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Professor Feature: Pardis Sabeti


Written by: Ana Karla Cepeda Diaz

pardis sabeti, harvard, the scientific student

Dr. Pardis Sabeti is an Associate Professor at the Center for Systems Biology and Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, an Institute Member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, and a Howard Hughes Investigator.

Her work focuses on understanding the genetic factors that influence individual human responses to diseases like malaria, cholera, and Lassa fever. Her genetic analyses of pathogens could potentially lead to new approaches in the treatment and eradication of these diseases. In fact, her exceptional work in Nigeria during the Ebola outbreak earned her being named one of TIME Magazine’s Persons of the Year in 2015. Besides being an award-winning scientist, she’s the lead singer and bass player in the indie rock band Thousand Days.

A Harvard Medical School graduate and Rhodes Scholar, her long list of accomplishments and shining resume may be intimidating, but what makes Dr. Sabeti our featured professor is more than her research or her academic achievements, it is her ability to inspire those around her.

Sabeti has an extraordinary dedication to her students and says she wants to show the world that the best way to produce top-flight scientific work is “to nurture researchers’ humanity and empathy—and have fun.” Appropriately, attending one of Pardis’s lectures is no ordinary thing.  Flying tangerines, impromptu dance sessions, meditation breaks, and t-shirt catapults make her lectures seem like anything but a Harvard introductory biology class. What’s even more outstanding is that this level of energy in the classroom would have seemed impossible some months ago when, on July 17th, 2015, she suffered a near fatal car accident.

Sabeti was thrown from an ATV over a cliff and into a boulder during an excursion at a Montana conference and spent months in the hospital with a shattered pelvis and two broken legs, undergoing several surgeries and wondering if she would even be able to walk normally again. Now, standing at the front of a lecture hall full of hundreds of eyes that look up at her in admiration, Pardis Sabeti continues to inspire Harvard students to pursue their passion in life and science.