Shree Bose never realized that being a woman in science was an issue until she won the Google Global Science Fair. Her brother taught her the basics of science growing up, and she pursued her passion when her beloved grandfather lost his battle to cancer. She was fifteen and spent hours on end researching his condition online, but she soon realized that this wasn’t enough. She started reaching out to professors in nearby labs, hoping to find a mentor. Finally, Dr. Alakananda Basu agreed to let Shree work with her on a project on drug resistance in ovarian cancer. This project led the collegiette to win the Grand Prize at the Google Global Science Fair.
Shortly after her victory, the media confronted her with questions like, “What is like being a girl in the field of science?" and "What made you think you could be a female scientist?" Shree was confused; she had never seen this kind of discrimination in action before. The collegiette began to travel and meet students who were intimidated by the historically male-dominated STEM fields. That’s when she developed her passion for empowering girls and women to pursue science in their education and career. She is now the global ambassador for Girlstart, an Austin-based organization focused on empowering girl to take on education and careers in STEM.
Shree also co-founded Piper, a start-up that develops Minecraft toolkits to encourage children to build and play with technology. She has applied this concept of creating tools to her own scientific research in a lab at Harvard Medical School as well, and she hopes to inspire other women to love and engage in science and technology as much as she does.
Name: Shree Bose
College: Harvard University
Major(s): Molecular and Cellular Biology
Graduation Year: 2016
Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas
Twitter Handle: @shreebose
Her Campus: What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
Shree Bose: Ultimately, my journey has really been about people – from the mentors who gave me my first chance to do research to the people who have inspired me along the way. So I would have to say my greatest achievement has really been the students I’ve been able to influence and inspire to do incredible things in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). In 2011, I was honored to be named the Grand Prize winner of the first ever Google Global Science Fair – an inaugural international science fair which had submissions from over 10,000 students across 91 countries.
In the whirlwind that followed, I gained this incredible global platform on which I got to talk about my research, about engaging more students (especially girls) in STEM fields, and I think my greatest achievement to date is the students I have been able to walk through getting started with research and science – whether through the work I’m doing with Piper, the hundreds of emails from students I personally respond to, or the students I speak to at conferences. My greatest satisfaction is getting emails from high school students who are inspired to get their start in research and find that they love using science to see the world around them or who have built something useful and interesting using Piper. As one person, I think creating that kind of ripple effect is the most powerful thing I can do, so I would say having the chance to mentor so many students and hopefully inspire a few of them to get started in the amazing world of science has been my greatest achievement to date.
HC: What do you think is the biggest factor that led you to where you are today?
SB: I’ve been incredibly fortunate throughout my life to have amazing people who have supported and mentored me, and I think their influence was really the biggest factor in my journey to where I am today. Starting with my inspiring parents who immigrated to the United States and started their own company to follow their dreams to my older brother who taught me that science was a wondrous way to understand the world, my family was my earliest and still is my biggest fan. Along the way, being able to find research mentors like Dr. Alakananda Basu, a professor of molecular biology at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, who was willing to give an eager 15-year old a chance in her lab, really shaped how I fell in love with doing research and using science as a lens through which to understand the world. Even now, finding people who share a common vision of science education like my Piper cofounders, Mark Pavlyukovskyy and Joel Sadler, I think have really made creating something like Piper a reality, so I would have to say the people who have supported me and inspired me along the way have been the biggest factor in leading to me to where I am today.
HC: What are you working on right now?
SB: At the moment, I’m working on a number of really exciting projects that I’m really passionate about. As one of the cofounders of Piper, we recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign and we’re gearing up to get our first orders shipped out by Christmas, which is really exciting. Additionally, as a senior at Harvard, I’m currently doing my undergraduate thesis research in the lab of the incredible Dr. Gary Yellen (Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School) on developing and using fluorescent biosensors, which allow us to image energy states of cells in real time like never before.
HC: What advice do you have for other ambitious collegiettes with a goal/dream?
SB: As a senior, I think it’s always tough to provide advice on an experience you haven’t actually even finished yet. I think the best piece of advice I can give to anyone with a dream is to never be afraid to share your dreams and talk about what you wish to create and see in the world. I think as collegiettes, it’s often hard to share those pipedreams at the risk that they might not work out, but you never know who has the collaborations, networks, and visions to make your dreams a reality. So be careful and vigilant and protect yourself intelligently of course, but never be afraid to ask for help.
HC: Where can others find out more about Piper?
SB: In a nutshell, Piper is a toolbox with a lot of basic electronic pieces taught through a game. By creating Minecraft adventures coupled to the hardware pieces, we’ve created a digital-physical interface, which allows kids (and anyone!) to play Minecraft, build physical electronics to overcome challenges in the virtual game, and ultimately make and share their own creations. We’re really excited about what we’ve created and you can get more information and order your own on our site.
HC: In what ways do you think girls’ and women’s involvement in STEM will impact these fields?
SB: In the inaugural year of the Google Science Fair, all three age category winners awarded were three young women, and as the Grand Prize winner, I remember getting a lot of questions at the time about how I had overcome gender barriers to be in science, which to be completely honest, wasn’t something I had really thought about. I was extraordinarily lucky to have a family who had never made being a girl in science seem like anything uniquely challenging. I had an older brother who passed on the wonder and excitement he was taught as a student at a very young age, and so I was able to get started in science and do really amazing research because I never perceived being a girl in STEM as a disadvantage.
I think that’s really the culture we have to create for women in STEM – one in which discrimination is a thing of the past and strong women role models exist to look up to and serve as mentors for the next generation of women scientists. I think there are young girls all over the world with ideas for new research and solutions for big problems just waiting to be given a chance. And if those girls make a decision to turn away from STEM because of the perception of gender barriers and obstacles in the way, I think that’s a loss for society as a whole. So ultimately, I think getting the perspectives of more girls and women involved in STEM will allow more new ideas to be pursued, new tools developed, and ultimately more new discoveries that can change the world. That starts with changing the culture around women in science, and I’m honored and excited to be a part of that.
Iris is the associate editor at Her Campus. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in communications and gender studies, but was born and raised in France with an English mother. She enjoys country music, the color pink and pretending she has her life together. Iris was the style editor and LGBTQ+ editor for HC as an undergrad, and has interned for Cosmopolitan.com and goop. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @irisgoldsztajn, or check out her writing portfolio here.