Sharanya Sarkar, Guarini

Sharanya Sarkar, winner of 2024 Diversity Award

Sharanya Sarkar, a doctoral student in molecular and cellular biology, is originally from Kolkata, India. She earned her undergraduate degree in Microbiology from St. Xavier's College, Calcutta. Sarkar won the Diversity Award in 2024 from the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies. 

What do you consider your hometown?

My hometown is Kolkata, India. It is also popularly known as the City of Joy and is known for its rich cultural heritage.

Where did you earn your undergraduate degree?

I earned my undergraduate degree in Microbiology from St. Xavier's College, Calcutta. It is one of the top 10 best undergrad institutions in India for studying basic sciences.

Tell me about your area of research.

My research primarily focuses on developing novel therapeutic approaches for Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease characterized by chronic respiratory infections and inflammation. Specifically, I'm exploring the potential of a microRNA- based therapy to mitigate these infections and inflammation.

What is its potential impact?

My research holds significant promise for clinical translation. We have filed for a provisional patent for the microRNA we are utilizing. While current modulators administered to individuals with CF improve clinical outcomes, they do not effectively address chronic airway infections. The therapy we are developing represents a novel approach, offering both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects without potential side effects.

Who are the faculty that you are working with on this research?

My Ph.D. advisor is Dr. Bruce A. Stanton, a long-standing leader in the field of CF. In 2019, he was honored with the Unsung Hero Award by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for his significant contributions.

What inspired you to become involved with the International Graduate Student Mentor Program?

I landed in the US on a chilly December night, with over 140 pounds of luggage and after a grueling 40-hour trek through the pandemic chaos. With no friends around and public transport, getting to my apartment felt like an impossible mission.

But then, like a guardian angel, Parth Sabharwal, a senior grad student, came to my rescue. Even though it was late, he volunteered to fetch my apartment keys from the college office and gave me a lift home.

Then came the quarantine blues with 7 days locked up before I could even think about getting groceries. That's when Parth went above and beyond, braving the pandemic to grab me enough food to last the week.

Parth's kindness left a lasting impression on me. Inspired by his selflessness, I jumped at the chance to join the International Grad Student Mentoring Program. I wanted to pay it forward and spread a little kindness of my own, just like Parth did for me.

What has been most rewarding about participating in this program?

The most rewarding aspect of this journey was the opportunity to connect with over 320 international students. Their diverse perspectives have opened my eyes to new possibilities. As someone who thrives on human connection, each encounter has been a precious and gentle reminder of the resilience and beauty of the human spirit. It has also taught me that despite our differences, at our core, we are all the same. This journey has shown me that there is indeed joy in diversity.

What does it mean to you to win the Diversity Award?

For me, winning the Diversity Award is a symbol of the journey we've all been on, embracing our unique shapes and sizes and realizing that together, we make something beautiful - just like a completed puzzle. Personally, this award is a reminder that in a place where we don't just tolerate our differences but truly celebrate them, do amazing things happen.

Why did you choose Dartmouth to pursue your degree?

Dartmouth's renowned reputation, coupled with its emphasis on a close-knit community, an interdisciplinary collaboration among advisors, and small class sizes, drew me in. The prospect of forming strong faculty-student bonds and engaging in collaborative research is precisely what I sought in my academic journey.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of your research or scholarship?

I'm a trained Indian Classical vocalist, and in my leisure time, I enjoy singing or playing my guitar. I also love writing reviews about coffee from different places, cooking, and watching thrillers.

What is your favorite place or most activity that you like best at Dartmouth or in the Upper Valley?

In the non-winter months, my favorite activity in the Upper Valley is hiking, particularly on trails near lakes or other bodies of water. However, during winter, my favorite spot shifts to the Tower room in the library. There, I spend a few hours with a hot matcha latte from the Novack Cafe.