Happy Superbowl Sunday Reigners! Meet Pooja Chandrashekar, a freshman at Harvard. Just reading about all of her accomplishments made me dizzy – this woman has already accomplished so much and is an amazing role model to others! Read on to see everything she’s involved in, the city she’s frequented the most, how MATLAB has affected her life, and how her advice on just going for it!
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
Originally from Northern Virginia, I’m currently a freshman at Harvard University concentrating in biomedical engineering with a secondary in global health and health policy. As an advocate and speaker for encouraging girls in STEM and computer science, I’m the founder of ProjectCSGIRLS, a national youth-driven nonprofit working to close the tech gender gap by running a national computer science competition for middle school girls and hosting workshops around the country. I started ProjectCSGIRLS three years ago during my sophomore year of high school and it’s been the most incredible journey of personal growth and development so far. Not only have we been able to reach over 1,000 girls across the country, but through ProjectCSGIRLS I’ve discovered a love for entrepreneurship, public speaking, and advocacy. I also currently works as an undergraduate researcher at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, developing organ-on-chip models for the blood-brain barrier, help design business and product development strategies for Barakat Bundle at the Harvard Innovation Lab, and serve as an Executive Board Member for the South Asian Healthcare Leadership Forum. I’m also one of the directors for the 2016 Harvard Women Engineers Code (WECode) Conference and was part of the team that organized Harvard’s inaugural hackathon, HackHarvard, this year! I’ve spent my past three summers as a research intern in the MITRE Corporation Nanosystems and Emerging Technologies Group and just wrapped up a winter internship at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Janelia Research Campus). I’m kicking off 2016 by starting to work on some super awesome girls’ empowerment initiatives, like organizing the inaugural Boston Girls’ Summit so stay tuned! See my website for more info: www.poojachandrashekar.com!
Fun fact: I’ve been to Paris eight times! I absolutely love traveling, exploring new cities and food, and meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures.
What # would define your life journey?
#Blessed – I’ve been so incredibly blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people, friends, and mentors throughout my life. From having the most supportive parents to the most inspiring role models, I can’t thank everyone around me enough for supporting and encouraging me to make my dreams a reality.
Favorite website / app:
Totally unbiased answer? www.projectcsgirls.com of course! Other than that, Facebook Messenger is easily one of the most useful apps for communicating with people and organizing group events. I can’t live without Gmail and Google Drive either.
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted (if any):
My mom is my biggest inspiration and one of the most important things she has taught me is to be truly happy and successful, I should do what I love and pour my heart and soul into it. She has really taught me the value of passion and hard work and has always told me that if I put my mind to something, I can do it no matter what the challenges or obstacles are. Apart from her, Sheryl Sandberg and Sangeeta Bhatia are both huge role models for me.
Song that makes you want to dance:
Stand by You by Rachel Platten
Technical challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
During my first summer internship, which was at the MITRE Corporation the summer after my sophomore year of high school, the project I was supposed to work on lost funding a couple weeks before I was supposed to start and I was switched to a project on a topic I knew nothing about. In addition, it was entirely a MATLAB project and I had never opened, let alone used, MATLAB before that. So that project required a lot of learning on the technical side, not only about the code base but also about the project topic. I just took it one step at a time, going through MATLAB tutorials and looking up functions when I needed them, and it ended up being one of the best summers till date because of the sheer amount that I learned and the work that I produced in the end.
I’m really passionate about the intersection of healthcare and technology and am excited by how digital, mobile, and data analytics technologies are going to transform healthcare as we know it so my ideal job would be at the nexus of medicine, technology, and entrepreneurship as a physician developing innovative healthcare technologies and pioneering new models of healthcare management and organization. I’d love to pursue an MD/MBA and continue to combine my love for engineering and data analytics with my love for biomedical research and working on global health challenges.
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Just go for it! Don’t let the statistics stop you from entering a field you love, or your age from making a difference in an issue you truly care about! They are simply numbers, but it’s your drive, motivation, and love for your work that will take you far in life. So start that program you’ve been thinking about starting, hack away on that project that just won’t get off your mind, and apply for things you never think you’ll get because if you don’t try, you’ll never know what could’ve been.