Born and raised in San Francisco, Usha is currently working toward her PhD at Caltech with a focus on the origins of photosynthesis and the relationship between life and the environment. In her free time, Usha combines her passions for art and science by creating unique illustrations.
What inspired you to pursue science?
“I’m deeply curious about the universe. Pursuing science seemed like a path where my strengths could be used well and I could make a difference. I am lucky to have wonderfully supportive family members and mentors along the way, and I hope that I can help break stereotypes and inspire more women to pursue science in the future.”
Can you describe a typical day in your life?
“One of my favorite things about my work is that my days are super variable. I do a lot of fieldwork, which allows me to travel. In the last year, I’ve had days that I spent exploring deserts in California, Arizona, and South Africa to examine the histories recorded in ancient rocks, and also days that I spent wading knee-deep through a marsh on an uninhabited island in the Turks and Caicos to study an ecosystem that might resemble some of the life that existed on early Earth. When I’m at home, my days are spent in the lab at Caltech growing cultures of Cyanobacteria to study their biochemistry, analyzing data on a computer, and playing with my cats.”