The Wonder of Science
Rhodes scholar Pardis Sabeti graduated with her medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 2006, earning the school's highest honor - the third woman ever to do so. She's also the lead singer and songwriter of the band, Thousand Days, who uses her music to make science appealing to children, especially, girls. As a graduate student at Oxford University in England, Sabeti developed a way to detect natural selection at the level of individual genes. In Eric Lander's lab at the Broad Institute, she scanned the entire human genome to figure out which genes have changed within the last 10,000 years and which have spread rapidly in the human gene pool due to natural selection. With these tools, geneticists can study how cultural and environmental changes have affected the evolution of the human genome. Now Sabeti is applying this technique to her true passion: understanding the interplay between humans and the pathogens that cause diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and leprosy. Her work - published in December 2007 - revealed genes involved in drug resistance and in evading the immune system, giving researchers potential targets for new therapies and vaccines.
Pardis Sabeti: Probably the public doesn’t see enough how fantastic science is. I talk about it sometimes where I think the public often sees the things that are on the surface, right, so they don’t see the director who found that perfect shot and saw the angle and the light came through and the moment. And those are the moments that are the most spectacular, right, where you’re just tweaking something and- but it’s very difficult to portray that to other people is that experience that you have and you have to sort of have it yourself. And I think a lot of these kinds of programs like, like I said, Rock Band, or-- where people are doing it themselves they can get a sense of oh, how awesome it must be to write a song or develop something.
It’s just difficult to see that so people want to be like the actors and the performers and the politicians who are- who they see all the time but the people that are probably having the most fun are the writers and the directors and the producers and the scientists, right, the people in the back that are getting to do the creative process. So I think that it’s the creative process that’s just so tremendous. I don’t really love to perform in music. Some people like it more but it’s not my thing so much but just the writing, when you get the lyric and the lyric just goes just the right way or you find the right bridge that takes you to the solo, and those moments are tremendous and it’s difficult to portray. I think the more kids get engaged in science and then have those moments for themselves the more they’ll appreciate it.
Question: What is your creative scientific process?
Pardis Sabeti: The creative scientific process is-- It’s kind of-- It’s a windy road that has a trajectory but it’s a slow trajectory. You may feel like you’re-- Your PhD-- People talk about it and you’re just going around and around and you feel like you’re going nowhere and you basically kind of keep going until at some point you’re just going to hit the other side just by a stochastic process but the longer you go and the more you- and sometimes you can get yourself on a trajectory but you’re moving. It’s a difficult process.
It’s a lot of exploration of the terrain. Right. Look at the topology of everything and then every once in a while you hit something but it’s not always a clear path. Sometimes it is and nowadays actually a lot of it is actually just technical achievements. So for that at least you kind of see well, we’re just getting past this technology and then we can do- take sequencing to a much higher level and things like that, but a lot of it is an exploration so, yeah, hard to describe.
Recorded on: June 29, 2008
Many people don't see how fantastic science is, and that's unfortunate, says Pardis.
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