Sachita Ganesa knew she wanted to study science since she was a little girl, so it wasn’t a stretch for her to email a professor in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology department before she’d even started at UMass Amherst to ask if she could work in his lab. “I did some research online about the different labs on campus, because I knew I wanted to do research,” she says. “Scott Garman’s seemed the most interesting. He emailed me back very promptly and said, 'When you're on campus, I’d love to meet with you.'” She found him at the annual CNS College Day cookout in September, and he asked her in to come in for an interview.
“He appreciates persistence,” says Sachita, who is double-majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and French Studies. “I had no experience, but I was just so eager to be in the lab. I said, 'I will clean dishes. I just want to be in the lab.' And yes, I cleaned dishes in the beginning. He asked me to do some organizing around the lab to get familiar with it.”
As a sophomore, Sachita was given an independent project that she worked on for academic credit for ten to fifteen hours a week. “I'm crystallizing an enzyme,” she says. “I love being in the lab. Going in and doing experiments is very exciting. Giving presentations within the group is fun. I love speaking—it’s not scary. The first time I was scared and nervous, but Dr. Garman gave me a lot of confidence. It's so exciting to present your research to other people. A lot of the grad students seem interested in helping me, too, and I get input from them even though they're not working on my project. They are lovely people to work with.”
Sachita had an internship in the Research and Development department at Genzyme, working on chromatography, the summer before her sophomore year, and that’s changed her thinking about the future, she says. “I’ve been thinking about medicine, but with research it's really cool to know that something you're working on can impact so many people worldwide. In medicine you have a specific patient and, it’s really wonderful to work one-on-one and have that personal relationship. But I am developing small molecules that could be used for treatment around the world.”
Outside of classes, Sachita serves a tour guide for prospective students and parents. “I love to talk to people, and I love UMass,” she says. “I also give lab tours. I'll often show high school students around my lab and explain my research.” She’s also a peer mentor in a freshman dorm, sits on the CNS Student Leadership Committee, and is in an all-women a capella singing group called Sharp Attitude. During the fall semester of her junior year, she studied in Paris.
“I had no idea I'd be doing so much here at the university,” Sachita says. “I had no idea I'd love my major as much as I do. I came in thinking I'd definitely go to medical school, but after doing all this research, well, I'm still thinking through if biochemistry is the only option for me. I thought that biochem was a way into med school, that it led to only one career—but there is so much more, and it's just so interesting. I am so passionate about science.”
Passionate about UMass Amherst as well, Sachita says the three reasons she chose UMass Amherst were food, faculty, and friends. “It has the best food in the country and I love to eat,” she says. “But the big thing is, the faculty are really wonderful here—the best in the world. I really feel my professors care about what I'm doing. And regarding friends, fitting in—there are 22,000 undergraduates here. Everyone is so welcoming and so friendly. I knew I'd have a group of friends I could fit in with. I knew I would find a group of people I could hang out with who would share the same passions as me and who would support me. And I have.”