Student Spotlight: Sharada Gopal

Sharada Gopal

June 17, 2024

Sharada Gopal is a doctoral candidate in biomedical and biological sciences from Bangalore, India. She earned her bachelor’s degree at the RV College of Engineering in Bangalore and master’s at Cornell University and now studies oocyte activation from the context of metabolism and aging under the guidance of Siu Sylvia Lee at Cornell.

What is your area of research and why is it important?

I work on reproduction, more specifically oocyte activation or what makes an oocyte capable of fertilization from the context of metabolism and aging. I am studying various metabolic factors that have roles in fat regulation to understand the impact of the body’s metabolic state on its fertility. Overall my study would help understand how an altered/compromised metabolic state can impact fertility and what effects this has on the lifespan of the organism overall. 

What are the larger implications of this research?

With several lifestyle changes that have occurred over the past century, which may include increased food availability and with more jobs requiring lower and lower physical endurance, it is important to understand how our bodies are adapting to these changes. With obesity levels increasing worldwide and fertility levels going down, it is important to understand the relationship between metabolism and fertility. While these studies are important, I believe larger changes are needed at a policy level to make child bearing and rearing more equitable from a gender point of view. Policy level changes will also be needed to make healthy living, which may include food availability and exercise, available to all. 

You were named People’s Choice Award winner in the 2024 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. Can you describe the process of condensing your research into a three-minute presentation?

I broke my research down to what it means to me and what its impact could mean to the world and wrote a script. My theatre training back in India did really help with that. After that it was just practicing the presentation multiple times with my partner, friends, and parents before I was ready. 

How will you take what you’ve learned from participating in the 3MT and use it in future academic and professional contexts?

I have found a regained interest in public speaking and science communication. During my Ph.D., this has been limited to giving research talks. I’m really happy that I participated in this competition because it helped me realize that this is something that I would like more as a part of my day to day. I will keep this in mind while applying for jobs after I graduate. 

President Pollack has designated this academic year’s theme as freedom of expression. What does freedom of expression mean to you?

I believe freedom of expression is essential for any institution and for the members of the institution to feel safe and heard. An academic institution is a powerful place where a lot of changes can be made because it is a place where great minds are at work and people are constantly trying to improve the status quo. I believe it’s important to ensure that freedom of expression and speech need to be upheld for positive change and dialogue to occur. 

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

I enjoy swimming at many of the wonderful waterfalls around Ithaca for what feels like the two days of the year when the weather is good. On the other 363 you’ll find me in the Teagle pool. Lol. Apart from swimming I like playing with my dog, hanging out with friends and family, and watching lots and lots of TV.