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Harleen Saini, PhD, postdoc

        Harleen Saini, PhD

What sparked your interest in science?
I have always been very, very fascinated by biology. My father is an OB/GYN. My mother is a maternal and child health care specialist. I saw so many babies being born I was fascinated by how, exactly, from a single cell does a whole organism get made. Every question that I asked, my dad would answer to the limit of his knowledge, and that matched what we would find in text books. I was always curious to know more, and that’s when I realized the only way to know more was by way of research. I went to a very good all-girls high school in my hometown, Amritsar, India, where in addition to getting an excellent education, I learned that I could be fearless, independent and bold.

What is it like to be involved in the RNA field, which is evolving so quickly at this moment?
Studying RNA is very exciting and to be at the very cutting edge makes it even more thrilling. We hear about genomics and how you can sequence your DNA. Not only can you sequence all of your DNA, you can also sequence all the RNA in cells. That just opens the door to making us able to answer so many more questions that we couldn’t even think about 10 years ago.

What do you like most about your work?
I wake up every morning feeling very excited because I can learn something new pretty much every day. What I really like about Melissa (Moore) is that she’s not afraid of challenging long-held beliefs in the field, which I appreciate because I am somewhat rebellious and love challenging the status-quo myself. I have done that in my personal life and really felt rewarded for it. Melissa teaches us to look for the truth in data and beware of assumptions that may mask the truth. It’s easy to be misled by prevailing beliefs in science, so it’s important to be objective in interpreting results. And that is something that I have learned from Melissa – how to let the data speak to us. We don’t make assumptions. We make discoveries by rigorously testing and probing the data.