Robert Sandeep Datta, MD, PH.D
Associate Professor of Neurobiology
Department of Neurobiology
Harvard Medical School
Where did your interest in science start and what led you to this field of work?
When I started college I was uncertain what I wanted to do with my life, but thought that perhaps it wouldn’t be such a terrible thing to become a banker. I had had a marvelous chemistry teacher in high school, and out of loyalty to her I took organic chemistry freshman year. I realized that I didn’t really like economics, but I loved the logic and beauty of science. I have worked in many biological subfields as my interests crystallized. I’ve researched gene expression in Drosophila embryos, epigenetics in yeast, and signal transduction in neurons. What I learned from all this is that there are unifying principles in biology that have tremendous explanatory power. My own lab searches for such principles in neural circuits in the brain, where we seek explanations for how information about the outside world is transformed by the brain into action.
What are your biggest challenges in running a lab?
I have the most amazing students and postdocs, and — honestly — nothing is more challenging than keeping up with their ideas. Our lab is question-driven rather than technique-driven, so I’m often asked by my students to become an instant expert in a new field. Of course, this is the great thing about a career in science – there is always something new to learn.
What thrills you most about what you do?
I love that I don’t know the answers, but they are just around the corner!