Be A Medical Scientist and Change the World


My name is Ruth, and we’re in Boston, Massachusetts,
and I’m a geneticist at Harvard Medical School. Right now I’m working on a phenomenon called
ultra-consolation. So if you compare the genomes in different animals, you find regions that
are similar. Like DNA sequences that are similar and shared between different animals. And
that’s because of the fact that we all come from a common ancestor that had a single genome
and we’ve like, diverged. But there are certain parts of the genome, and more so around the
human genome, in comparison to other vertebrates, that show really high similarity, if not,
like identical DNA sequence between like say, mouse, humans, and rats. Or even between humans
and chickens, and those are ultra-conserved, that’s why we name them that. And that stuff,
that conservation, we don’t understand the reason for it. Like why it’s there. We have
ideas. We don’t have a good explanation that’s very satisfying, so that’s my research. Trying
to understand why these elements exist. What are they doing? So it’s kind of evolutionary,
and it’s computational as well. So, I was interested in science like from maybe about
age 11. But how I started, that was actually through Chemistry. So I got really interested
in Chemistry. But I also got interested in Biology a little bit later, I had a really
good teacher for my A level, which is 16 to 18 years old. But I discovered that Cambridge
had a course called Natural Sciences, where you just go in to do science, and you don’t
pick what kind of scientist you want to be, it can be any kind. So that’s why I chose
that course, because it allowed me to explore Chemistry and Biology at the same time. So,
it’s going towards disease relevance a lot. Like, I didn’t expect that actually. I’m a
purist. So I was like “No, I want to do science to understand.” Like if I wanted
to help people, I would be a doctor, like a medical doctor. I could definitely help
a lot of people like that. I’m not here to like, help people. I’m here to understand
the world. It turns out that what I’m doing; understanding is actually very informed by
disease. Like, there are so many data sets now for mutations and various diseases and
it seems like these elements that I’m studying have like, very quite a specific role in certain
diseases that I’m interested in. And these diseases turn out to be diseases that a lot
of people care about, like cancer, and autistic spectrum-type diseases. I do quite a lot of
mentoring so, I’ve had a number of students who’ve come to work with me on this project.
That’s something that I really like, and it’s actually one of the things I wouldn’t want
to give up. And that’s one of the reasons I’m interested in academia. [Speaker 2:] I think we can use [INAUDIBLE] [Speaker 1:] Yeah, I think that would be the
best thing. You can’t do this if you don’t, just really want to do it.