Meet Netra Unni Rajesh
Netra Unni Rajesh is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Engineer Science in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto. She currently works as a Student Researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she sings acapella with the team at MIT, paints intricate nail art, bakes, cooks,reads, runs, plays volleyball, and dances.
When did your love of STEM begin?
My love of STEM began at the age of 14 when I built a small lab in my basement to grow yeast cells and measure the effect of Wi-Fi radiation on their growth. I was able to plan and design my own experiments and really enjoyed the critical thinking employed throughout the process. Not to mention I was literally using techniques from various fields of STEM including Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics! Since this experience, I have been an advocate for exposing youth to hands-on learning in STEM from an early age.
What is the best part about working in the field of STEM?
In my opinion, the best part about working in STEM is the interdisciplinary nature of projects and experiments. I have been fortunate enough to work in different research institutions across the world and one common theme in all of my projects has been interdisciplinary work. This is why I believe STEM is not an acronym for different fields but rather a mode of thinking - interdisciplinary investigation that uses science and math to engineer and build new technologies! Being a biomedical engineer, I am proud to say that I am able to communicate and navigate between each of these fields to ensure that I can share ideas with pharmacological chemists, polymer scientists and clinicians alike. Ultimately, it's collaborations like these that result novel, innovative ideas.
What advice would you give young women interested in a career in STEM?
I would encourage young women interested in STEM to reach out to existing STEM professionals to pursue internships and actually set foot in a lab! The moment I first set foot in a research lab and started doing experiments, I realized how different STEM is from what we learn in courses. The atmosphere, the way you think about and do science is very different in a lab - not to mention that the work is more fast-paced. To gauge whether STEM is for you - research internships are a perfect avenue to test waters and determine where your interests lie. To guide youth interested in pursuing STEM, I founded the Scientific Opportunities and Research Mentoring Program where students are paired with university mentors to guide them in securing research internships.