“Hi. My name is Varun Dwaraka. I’m a bioinformatics
analyst here at UC San Francisco and my current project that I’m working on is trying to understand
the cause, or the genetic causes, for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which is a lung disorder.
Voice-over: Varun Dwaraka is making strides in an interdisciplinary medical field towards
a cure nobody has yet set eyes on. His expertise and passion are critical to the team he has
attached himself to, and he is hopeful for a discovery soon, but he didn’t start out
as one might expect. Let’s hear his story. Varun: To be quite honest, I really just despised
science when I was growing up, which was interesting because I come from a family of scientists,
mathematicians and doctors specifically, but for some reason when I went through the entire
route of high school, I took an AP bio class, and I started seeing science in a way that
… I became a little more fond of it, and so when I went into college, I naturally picked
up biology, because that was one of the classes I took as an AP prerequisite.
When you looked at molecular biology, you saw all these components working together,
with the CPU being the nucleus or, if you look at the organismal level, the brain. Being
able to translate the cell into a machine and seeing my body as a machine, that was
interesting to see it that way. I’m doing mostly bioinformatics research here.
I think what got me here was my love for computers. I’ve been using computers since I was a little
kid, so being able to use a computer to solve a biological question, that seemed pretty
cool to me. Right now I am actually working on a project
for Sarah Arron and we’re trying to understand the genetic make-up for a specific disease
called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which is a thickening of your lung tissue. Researchers
haven’t been able to find a cure for this disease, so I’m trying to see if I can find
any genes that are specific for it, so you can use those genes to cure it.
The computer helps. Understanding a little bit of programming definitely helps. Understanding
the computational tools, such as finding a program that somebody else wrote and understanding
how to use it, it really does help. I’ve been going through the entire process and pipelines
currently, so I haven’t really found anything yet but I’m hopeful.
Right now, I’m, like I said, just trying to understand the genetic make-up for this disease
that I’m studying and it’s a lot of going through Excel sheets, a lot of trying to understand
what the data means in the biological context, and that’s what separates us from computer
scientists, is that we have a background in biology, but we’re trying to use computer
science as a tool in order to go through the data because, in this day and age, we have
a ton of data, but not many people understand how to use the tools that would make looking
through the data easier. To be quite honest, you fail a lot but, at
the same time, for me personally, it keeps you going, it gets you going a lot. I like
the challenge and I think that’s ultimately why I tried to, or I wanted to become a researcher,
and why I am a researcher. As cliché as it sounds, don’t give up. Times will be tough,
especially when you’re going through the entire path but, if you keep at it, if you keep studying,
keep working hard, I’ve found out that, if you keep working at it and keep studying hard,
you will definitely succeed. You will be able to go wherever you want and do whatever you
want. It just takes a lot of hopeful thinking and a lot of … just staying on the path.