Profile: Sweta Raghavan
'That flight I took to London in 2013 to pursue a Master’s degree at King’s has proven to be one of the best decisions I made', says Sweta Raghavan, who is currently in the final year of her PhD at the Randall Division of Cell & Molecular Biophysics at King's College London.
Her research is primarily in the field of Cell Biophysics. She studies novel protein-protein interactions that control epithelial cell migration and stability in the lungs, which is important to understand the biology of lungs under homeostatic and inflammatory conditions.
Having won two consecutive elections at the KCLSU, she also serves as the PGR Officer at KCLSU. When asked what motivated her to contest the elections, she said, 'King’s is a great place to study but there seemed to be a vacuum when it came to understanding the needs of PGR students, who are often pressed for time to actively engage with the university. I must say that the university has been tremendously helpful in not just hearing our concerns but also promptly remedying them.'
In her role as a PGR officer, Sweta has conceptualised creative solutions to PGR concerns such as the ‘Thesis Writing Space’, established a cohesive representative structure in the form of King’s Doctoral Students’ Association, created an exclusive PGR online platform with over 800 active members, and negotiated successfully on GTA issues and PGR space at Bush House. She set a precedent on accountability by being the first officer to publish monthly updates on projects she undertook in the Graduate e-Zine. It was no surprise that she was awarded ‘Representative of the Year' at KCLSU awards 2016.
Sweta founded the charity, Scientists & Co., which aims to promote STEM subjects among pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds through the ‘Shadow A Scientist’ and ‘Science Without Borders’ programmes.
'I strongly believe that every child deserves an equal start in life, no matter where they come from. While I was still an undergraduate student in India I began tutoring those less privileged. I didn’t see why I couldn’t continue my work here in the UK; it is my own humble way of giving back to a society that has welcomed me with open arms.'
She believes that by being at the forefront of cutting-edge research, programmes like these help researchers share the mind-boggling knowledge that they acquire with some of the most enthusiastic pupils, who otherwise may not have access to such information.
'We are, in essence, developing a culture of scientific curiosity by reaching out to these young people who are the future of our society,' she says.
Since its launch five month ago, Scientists & Co. has already placed 34 pupils from over 20 different low-participation schools in London through the Shadow A Scientist Programme and is now working with a number of schools outside London and in India through Science Without Borders.
Sweta says she's most proud of the people in her life; her parents, who have been her greatest inspiration and strongest supporters, her PhD supervisor Professor Maddy Parsons, who she describes as 'an incredible teacher, a reliable friend, and an inspiring boss', her second supervisor Professor George Santis and her mentor, Professor Vaughan Robinson, who have been instrumental in her personal and professional growth.
It is often thought that being a woman in science, especially abroad, is challenging but Sweta shows that success is possible. She attributes her success to everyone she’s worked with in the past and present.
'I truly believe that if you have a dream and pursue it passionately, all of King’s conspires to helping you achieve it', says Sweta when asked to reflect on her journey so far. She looks forward to future where she will use her scientific knowledge to build a fairer and more equitable society.
To all her peers she says, 'think large and take charge because you couldn’t be at a better place than King’s to build a successful career!'
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