Faculty Spotlight: Priya Shah
This spotlight is part of our 2022 International Women's Day feature.
Describe your personal and professional background and current role in the College of Engineering.
I am an engineer and scientist. I received my B.S. in chemical engineering at MIT and my Ph.D. in chemical engineering at UC Berkeley. I am now an assistant professor at UC Davis in the Department of Chemical Engineering. I am a dog-lover, mom of two great kids and a dog, and avid punner.
What led you to the engineering field?
I became an engineer because I love science and math and solving puzzles. Engineering was a great fit. Every day involves solving a puzzle at the intersection of math and science.
Highlight your current research. What do you love about it, why are you excited and how do you stay motivated?
My lab studies how viruses hijack cells and turn them into tiny viral factories that produce more viruses. This information can be helpful to develop therapies and also design new cellular controls inspired by our enemies (viruses)! I love my research because it is sometimes unbelievable how "clever" viruses can be by evolving certain traits. Research is difficult, but I stay motivated by remembering what a special job I have. I am paid to think about interesting problems and develop unique solutions. And I get to work with talented and motivated students and train the next generation of engineers.
The 2022 International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias. How do you support gender equity and #BreakTheBias in the engineering field?
Now that I have a more prominent position training many young engineering students, I try to lead by example so that young women see a successful engineer that looks like them. I also find myself using many different strategies depending on the situation. I promote women-friendly policies on social media, like new access to menstruation products on the UC Davis campus and child-care conundrums. I "amplify" women's contributions and also directly address misogynistic comments when I hear them.