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Women’s History Month: Q&A With Featured Research Trainee, Sakshi Arora, PhD

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March 2, 2021
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“Sakshi

Featured Research Trainee Sakshi Arora reflects on Women’s History Month and her career.

Editor’s note: To celebrate Women’s History Month, our Featured Research Trainee for the month of March is Sakshi Arora, PhD. Dr. Arora is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Beverly L. Davidson, PhD, in the Department of Pathology at CHOP. She graduated from the National Institute of Immunology in New Delhi, India, with a PhD in Virology, and she pursued postdoctoral training at Heidelberg University in Germany. In this Q&A, Dr. Arora discusses her research, her experiences at CHOP, and why Women’s History Month is important to her.

Q: What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

I would define this month as a celebration of the overlooked seminal contribution of women to science. Women have made historic contributions to science starting from the discovery of DNA to the Nobel Prize in 2020. However, there have been numerous studies showing that women in STEM suffer from gender inequality. Disparities exist in terms of publications, career growth, and salary as compared to men. Competence of women is challenged at every step of their career. Recognizing women for their work and setting up a culture of gender equity and inclusion is critical for scientific advancement. And this should not be restricted to only one month but should be an ongoing effort. I am proud to say that I work for a woman PI in an institution led by a woman.

Q: Please tell us about your experience thus far as a fellow in the Advanced Career Exploration (ACE) Fellowship Program.

I started my ACE fellowship in January, and the experience so far has been enriching. It has provided me a platform to network with people outside academia, specifically research administration and get knowledge about alternate careers. The Academic Training and Outreach Programs (ATOP) Office has been extremely supportive. I am excited and look forward to the rest of the fellowship.

Q: What are some research projects you are working on? Why is your work important?

Use of viral vectors as tools for gene therapy has been my long-standing interest. HIV-based lentiviruses can introduce a functional copy of a gene to address the underlying cause of the disease. My work involves developing a lentiviral-based vector for the treatment of cystic fibrosis that affects more than 70,000 people worldwide. My long-term goal is to transition to a leadership position in scientific research administration.

Q: What are some of the most salient training experiences you have had at CHOP thus far? What has been most beneficial for you as a trainee?

CHOP has an incredibly supportive work environment. It provides many professional development opportunities to graduate students and postdocs. CHOP greatly emphasizes training and mentoring the postdoctoral fellows. The ATOP Office and the Penn Biomedical Postdoctoral Programs offer multiple resources that help postdocs connect with mentors, get specific training, and identify their career path. For me, the ACE fellowship has been a unique platform to learn about alternative career options and get a training experience.

Q: Apart from research, what do you consider your biggest accomplishment? What else fills your days besides work?

My biggest accomplishment is my beautiful daughter who fills my heart with love and happiness. When I am not in lab, I love playing with her, reading, and cooking. I also spend some time working with a non-governmental organization in India, mentoring high school students about career options and helping them navigate the path.

Q: Share with us some fun facts about yourself (favorite TV show, last book read, stress relievers, dream destination).

My favorite TV show is House, MD.

The last book I read is “Don't Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and It's All Small Stuff.”

Baking is my primary stress reliever.

My dream destination is the Swiss Alps.