Meet Shruti Varadarajan, this week’s CU Women in STEM subject, neuroscience researcher and Shakespeare-lover!

Bwog Science is back with CU Women in STEM, where we highlight the amazing women in science at Columbia. Today’s profile is from Shruti Varadarajan, BC ’19, who does research in neuroscience!

Major: Cell & Molecular Biology

What subjects are you interested in? I’m a cell & molecular biology major, but I work in a neuroscience lab so I’m also interested in the brain. I really try to take at least one class outside my major every semester, so I’ve really enjoyed exploring other subjects with classes about Shakespeare and Origins of Human Society and Public Health – I might try to get into related classes for my last year!

How did you get interested in your subject? Can you remember the moment that got you hooked? I’ve been interested in biology since high school, but I think I really solidified my interest when I took AP Bio my junior year of high school. Cell biology is infinitely complex and interesting and it really wasn’t hard for me to pick my major– it also helps that the Barnard Biology department is fabulous.

Most important research/extracurricular experiences so far: Working at Professor Rae Silver’s neurobiology lab over the past three years has been a really enriching experience for me. I end up spending several hours in Schermerhorn’s basement (everyone’s always surprised to find out there’s a lab there) studying the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus – a region of the hypothalamus that regulates circadian rhythm. I’ve done the Summer Research Institute at Barnard for the past two summers, and I plan to continue for my third summer. I also have a paper being published soon, so that’s very exciting!

What are your career goals? I want to go to medical school – and I’m currently trying to get through the application cycle!

Favorite science building on campus? Altschul!

Favorite scientist? So many to pick from — but currently, Katherine Johnson ever since I saw Hidden Figures. She’s also coming to commencement which is really exciting.

What do you do BESIDES science? My friend and I run a book club at Barnard and we have meetings twice a month to talk about our book/poem/graphic novel of the month. It’s a great way for me to keep up with reading things that aren’t my textbook and meeting people outside my STEM circle!

What advice would you give to someone interested in a STEM major? Follow your passion! Take advice from upperclassmen, but be sure that you are doing what’s best for you — whether it’s deciding which classes to take, picking a lab to work at, or even choosing your major! And try to make friends in your STEM classes; it’s always more fun/less terrifying to work with other people who are in the same boat.

Favorite classes/professors at Columbia? Professor Snow (Cell Biology), Professor Fowles (Origins of Human Society), Professor Rojas (Organic Chemistry), Professor Colgrove (Social History of American Public Health)