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5 Things About Me: Ph.D Candiate Saras Saraswathi

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Ph.D Candidate Saras Saraswathi hopes her research will help in the early diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients. (Photo: Saras Saraswathi)

Saras Saraswathi
Ph.D Candidate
Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

Iowa State University


Background:
My research area is in bioinformatics and machine learning. I hope to graduate next year.

Questin 1: Why do want to be a scientist?
Answer: I have been dreaming about becoming a scientist and engineer ever since my education was rudely interrupted by an arranged marriage at 16. I did a correspondence course as my first degree, since I was not allowed to attend college. I waited 12 years before I was able to do an MS in computer science. I waited another 25 years before I had a chance to do my Ph.D.

Question 2: Share a story from your past that lead to your choosing your field of work.
Answer: A few years back a distant aunt was afflicted with cancer and I had the opportunity to nurse her in her last days. Then, my first cousin was diagnosed with multiple cancers and she lost the battle too.  She was not aware she had cancer until it was too late and the cancer had metastasized. If only she had found out earlier, she would still be with us. In addition, I lost three other family members to cancer and other related diseases. It was amazing to find out that most of these diseases occur due to mutations in genes and malfunctioning of proteins. So, I decided  to dedicate the rest of my life to researching proteins (using machine language for processing large amounts of data), whose proper functioning is so important to life.

Question 2: What fuels your passion for your work?
Answer: I love my research since it pertains to proteins which dictates the well being of all living things. My one hope in life is that I will get a suitable position which will enable me to use my research skills for improving the diagnosis and prognosis of human medical conditions.

Question 3: Tell us about a hobby or passion outside of work.
Answer: I have a passion for Indian classical music and I play the flute. Besides my work, my priority in life now is to get healthier by losing a few pounds and getting fitter. So, I have taken up swimming.

Question 4: Share a Web link/video/blog etc. that you found that really excites you.
Answer: My daughters and grandchildren also have tremendous passion for Indian classical music. Our family has a website for learning classical music, www.acharyanet.com. It helps many students from around the world connect to the teachers of their choice.

Question 5:What's your favorite food? Got a sweet tooth? Caffeine junkie?
Answer: I am a pure and picky vegetarian. I take my food with me wherever I travel and I eat only the food I cook. I have never eaten in a restaurant which makes non-vegetarian food or share food from a table which is laden with non-vegetarian food.  I make an exception if it is whole fruits. I come from a very orthodox Hindu Brahman family and am not able to change my ways, in spite of having lived in and out of U.S. for almost 35 years. I still manage to travel for conferences and sneak a rice cooker in with my baggage.

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Ph.D Candidate Saras Saraswathi hopes her research will help in the early diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients. (Photo: Saras Saraswathi)
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