Tavleen Bhatia, Health + Tech ’23 (Data Science, Molecular and Cell Biology): “I gravitate towards an opportunity to learn anything new.”

On the power of encyclopedias, connecting the mind and body, and keeping it simple

Fung Fellowship
5 min readFeb 8, 2023

When Tavleen arrived at UC Berkeley with three overstuffed suitcases, she was apprehensive about starting her journey here, especially after a year of online classes. She had a heart full of nervous excitement and a dream to be a changemaker in the healthcare industry but worried her lack of technical experience would hold her back. That’s when she found the Fung Fellowship, and the rest is history.

This is her story.

Would you mind telling us a bit about yourself?

I have 21 years of experience being a gym rat, a bookworm, a lover of home-cooked food, and passionate about “keeping it simple.” Oh, and I’m obsessed with all things related to biology and chemistry.

I have always been in awe of the sophisticated biological and chemical mechanisms that work tirelessly to support our lives. My free time is spent reading up on new scientific research, discoveries, and medical breakthroughs.

I gravitate towards an opportunity to learn anything new, especially when it pushes me to break off from routine and venture into new topics and discussions unknown to me. My time at Berkeley has exposed me to never-experienced opportunities that feed my desire to learn.

I am open-minded and have a pragmatic and methodical approach towards any task given, be it schoolwork or planning for a friend’s surprise birthday party. I love long to-do lists, running over many months. But then, breaking down these mammoth lists into bite-sized, palatable pieces gives me a deep sense of confidence and control.

My favorite TV series is “Grey’s Anatomy,” though I end up spending most of my time googling new medical terms that catch my attention instead of watching the show! Moreover, I am an avid reader, a fitness freak, and a ferocious baker.

What do you study and why did you choose it?

At age six, I became aware of biology while flipping through an encyclopedia. The diagram of the human body without skin, bare to the bones and blood vessels, caught my eye. Since then, I have studied biology with utmost rigor and devotion in class.

The topics of genetics and rDNA technology made me realize that our body is nothing but a series of recurring genetic algorithms and programs, running with clockwork precision. From the information exchanged between neurons in our brain to the dissolution of medicine in our bloodstream, all of it includes generating and processing an enumerable amount of biochemical data.

When I took my first data science class — Data 8 — at UC Berkeley, the marriage of biology and data science excited me the most. This came to the forefront when we did a project to identify the causal proteins for Cystic Fibrosis using table manipulations.

The sophisticated use of code to clean and organize data, run simulations and create vibrant visualizations was magical for me, and I wanted to learn so much more about it. Luckily, I am at UC Berkeley, an institution that is the epicenter of technological innovation. No one could teach me Data Science better than them.

Et voila! I’m now a striving double major in molecular and cell biology and data science, and my days are filled with tackling projects and seeking new opportunities that expose me to the confluence of the two.

What led you to apply and join the Fung Fellowship? Why did you choose the Health + Tech Track?

Reading an online post by a current fellow led me to explore the Fung Fellowship. Meeting the incredible team of collaborators and self-starters at the fellowship seemed to answer my apprehensions.

The Health + Tech Track presented me with a feast of opportunities to explore my passion for biology with technological innovation and gifted me with a family which utilizes the power of diversity to optimize our growth as a collective unit.

So, I was very excited at the possibility of being in a dynamic cohort of thinkers and innovators!

What are your professional goals?

The idea of working with teams that are leveraging technology to spearhead breakthroughs in healthcare excites me the most, so I aim to first pursue a PhD in the intersection of biology and data science and advance to conducting research and building solutions in the biotechnology and/or pharmaceutical industries.

What are some of your non-academic hobbies/passions, and how, if at all, have they inspired your professional goals?

If I am not pouring over my textbooks or digging through datasets, I am at the gym, enjoying my “me time.” Working out is akin to meditation for me — it helps me hit my reset button and charge me up for the day.

During exercise, as I learned to become more aware of my breathing and movements, I noticed that when I strongly focused my thoughts on the muscle I was working on, I gained better results than when I was not as immersed during the exercise.

I became increasingly intrigued by the connection between the mind and the body and was inspired to explore if such mechanisms can be leveraged to develop solutions for health-related problems!

Is there something you are currently working on/interested in that you would like to share?

I am currently serving as the Recruitment Lead on the Fung Fellowship Student Leadership Team, and it is one of the most exciting experiences ever!

At the moment, the recruitment season for the next cohort of fellows is upon us, so we are working towards designing the best-possible recruitment experience for them — one that best reflects the values of the fellowship and exposes potential fellows to the opportunities it can offer them.

Our goal is to inspire students to find their fit with the fellowship and also for the fellowship to find the right fellows — kind of like making the right pieces of a jigsaw fit!

Favorite quote:

“There is no shortcut to experience, and we all are a sum total of our experiences,” — My dad

Connect with Tavleen Bhatia.

Edited by Veronica Roseborough.



Fung Fellowship

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