1. You have both a master’s degree and a PhD in Biological Anthropology from the University of Cambridge. What is Biological Anthropology and why did you choose to study it?
When I graduated from Queen’s University in Canada, I received a full scholarship for my master’s and PhD to study Mathematical Biology at Oxford University. Before I arrived at Oxford, however, my supervisor transferred to Princeton University. I decided to transfer my scholarship to the Department of Biological Anthropology at Cambridge University.
What is Biological Anthropology? It is a diverse discipline, which combines the biological and social sciences to answer questions in order to understand the biology of the human species, both past and present. When I read the master’s and PhD syllabus, which focused on genetics, evolution, human nutrition and health, epidemiology, and ecology, I immediately knew it was right discipline for me because it combined many scientific and global issues I am keenly inspired by. My research focused on the genetic factors that influence the health of families in Bangladesh.
2. How did you end up in Brazil and what did you do when you first got here?
I met my husband Mauricio at Cambridge, where he was also studying for his doctorate degree. We lived in the UK for several years, and I worked as a professor of biological anthropology and genetics at both Durham University and Cambridge. We then decided to come to Brazil because Mauricio had established a 20-year research project on the endangered woolly spider monkey. He is now a professor of Primatology at the Department of Environmental Sciences at the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP).
When I first moved to Brazil, I worked for the Pan American Health Agency, which serves as the regional office for the World Health Organization (WHO). I helped establish their research database on avian influenza. Although I had exciting collaborative research opportunities at the WHO, I really missed teaching, so I decided to return to education.
3. As a health teacher at Graded, what do you feel have been the biggest improvements to student health in the past few years?
I think it is quite exciting to see students so physically active in their Physical Health Education classes, athletics, and other after-school activities. I appreciate the diversity of nutritious meals the school serves and the fact that students have fruit available for snacks during breaks. I am extremely excited about the prospect of a new pool for the school. Swimming is one of the healthiest activities to improve fitness, for people of all ages. I think this will be one of the greatest improvements at the school in decades.
4. If you could establish one charitable organization, what would it be?
I worry about improving equal access to health care in the world. I also feel more global attention needs to be focused on diseases such as malaria, Ebola, dengue fever, cancer, and multiple sclerosis. If I started a charity, I would begin one that focuses on fundraising towards fundamental medical research and bringing greater awareness of the challenges we face in finding treatments, vaccinations, and potential cures for these conditions.
5. Which of the five senses do you treasure most? Why?
Sight. I am enthralled by the beauty of the natural world, whether it is seeing the colors of the leaves of trees, the highlights of light across mountain ranges, or the subtle changes of blues and greens in water. That is why I am an avid hiker. I spend much of my leisure time visiting and exploring national parks in different countries. The natural images around me inspire and keep me wondering about the complexity and evolution of our natural environment.
6. What kind of kids did you hang out with in high school?
I was the type of kid who hung out with everyone. I felt pretty comfortable to mix with all different groups. Sometimes I hung out with the art crowd, or the inquisitive kids, or the sports crowd. After school, I was always involved in extracurricular activities like drama club, student council, social action groups, and choirs. I had a wide variety of friends.
7. Are there any health suggestions you give to students that you don’t necessarily obey for yourself? What are they?
I really feel strongly that to be an effective and authentic teacher - especially as one who is teaching about concepts of health and well-being; I must reflect and embody that lifestyle. I fundamentally believe in the importance of social, emotional, and physical well-being in our lives, so I try to endeavor to “practice what I teach.’’ But I certainly understand how challenging it can be to lead a healthy lifestyle. Like many of my students, when I am working a lot or feel stressed, it can be hard to get enough sleep!
8. Are you more of a dog person or a cat person? Explain.
I love both cats and dogs, but if I had to choose, I would say that I am much more of a cat person. Cats are independent. They like solving puzzles and finding innovative ways to entertain themselves or wreak havoc. I love the fact that they are explorers and are overwhelming with their affection but selective when they share their feelings. I do highly relate with them! I have two cats at the moment: Fiji, whose name is based on my love of travel, and Thali. Thali is multicolored and she reminds me of a colorful, diverse plate of Indian food called a “Thali.” It is one of my favorite dishes to eat when I visit my family and friends in India.
10. What’s your favorite kind of candy?
I don’t eat candy at all, although I can’t resist some dark chocolate with mint or marzipan!
11. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
I love that there is always something going on at Graded, whether it is a sports, cultural, artistic, or community-wide event. I also love that students come from all over the world. I was born in Canada, but my mother is from Scotland and my father is from India. I have lived in the UK, Germany, and now Brazil, so I have always thrived in diverse linguistic, religious, and ethnic communities. The diversity of the Graded community makes me feel integrated into a multicultural family. It makes me feel at home.