Meet Shruti Naik

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Shruti Naik is a scientist working in immunology who wants to spread the awareness and importance of understanding science and human health. It’s a process that includes public outreach and making sure folks know that what we do now impacts future generations. While her current work may sound complex, she finds ways to simplify science so that we treat our bodies with more care.
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My morning routine involves waking up at 6:30 or 7AM and checking emails in bed with my dog Sherlock by my side. I usually have a hearty breakfast, which is my biggest meal of the day, with coffee. I think food is everything. It’s fuel for the mind and body.

I wash my face in the shower with Apivita Creamy Face and Eye Foam Cleanser and treat with Kiehl’s Vitamin C Concentrate, followed by Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate. I put a bit of Ouai hair oil, and I’m off to work.

on her education and transitioning into science

I was born in India and moved to the States when I was 12. I grew up in a suburb of Washington DC, which I consider my home to this day. I studied Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Maryland College Park, and then I got my PhD in Immunology from the University of Pennsylvania.

I actually grew up wanting to be a stand-up comic and actress. Think Mindy Kaling. Then I saw a scientist on TV one day, Dr. Bonnie Bassler, showcasing her work in bacterial communication. She had uncovered that bacteria can talk to each other, and once they grew to a certain number they would tell each other to start glowing in the dark. I thought glow in the dark bacteria was the coolest thing, and so I took a class in microbiology. I would say I’m still in that class learning because science is a lifelong course that is captivating.

on her path to immunology

I really like bugs, and by that, I mean bacteria. These tiny creatures are everywhere and can be our best friends or worst enemies. A big part of understanding how our body interacts with bacteria and pathogen microbes has to do with cells of the immune system that sense and respond to signals emanating from microbes. It was a natural progression from understanding bacteria to studying immune responses to bacteria.

Trench, Yang Li Men ; T-Shirt, Vintage ; Choker, Vintage YSL ; Pants, Sonia Rykiel
At the end of the day, finding something new about a biological process is the greatest reward. No award, manuscript, or any other accolade can make up for this.
— on how discovery is her favorite part of being a scientist

on what inspires her work as a scientist

The tug of war between nature and nurture—our genes and environment—has inspired my work. While the vast majority of biomedical research has focused on our genes, I am drawn to the role of the environment in dictating our fate. By systematically studying how our experiences shape cellular and molecular physiology, I aim to find molecular biomarkers of environmental traumas to use as predictive strategies and to leverage their therapeutic potential.

on her current work and projects

We are trying to study how stem cells that maintain all of our bodies’ tissues throughout our lifetime are influenced by inflammation and what role stem cells play in driving inflammation. I hope that we will be able to devise stem cell based therapies for inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis and IBD.

on being a woman in science

I think there is a lot of pressure to “asexualize” yourself in science because we traditionally associate intelligence with a certain aesthetic. When you think about a scientist, you envision Einstein, not Beyonce. This is what we have to change: the perception of who is a scientist and what it means to be smart. You can wear heels and red lipstick and do groundbreaking science. I try to push these perceptual boundaries by making every effort to look as feminine as possible when presenting my work to a scientific audience.

on inspiring folks to understand science

We need to make science a voter issue and have every American fight for the future of science. The only way this will happen is if we, as scientists, take the responsibility to showcase the importance of science and how the work we do at the bench will impact human health for decades to come. I do this by routinely engaging in public outreach and advocating for science on Capitol Hill. In everyday life, talking to people about what scientists do is important. Having this conversation without jargon, so that someone like my grandmother understands, is something that I try my best to do.

Dress: Universal Standard

Dress: Universal Standard

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I would tell 18-year-old me not to be so hard on herself. It took me a long time to realize that there is no winning and losing in life, no exam to pass, or trophy waiting. It’s about finding fulfillment and enjoyment in your day to day life.
— on advice for her younger self

on her biggest advice for skin care

The link between UV damage and skin cancer is well-established, so wear sunscreen year round and re-apply liberally! In my opinion it is the most important thing you can do for your skin, regardless of age, gender, or ethnic background. I recommend La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Light Sunscreen.

on her self-care rituals

I recently got into Korean body scrubs. They are amazing. Women scrub your body with salt and slough off your dead skin! It’s super relaxing and allows me to momentarily disconnect. I also love traveling to obscure places and seeing how people live around the world. It’s a great way to pull myself out of my microcosm and get some perspective.  

on her style and shopping habits

I usually shop online because I don’t have time to hit the stores, and the shopping crowds can be overwhelming. I travel a lot for work and actually shop in Paris and Milan. My favorite stores according to my bank account are Sephora, J Crew, Reiss, and Bloomingdale’s. I would describe my style as simple and polished. I’m not too mindful of having a particular aesthetic. I just like things that look simple and pretty. I get my inspiration from Pinterest or Instagram. The street fashion in New York is also amazing.

on her makeup routine

I love Makeup Forever products. I mix the Primer and Foundations to get a more sheer look. I touch up any blemishes with YSL Touche Eclat. Then I use Stila Eyeliner and Fenty beauty shimmer stick. I end with a gloss or lipstick. I also recommend OLAPLEX Hair Perfector No. 3 and Urban Decay Naked 3 Eyeshadow Palette.

on the five people invited to her dinner party

Cleopatra, Abraham Lincoln, Luis Pasteur, Ada Lovelace, and Marie Curie.

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I think science in graduate school is hard. There is no free lunch, however, if you love science you will enjoy the challenge. Ultimately what we are doing as scientists is creating new knowledge. The discoveries of today become the textbooks of tomorrow. It’s important to be comfortable with the unknown and be up for navigating uncharted territories.
— on the long road of education
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shruti’s favorite records

Have One On Me by Joanna Newsom, The Greatest by Cat Power, Kid A by Radiohead, and Weezer

shruti’s favorite movies

When Harry Met Sally, Planet of the Apes, Clueless, Phoenix

shruti’s favorite books

The books I picked ultimately all touch upon what it means to be human, experience loneliness (Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami), grit (Post Office by Charles Bukowski), hubris and regret (Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis), and these emotions are what define us as human (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick).

I recommend The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot to understand medical ethics and the history of how we grow cells outside the human body. This was a key step in moving medical research forward and allowing us to test drugs in cultured cells instead of animals. I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong is about good bacteria and how they are vital for health. Autism’s False Prophets is written by infectious disease doctor, Paul Offit, who made the rotavirus vaccine and debunks the pseudoscience that is being perpetrated by non-credible celebrities about vaccines causing autism. For the record, they do not!

shruti’s favorite places IN new york city

Shopping: Reiss in Upper West Side, SoHo; Cookware: William Sonoma; Restaurants: Thursday Kitchen, Charlie Bird, Mission Chinese (although I still prefer the SF version); Coffee: The Roost, Intelligentsia coffee bar in the Highline Hotel, St. Ambrose Coffee Shop on the roof of Sotheby's; Doggie Cafe: Boris and Horton; Museum: The Frick; Scrub: Juvenex Spa; Massage: Bliss Spa; Workout: Earth Yoga in the UES is the best hot yoga studio I’ve been to in the city and the teachers are incredible; Hair Salon: Fox and Jane in East Village; Theaters: Angelika, iTunes, St. Ann’s Warehouse

Dress: J. Crew   ; Shoes: Bloomingdale’s

Dress: J. Crew; Shoes: Bloomingdale’s