Page Menu

Biochemistry and Molecular Biotechnology Blog

Mythili Subbanna

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Each month the BMB Department will feature a department member's unique story.

This month, Haley sat down with Pryciak Lab Research Associate Mythili Subbanna. Shoutout to the “Newbies” Friday lunch crew for introducing Haley to Mythili, who has been a part of our department for ~6 months now.


Diversity Profile of the Month!

A headshot of Mythili Subbanna.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Carmel, NY and then grew up in Brewster, NY. It is a very nice suburb, very green, and stuff is cheaper there than in NYC. There wasn’t a lot of diversity, but I had good friends. Then I moved to Scarsdale, NY when I was 11, which made me the new kid on the block for the first time in my life. Luckily I was adopted by an existing friend group, and moving to a new place was actually good for me because the schooling there was a lot more competitive, which encouraged me to study harder.


How did you get into science?

I was first exposed to research while volunteering in high school where I met cool professors who were doing cool science. I also got to do a summer research internship in NYC, which was a formative and guiding experience. I loved being in a lab every day (I felt very cool and professional), and the independence I experienced in the lab was mirrored by my life experience that summer – working in NYC was really my first taste of independence, and seeing how I might fit into the “real world.”

My high school Science Scholars course allowed me to discover and develop my interest in presenting and communicating science and exploring new research topics. This course led me to study math and biochemistry at Amherst College where I could learn about other topics that interest me (e.g. math proofs!), develop an analytical mindset, and continue my exploration of STEM.


How did you end up at UMass?

I decided to get a job doing research because, even though I had done it before, I wanted to see if it was something I could see myself doing long-term. Part of the reason I ended up in Worcester is because my mom did her masters degree at WPI, so it is cool to hang around in the same place my mom did at around the same time in her life. It helped it feel like home more quickly.

I really like working here at UMass Chan in the BMB. In my research experiences in my undergrad, I was always like THE undergrad in the lab or the research group (I did math-related research, too!), which was kind of isolating sometimes. Here, there’s lots of people that I can chat with and talk about research with, so I really enjoy that.

I will say I have yet to stray beyond research jobs, and I’m not sure whether I want to explore that or not? I don’t know what things are like outside of the lab, what kinds of other jobs exist… I definitely enjoy where I am now – I like having my own project and being able to explore within it, and I like the flexibility that comes with working in research I miss doing math stuff, but I’m not sure what that means in terms of a career. I think I want to do something interdisciplinary between math and biology? But again, I don’t know what kind of jobs that would entail. I also enjoy volunteering and teaching, and I enjoy the more immediate sense of impact you can get from doing that type of work. I enjoy being outside, so maybe I can incorporate that into my job somehow?

Honestly the whole “what do you want to do with your life” question has really been stressing me out. It feels like other people have it figured out, and I don’t, so it feels like I don’t have time to explore all my interests and all the possibilities. But then, people who “have it together” don’t really seem to actually have it together?? I hope to narrow down what I want to do and take confident steps in a specific direction… So, yeah, that’s where my head is at these days.

Mythili posing in front of "the bean" AKA "Cloud Gate" in Chicago, Illinois.

What would you do with your time if money wasn’t tied to it – if you had all the resources in the world and could do whatever you want?

OOO so many thoughts. My first instinct is to write novels and travel the world. I used to write a lot, and I miss it. I’ve recently been thinking about my purpose in life, but one of my main goals is to experience the world, so traveling would definitely be a part of it. My past self would say I would just sit around and watch TV all the time, but there are just so many other things to do (and also reading is way more fun than watching TV).


Probably I would be outside more, and I would play some sort of soccer on a rec team…


You know you can start doing that now?


Yes yes but starting something new like that by myself with no familiar faces…EEK!

OH also I would ride boats more – I think marine stuff is really cool. Maybe a coastal cleanup or sailing or scuba diving… I guess these are all things I could try now but it would certainly be easier if I had unlimited money and time. Really just anything that gets me moving off of the land would be cool – like learning to fly a plane!

I know that was a lot of thoughts but I think the summary of all those thoughts is that I would live in Ireland and learn to fly a plane and scuba dive and travel.


What setbacks have you faced in your career so far?

Bleh. They’ve mostly been centered in core thoughts of not being good enough, or thinking there’s a stereotypical person in a certain major or career and thinking “oh, I’m not that, so I can’t be that.” I’m still working against those thoughts. Certain professors I’ve had in college and honestly a lot of the faculty candidates coming to the department have helped me realize that while there might be a majority identity in a certain position, that isn’t the only kind of person who CAN have that position. So I’m trying to shift to more of a growth mindset.


Okay and then last question – what is your favorite kitchen utensil?

…………………..knives. They can cut cakes, therefore my favorite utensil is knives.