5 Questions for a Scientist: Science Education Specialist Shaila Kotadia

The gap between the science classroom and a real-life career in the sciences can seem distant for some students. The 5 Questions for a Scientist interview series was created to bridge this gap! We aim to inspire students to pursue careers in the sciences by showcasing the incredible diversity of STEM careers by talking to scientists themselves. See all of the interviews here.

Get to know Shaila

Occupation: Education and outreach manager for a biology research center
Institution: University of California—Berkeley
Field: Synthetic biology
Focus: Prior research focused on genetics and cell biology

Shaila Kotadia earned a Ph.D. in Genetics and Development at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California—Santa Cruz in cell biology and genetics. She conducted a brief science policy fellowship at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Shaila is currently the education and outreach manager for the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center. 

1. Explain what you do in your work in one sentence (or two!).
I run research education programs for high-school and undergraduate students and teachers and I conduct outreach to the community about synthetic biology. In addition, I work to increase diversity in STEM and to assist graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in their career development.

2. When did you first become interested in your field?
I became interested in scientific research when I was in high school and learned about how HIV/AIDS and cancer persist. From that point on, I was inspired to conduct scientific research to better understand and discover the underlying mysteries of living organisms.

3. What is your favorite part of being a scientist or of science in general?
My favorite part of being a scientist was the concept of discovery and generating new, creative ideas to solve the next question in a scientific puzzle.

4. What is a typical day like for you as a scientist?
As a scientist, each day was different and consisted of conducting experiments, reading and/or writing scientific literature, generating graphical representations of my studies, collaborating with scientists in other parts of the world, and volunteering in extracurricular activities that supported the next generation of scientists.

5. Do you have any advice for young people interested in science today?
Be passionate, hardworking, and keep an open mind! Science can take you in all directions and taking advantage of all of the opportunities offered will lead you to a happy and successful life in fields that you would have never expected!

image credit: shaila kotadia


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