#WomeninSTEM · #WomeninTech · Computer Science · inspiration · STEM · Technology · women who reign

Women Who Reign: Ramya Deshpande

“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness.
Just because they’re not on your road does not mean they are lost.” – Dalai Lama

Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I’m a freshman studying Bioengineering and CS at Caltech. I fell in love with coding when I watched my sister run a C++ program that traced lesions in an MRI. My logical next step was to start reading her C++ for Dummies book, but as soon as I saw the words “Object Oriented Programming”, sixth-grade me was completely baffled. I decided to start small with HTML/CSS and built my way up to Python, Java and C++ until I was completely captured by the potential of programming, from building games and social networks to using machine learning to glean insights and answer interesting questions.
I love hackathons, Netflix, Nancy Drew and Naruto. I’ve worked as an Assistant Teacher with the Coding School and am currently working on their online platform for coding education, as well as as a curriculum developer for Code Circle; I also enjoy volunteering as a tutor for science and math. This summer, I’m excited to be working at the Guttman Lab at Caltech, where I’ll be analyzing  ~160 billion data values combining chromatin interaction data, RNA-seq and ChIP-seq to investigate X-chromosome inactivation.

Fun fact: I’m the proud owner of a teddy bear named Teddy and a pillow named Pillow.


What # would define your life journey?

Favorite website / app:
Beyond a doubt, Quora! I can spend hours browsing through interesting scientific tidbits, technological marvels, or simply reading through compelling stories.

Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
My family is my world. My sister, Ruchi is truly one of the most inspiring people I have ever known – she cofounded a startup called Mendel Health to develop AI that matches patients to cancer trials; watching her blaze her way into her career has made me realize just how limitless the possibilities are. My dad performed a complete career change in the midst of hardships and is now a Managing Consultant at IBM and my mom is currently finishing her Ph.D in Education after having retired from teaching. My parents have shown me that passion and dedication can overcome whatever life throws your way and I’m incredibly thankful for them.

Song that makes you want to dance:
Shake it Off!

Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
I have been lucky enough to face no hardships in my life and career. However, one challenge does stick out. When I was in fourth grade, my family and I moved 8,000 miles from India to America. I was very reluctant at first, having to displace my house, close friends in school and in my complex, and having to adjust to a whole new country. I still remember how nervous I felt on my first day at school, having to ask my teacher how to use the electric pencil sharpener. At the time, I used to feel significantly self-conscious of my accent and habits and the difference between my friends and me; I absolutely hated spelling bees and giving speeches and presentations during class because they accentuated these difference.
Over time, however, I learned to embrace my identity. I started actually liking speeches and presentations as a way to express carefully crafted arguments and I ended up winning the spelling bee at my school. I realized that I have no obligation to be completely Indian or American, but that I can be whatever identity I am most comfortable in.


Ideal Job:
I’ve given this a lot of thought, but I still can’t say with any certainty. All I know is that I want to be in a position where I am able to utilize my passions to impact people’s lives. A year ago, I would have said that this meant I would be researching diseases and novel therapies. After witnessing the tremendous future potential of computer science and AI however, I’m starting to lean towards the industry for its fast-paced environment and broad scale impact.

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
There’s no right or wrong way to reign your life! Do what you feel is best. We are always receiving fragmented, sometimes conflicting, pieces of advice about being “confident”, “humble”, “kind”, “assertive” and so on. But ultimately, this billions of years old Universe, with galaxies constantly accreting and supernovas violently exploding, will not care about these adjectives. So why not create your legacy as you see fit?

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