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Bubbling with Talent and Questions: Meet Setu Mehta

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

By: Maggie Chen, PRISE, Harvard College '22

Recently, we had the pleasure of speaking with PRISE fellow Setu Mehta, a rising senior in Lowell House studying Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology with a secondary in Global Health and Health Policy and a language citation in Spanish (if you can’t already tell, she is SO talented)!

Setu is currently doing quite a lot of biocomputing work, which is something a little new for her! Despite the newness of it all, Setu enjoys the “coolness” of connecting to Harvard’s enormous computing cluster and executing demands from the comfort of her own home to analyze huge datasets. Setu’s research work focuses on working with mouse single cell sequencing data to understand what ligands and receptors are expressed in the early embryonic environment. Altogether, this project combines several fields - Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, math, and technology - a truly cross-disciplinary and intersectional feat!

When challenged to explain her work to a 5 year old, Setu managed to compartmentalize everything in a short and sweet way:

“I'm sorting and sifting through a lot of data that's openly available so that I can understand the similarities between humans and other animals. Those similarities are going to be really important for humans to understand themselves and understand what's going on in their bodies really early in development.”

We asked Setu if she had any advice for students looking to learn some computational techniques, and here’s what she had to say:

“You just have to figure out first what you're not good at and what you don’t know. Diving headfirst into the data and also doing it with a professor or through a class is really helpful because it's guided, with lots of office hours! That’s a great first introduction and then you can go from there on your own, exploring things like publicly available datasets.”

Beyond Setu’s research work, she is also fascinated by the concept of fish consciousness. A question that keeps her up at night is whether her fish can recognize her, or even if her fish knows that she is taking care of it! She ponders what her fish really thinks of her (and we’re sure that lots of other people wonder that as well!)

When we asked Setu what she is excited to do after quarantine, she immediately thought of the beach! As a Long-Islander, she is looking forward to the summertime bliss of pool parties and relaxing (HSURV pool party in Blodgett Pool after we all go back to campus? Anyone?)

And that’s a wrap on the lovely and talented Setu Mehta - a true Renaissance scientist, fish philosopher, and fabulous beachgoer! Next time you see her, be sure to say hi - she’s off to do a lot of amazing things :)

Bonus Question: If Cinderella’s glass slipper was supposed to perfectly fit her foot, and her foot only, how did it fall off?

“To be fair, her slipper fell off when she was running on the stairs. I feel like for me, even if the slipper fits well, if I put my foot to the stairs at an angle while running as quickly as she did, there’s a very likely chance that the slipper could fall off. But, I have to ask Cinderella myself or the animators to be completely sure!”

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