the formidable group at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton; majoritarianism; the importance of funding fundamental research and fostering scientific temper in society; the ridiculous notion of science being an apolitical enterprise; and many more things!!
February 28, 2021
Seamlessly traversing the frontiers of science and publishing with Stuart Cantrill (Nature)
In this episode, I talk with Stuart Cantrill, who's the current Chief Editor of Nature Chemistry. Before joining the Nature Publishing Group, Stuart was a Research Associate at UCLA and prior to that, obtained a PhD under the tutelage of Prof. Fraser Stoddart at the University of Birmingham and UCLA, and completed a postdoc with Prof. Bob Grubbs' group at Caltech. As a chemist, Stuart actively researched in supra supramolecular chemistry, self-assembly processes, and interlocked molecules. We converse about his serendipitous journey in science and academia; working with two terrific mentors, both of whom would go on to win a Nobel Prize for their pioneering research; how no one wants to be an editor and how his own journey to be one came to be; prescient thoughts on scientific publishing; the importance of funding blue-sky research; changes he'd like to retain in the post-pandemic world; and many more things!!
February 19, 2021
Tinkering neural networks and embarking on a journey of cultivated abandon with Shubhendu Trivedi (MIT)
In this episode, I converse with Shubhendu Trivedi, who's currently a Machine Learning Researcher at MIT CSAIL, where he works with Prof. Regina Barzilay and Prof. Tommi Jaakkola as part of the MIT Machine Learning for Pharmaceutical Discovery and Synthesis Consortium (MLPDS). Prior to that he was the NSF sponsored Institute Fellow at Brown University's Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics and completed a PhD on group covariant neural networks at the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago and the University of Chicago. Shubhendu's research particularly focuses on causal learning and representation learning for graph-structured data, with a particular focus on applications to drug discovery. We talk about his fantastic journey in science, being there at the pivotal moment when the deep learning revolution took off, phenomenal mentors who guided him through academia and life, the unique characteristics of research in academia and industry, dealing with issues of bias and ethics in AI systems, his eclectic reading interests and obsession with collecting books, and many more things!!
February 12, 2021
Automating synthesis and fostering an inclusive future with Lucky Pattanaik (MIT)
In this episode, I converse with Lucky Pattanaik, who's currently a Graduate Student in the Department of Chemical Engineering at MIT. He is actively working on the intersection of AI/ML with chemical synthesis and is jointly advised by the Green and Jensen groups. Before starting grad school, Lucky completed his undergraduate studies in chemical engineering at Ohio State University. Lucky works on the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence to computer-aided synthesis planning. We talk about his fantastic journey in science and life; defining chemical engineering (which is not chemistry!); fascinating research on a modern-day hot topic; phenomenal mentors and research experiences; the influence of drumming and basketball; his active commitment and endeavour to creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable culture in academia; and many more things!!
February 06, 2021
Pioneering advances in neuroscience of addiction in the era of preprints with Marina Picciotto (Yale)
In this episode, I chat with Prof. Marina Picciotto, the Charles B. G. Murphy Professor of Psychiatry and Professor in the Child Study Center, and the Departments of Neuroscience and of Pharmacology, and the Deputy Director, Kavli Institute for Neuroscience at Yale University. Prof. Picciotto completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Jean-Pierre Changeux in the Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience at the Institut Pasteur in Paris and earned a Ph.D. in Molecular Neurobiology in the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience at Rockefeller University under Paul Greengard, a future Nobel Laureate. Prof. Picciotto is a pioneering neuroscientist known for her groundbreaking work on the role of nicotine in addiction, memory, and reward behaviors. She's also the current Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Neuroscience, the field's trademark journal. We talk about her very interesting journey through science, exploring the intricacies and conducting phenomenal research in neuroscience, her terrific mentorship and influence on the field leading a prestigious journal through the era of preprints and digitization, and many more things!!
January 30, 2021
Building resilient models and breaking glass ceilings with Divya Shanmugam (MIT)
In this episode, I chat with Divya Shanmugam, a Graduate Student in the Clinical and Applied Machine Learning Group at MIT CSAIL advised by Prof. John Guttag. Divya completed her undergrad from MIT itself and majored in computer science with a concentration in South Asian studies. She has also interned at Microsoft Research, Borealis AI, D.E. Shaw Research, Counsyl, and Aetion. Divya is currently focused on building machine learning models that are resilient to unreliable data. We talk about her growing up in a family of academics and getting an early initiation into the world of scientific research; delving into the intersection of computation and biology; differing experiences in an industrial and academic research setting; choosing a graduate school lab and project; virtual seminars and conferences; the importance of a humanistic perspective to contextualise advances in computing; diversity and its connection with ensembles; her current eclectic reading list; and many more things!!
January 27, 2021
Trailblazing a musical trail across life and science with Padmini Pillai (MIT)
In this episode, I chat with Dr. Padmini Pillai, an Immunoengineer and CRI Irvington Postdoctoral Fellow in the legendary Langer Lab at MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Padmini completed her undergrad at Regis College and then worked as a Research Technician in Prof. Charles Serhan's lab at Harvard Medical School before earning her PhD in Immunology at the renowned Iwasaki Lab at Yale. Padmini is also a very accomplished musician who has performed at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Newport Jazz Festival, singing backup for Grammy Award-winning singer Angelique Kidjo!! A Delegate to the American Academy of Achievement and a former Convergence Scholar at MIT, Padmini works on designing diverse biomaterial strategies to boost antitumor immunity, resolve chronic inflammatory disease, and elucidate pathways involved in allergic inflammation. We indulge in a terrific conversation on her fascinating journey in science; incredible inspirations like her parents and older brother, themselves accomplished academicians, who fostered her interest in science; fantastic mentors like Bob Langer and Akiko Iwasaki who've guided her along; her groundbreaking research that's on the frontiers of the intersection of engineering and immunology; a life-changing experience during grad school battling a rare and deadly liver disorder, Acute Intermittent Porphyria; deep interest in music, a familial trait, and how it has transformed her as a person and scientist; making science a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive space; and many more things!!
January 23, 2021
Unravelling the secrets of the brain in a collaborative and interdisciplinary manner with Varun Suresh (TIFR)
In this episode, I converse with Varun Suresh, a Graduate Student in the Department of Biological Sciences at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. Varun completed his BS and MS in Biotechnology from Mumbai University, graduating with high honours, and also worked as a Research Fellow in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory at the National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health. A developmental neuroscientist in training at TIFR under Prof. Shubha Tole's auspice, Varun and I touch on a diverse array of topics, right from his deep desire to serve in the defense forces to his serendepitious journey in science guided and supported by terrific mentors and peers, his groundbreaking research during the course of his doctoral studies, making science a more diverse and equitable place whilst encouraging an open and collaborative atmosphere, the great importance of fundamental research, interdisciplinarity and communicating science to the public, and many more things!!
January 20, 2021
Relentlessly espousing reproductive justice and maternal wellbeing with Neel Shah (Harvard Medical School)
In this episode, I talk with Prof. Neel Shah, an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School, and founding Director of the Delivery Decisions Initiative at Harvard’s Ariadne Labs. Neel completed his undergraduate studies in neuroscience at Brown University and went on to obtain an MD from Brown Medical School along with a Master's in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School before completing his Residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital/Brigham And Women's Hospital. He also serves as an obstetrician-gynecologist and a Harvard Medical faculty physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Prior to joining the Harvard faculty, Neel founded Costs of Care, an NGO that curates insights from clinicians and patients to help delivery systems provide better care. In 2017, he co-founded the March for Moms Association and currently serves on national advisory boards of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Office of Women's Health Research at the National Institutes of Health. As a scientist and social entrepreneur, Neel is a globally recognized expert in designing solutions that improve health care and his pioneering work focuses on partnering with people giving birth to design solutions that enable them to thrive. We indulge in a splendid conversation about his fascinating path in science and medicine; the influence of his terrific mentors and advisors like the legendary Leon Cooper, a Physics Nobel Laureate turned Systems Neuroscientist, and Atul Gawande, a renowned public health expert; Neel's groundbreaking work on maternal wellbeing that lies right at the intersection of reproductive justice, gender equity, and structural racism; coming to terms with Trumpism and the post-truth world; how critical issues related to childbirth like maternal mortality transcend borders; celebrating mothers as mothers themselves; and many more things!!
January 16, 2021
Realising qubits and advocating for an equitable future with Pratiti Deb (UChicago)
In this episode, I chat with Pratiti Deb, a Graduate Student in the Department of Physics at the University of Chicago, working in the group of Prof. David Awschalom. Before coming to UChicago, Pratiti completed her undergrad at Cornell University and has also been working as a Quantum Developer Intern at IBM Quantum. Pratiti has been actively working on the experimental implementation of qubits through spins in semiconductor defects and chemically synthesized molecular systems. We indulge in a magnificent conversation on quantum computing, her own research interests, her experience as an ethnic immigrant; how bias, discrimination, and racism on basis of gender, caste, and race pervade myriad fields; the false narrative of genius in science and how in reality it's truly collaborative, affirmative action as a tool of empowerment and making science a more diverse and inclusive space for minorities for all hues, and many more things!
January 09, 2021
Revolutionising the frontiers and heralding in the era of Quantum Steampunk with Nicole Yunger Halpern (Harvard)
In this episode, I converse with Dr. Nicole Yunger Halpern, a theoretical physicist and an ITAMP Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Institute for Theoretical Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics (ITAMP). Nicole completed her PhD in 2018 advised by John Preskill at Caltech and before that, she earned her Masters's at the highly selective Perimeter Scholars International (PSI) program of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and Bachelors at Dartmouth College, where she graduated as a co-valedictorian of her class. Nicole re-envisions 19th-century thermodynamics for 21st-century settings—small, quantum, and far-from-equilibrium contexts—using the mathematical toolkit of quantum information theory. Nicole uses quantum thermodynamics as a new lens through which to view the rest of science and calls her research “Quantum Steampunk,” after the steampunk genre of art and literature that juxtaposes Victorian settings with futuristic technologies. We touch on a wide array of topics, right from her amazing experience at a liberal arts college and the deep influence humanities have had on her scientific persona, the essential nature of interdisciplinarity and collaboration in academia, her terrific mentors who have hugely inspired Nicole and her revolutionary work, her scintillating efforts at science communication through her monthly blog posts, and many more things! Her superb post elucidating the difference between Quantum Thermodynamics and Quantum Statistical Mechanics - https://quantumfrontiers.com/2019/07/21/what-distinguishes-quantum-thermodynamics-from-quantum-statistical-mechanics/
January 03, 2021
Fighting discrimination and paving an equitable path forward with Julienne LaChance (Princeton)
In this episode, I converse with Julienne LaChance, a final year doctoral candidate in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. Prior to coming to Princeton, Julienne worked in NYC as a firmware engineer and programmer at 3D Printing giant MakerBot Industries, and then at General Electric’s Global Research Center, designing jet engines and building tools for other design engineers. She received her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, whilst working on submarines, helicopters, smart grid optimization and electric vehicles. Julienne's current interests transcend machine learning, computer vision, control and dynamical systems, and collective behaviour in cells. We indulge in a terrific conversation on her interesting journey in science, foraying into Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning at the cusp of the ImageNet led Deep Learning revolution, COVID19 pandemic, and its disruptive impact, her pioneering the fantastic AI4ALL, a summer camp for high school students that targets underrepresented minorities, the great importance of incorporating ethics into AI algorithms to prevent scapegoating racial and ethnic minorities, and many more fascinating things. The ventilator spearheaded by Julienne during the pandemic - https://www.peoplesvent.org/en/latest/
December 30, 2020
Editing genomes while in a quest to unravel the intricacies of life with Pranam Chatterjee (Harvard Medical School)
In this episode, I converse with Pranam Chatterjee, the Carlos M. Varsavsky Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School in the group of the legendary Prof. George Church. He recently completed his Ph.D at the MIT Media Lab with Joseph Jacobson, one of the inventors of the Kindle, and completed his undergrad at MIT double majoring in Computer Science and Molecular Biology after transferring there from Dartmouth where he was studying Religion. Pranam is currently developing state-of-the-art algorithms and high-throughput experimental screens to interrogate germ cell development whilst utilising the genome-editing tool, CRISPR. We indulge in a fantastically riveting conversation in his quest to study life spiritually and scientifically, the importance of listening to folks on the other side of the aisle, the essential nature of interdisciplinarity and collaboration in academia, how science is built on the shoulder of graduate students and other researchers toiling away without recognition, combating SARS-CoV-2 on the frontlines, the importance of diversity and inclusion, and many more things.
December 24, 2020
Engineering mucus whilst blazing a trail across science with Caroline Werlang (MIT)
In this episode, I talk with Caroline Werlang, a Siebel Scholar and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the Biogels Lab in the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT. Before coming to MIT, Caroline earned her B.S. in Chemical Engineering at Caltech and spent a year in Switzerland as a Fulbright Fellow at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). We indulge in a wide ranging conversation about her path to science and academia, fantastic mentors who inspired her, her fascinating work exploring the secret of mucus and microbiome, science as a collaborative enterprise and disputing the notion of genius' revolutionising it, actively combating bias and discrimination in science through terrific endeavours to foster a more welcoming environment for underrepresented groups, and many more things!! The pioneering BEAPP Caroline pioneered at MIT-BE: http://be.mit.edu/academic-programs/prospective-graduate/beaap
December 19, 2020
Breaking new grounds in neurobiology and shattering glass ceilings with Sandhya Koushika (TIFR)
In this episode, I talk to Prof. Sandhya Koushika, a Cellular Neurobiologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. She is a recipient of the International Early Career Award by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. We talk about her foraying into science and academia, working with C. elegans, her terrific mentors, overcoming personal and professional barriers, negotiating COVID19 by stitching new collaborations and combating pseudoscience, and her inspiring advice to budding scientists.
December 12, 2020
Defying stereotypes and scaling new heights with Bichlien Nguyen (Microsoft Research)
In this episode, I chat with Bichlien Nguyen, a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington, and an affiliate assistant professor at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington. Bichlien's main interests are in developing sustainable infrastructure for datacenters including DNA-based data storage systems and she works in conjunction with the Molecular Information Systems Lab at UW CSE. We talk about her family background as a refugee, battling strong expectations from multiple fronts, life-shaping experiences in undergrad and grad school, fighting stereotypes and biases, influence of incredible mentors, her fascinating research, seamlessly straddling university and industrial academia, her sagacious advice to young and upcoming researchers, and many more things!
December 09, 2020
Computing complexity and tackling biases in academia with Boaz Barak (Harvard)
In this episode, I talk with Prof. Boaz Barak, the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. We converse about his serendipitous path to the theory of computing after starting to programme on a Commodore 64 in his childhood, his insipid stint in the military, the influence of his cohort and mentors during graduate school, computational complexity, quantum computing, the differing experience of working in a university research lab and industrial research lab, communicating science to the masses, and the great importance of diversity and inclusion in academia.
December 05, 2020
Crafting a sustainable and equitable future with Priyanka deSouza (MIT)
In this episode, I converse with Priyanka DeSouza, a Research Fellow in the Senseable City Lab, MIT, and a former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. We talk about her fascinating journey in science, navigating through graduate school and confronting the ubiquitous imposter syndrome, her important work on air quality monitoring and helping mitigate the deadly effects of air pollution, how data colonisation threatens marginalised people, and the concrete steps required to transition to a healthier and sustainable future.
November 28, 2020
Introducing the Random Walks Podcast by Abhigyan Ray, featuring Sagar Shrivastava (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research)
Welcome to Random Walks, a podcast that explores the intricacies of science and the intricate stories of scientists behind it. Join me every week as I indulge in a freewheeling conversation on science and myriad other things with an eclectic set of people who do science. I’m your host, Abhigyan Ray, a Chemical Engineering Undergrad currently exploring the Physics of Life. To introduce the podcast, I'm joined by Sagar Shrivastava, currently a graduate student in the Department of Mathematics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). We discuss the motivation behind the podcast, random walks as a scientific and metaphorical concept, the fascinatingly intricate journey in and through science, and a sense of what and who to come in the podcast.
November 27, 2020