Alumni of the Alt Protein Project: where are they now?

Varsha Rao reflected on her priorities when deciding between pursuing a degree in the natural sciences versus engineering.

This realization led her to pursue a bachelor of science in chemical and biological engineering at Montana State University-Bozeman. During her undergraduate studies, Varsha became very involved in research which informed her next decision to pursue graduate school rather than jumping straight into industry. When considering where to apply and what degree to study, she prioritized mentorship.

While working on her PhD, Varsha co-founded the Alt Protein Project at CU Boulder. Varsha reflected on one of her proudest accomplishments while leading the chapter.

Varsha highlighted key aspects of the program: exchanging knowledge freely and learning together. The Alt Protein Project welcomes undergraduate and graduate students from a vast array of disciplines and backgrounds because interdisciplinarity and diversity are essential ingredients to developing effective teams and a thriving industry. Another important skill to building a strong team is public speaking and science communication, a skill that Varsha developed greater confidence in through hosting events and talking about her research beyond the lab.

Varsha is currently an Associate Scientist on the cell integration team at Wildtype, an alternative seafood company making cultivated seafood, starting with sushi-grade salmon based in San Francisco, California. While the day-to-day work of her current role in the industry shares some similarities to her Ph.D. years, Varsha explained how these two chapters of her career journey differ.

With some years of working in the industry under her belt, Varsha has some advice for others looking to enter the field.

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