This series introduces the public and fellow researchers to our talented scientists. We interview different IGI members to find out who they are and what makes them passionate about science.
Dr. Shaheen Kabir became an IGI-AstraZeneca Postdoctoral Fellow in July 2015 and works in Luke Gilbert’s at UCSF. She studies cancer cells that are resistant to existing therapies. Using CRISPR-Cas9 screens, she can find genes that help eliminate these cancer cells and highlight potential targets for new treatment strategies.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Tanzania, to parents of Pakistani origin. I moved to the US at 17 to attend Haverford College in Pennsylvania where I majored in Biology and Theater Arts, with a semester abroad in Australia. From there I moved to New York, working as a research technician at Sloan Kettering to pay the bills while checking out the theater scene. Opting for a scientific career instead, I did my PhD in New York at Rockefeller University, where I met my French husband. Still trying to figure out a way to check off South America and Antarctica in my conquest of continents.
Why did you become a scientist?
It was easier than theater. 😉
Tell us about someone who inspires you.
With most of my work focusing on genome integrity, Rosalind Franklin is an obvious one for her tireless devotion to figuring out the structure of DNA in a time that was none too welcoming to female scientists. At Rockefeller, I saw Brenda Milner give a talk at the age of 93 on her work with famous memory disorder patient “H.M.” I was blown away by her passion and commitment to research.
Do you have any advice for young people studying science or considering STEM careers?
Surround yourself with stellar science and scientists. Being in the intersection of multiple renowned institutions allows exposure to innovative science, while excitement and enthusiasm are normally the tell of a good scientist.
What do you like to do besides research?
Trail running in the Marin headlands! And traveling anywhere, bonus points if it’s a tropical climate and close to a body of water.
Anything that isn’t discussed enough or that many people don’t appreciate?
Having recently become a mother, the struggle of time management comes as no surprise. What was a surprise is how isolating it can be. Gone are the days of being able to nonchalantly discuss with coworkers whether we can bring back dinosaurs and wooly mammoths with CRISPR-Cas9. That being said, my coworkers are extremely gracious in their willingness to change media over the weekend and being the master of one’s own schedule is truly a luxury.
What I believe may be under-appreciated is the difficulty in keeping your career on track. It’s not just a 3-month hiatus while on maternity leave, but more like a two-year process of being pregnant and learning how to work while caring for a whole new human being that is entirely dependent on you.