Duke M.D.-Ph.D. candidate Shree Bose named on Forbes 30 Under 30 science list

Courtesy of Shree Bose
Courtesy of Shree Bose

Duke M.D.- Ph.D. candidate Shree Bose’s interest in cancer research began in high school after her grandfather passed away from liver cancer.

“I had just seen my grandfather go from a super healthy person to wasting away,” she said. “That one slide [in AP Biology] was not enough for me.”

So Bose took to Google, attempting to understand the mechanisms underlying cancer mutations. Bose eventually stumbled on research about the link between metabolism and cancer mutations, but scientific scholarship on the topic was limited. She decided to reach out to college professors in her area, hoping her questions might be answered through their research. One professor agreed to let Bose work in her lab. 

“I spent my first summer working on breast cancer. I broke a bunch of petri dishes and glass and they were like, ‘You are the biggest nuisance we've ever had,’” Bose said.

The next summer, Bose focused on metabolism and drug-resistant ovarian cancer. Her study found that resistance to cisplatin, a cancer drug, can be reversed by blocking the central energy protein. 

The rest was history. Bose entered her research into the first ever Google Science Fair in 2011 — and she won at 17 years old. 

Over a decade later, Bose, now 28 years old, added another impressive item to her resume: being named to Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Science in December 2022 — an annual publication highlighting 600 young entrepreneurs in fields including education, sports, media, entertainment and of course, science. 

Co-founding Piper Learning

What followed her Google Science Fair win was a whirlwind of publicity and opportunity. Bose was invited to speak at TedX conferences and other events across the world, and she even got to meet former president Barack Obama.

“I think I got so starstruck,” she said. “I low-key blacked out. I bear-hugged him.”

Bose’s travels provided the inspiration for her next venture. In 2014, she co-founded Piper Learning, an educational technology company that creates electrical engineering kits for kids. Bose said that wherever she spoke, children would approach her with novel ideas and ask her how they could get started. 

“I realized I really wanted a tool. I wanted something I could point kids to that I could be like, ‘You do this thing and you will walk away feeling more confident. You'll walk away with some skills, and you'll be able to go create the things that you're telling me about,’” she said. 

Piper’s main product is a build-it-yourself computer that helps users grasp the basics of electrical circuitry and coding. Once finished, users can continue to interact with the product by playing Minecraft. 

“As you're playing, you actually have to build technology to interact with the game,” Bose said. 

Beginning her college education

Meanwhile, Bose was an undergraduate at Harvard University. She continued studying the effect of metabolism on bodily processes — this time turning her attention toward neurobiology. 

“We actually did research on creating metabolic biosensors that fluoresce,” Bose said, in reference to her undergraduate thesis. “We grew these neurons on this dish, and we would flow different kinds of diets to see how brightly they lit up.” 

Bose also decided along the way to pursue both a medical degree and a doctorate. 

“I love doing lab research,” she said. “But the part that lab research is missing for me is the people who it actually affects, which is what an M.D.-Ph.D. is. It is like the bridge between the two worlds.”

Becoming a Blue Devil

Established by the National Institutes of Health in 1966, Duke’s federally-funded Medical Scientist Training Programs (M.D.-Ph.D.) is one of the first in the country. The program normally takes seven to eight years to complete, combining a medical school education with graduate studies in biomedical science. 

Duke’s program is extremely selective. According to Christopher Kontos, director of the MSTP program, Bose was among about 30 applicants accepted to the program out of around 600 that applied. 

“There was no question after we interviewed her that we were excited to accept her into the program and hoped she would come,” he said.

Bose’s Ph.D. dissertation came full circle. She added on to her growing body of research on ovarian cancer and metabolism that she started in high school. This time, Bose studied how ovarian cancer cells metastasize to a layer of fat in the abdomen called the omentum. 

As Bose’s Ph.D. mentor, Kontos described her as “intelligent, motivated, enthusiastic and driven.” 

“[Bose] also brings a particular energy and enthusiasm to her work that's just so much fun,” Kontos said. 

Bose is graduating from Duke this spring and will begin an internal medicine residency. In the future, she hopes to get training in the fields of hematology and oncology, eventually working in gynecological medical management. 

“I think everything I've been able to do here [at Duke] I couldn't have done anywhere else,” she said. “And that makes me incredibly thankful.”

Mia Penner | Editor-At-Large

Mia Penner is a Trinity sophomore and an editor-at-large of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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