Where are they now: Somya Mehra (alum years 2017-2019)

Where are they now: Somya Mehra (alum years 2017-2019)

Illuminate newsletter header, Spring 2021
September 2021

Somya Mehra is passionate about the interface
between maths and public health.

Somya Mehra (alum years 2017-2019) is doing her Master of Science degree in maths as well as working as a bioinformatician at the Burnet Institute.

What are you doing now?

I’m in the second year of a Master of Science degree in maths, specialising in applied probability. My thesis examines the theory of epidemic models for malaria. As a research assistant at the University of Melbourne, I’m developing mathematical models of the dynamics of Plasmodium vivax malaria, with an emphasis on relapsing infections. I’m also a bioinformatician at the Burnet Institute.

What were your research achievements at WEHI?

I worked on a range of biological questions, from the genetic structure of malaria parasite populations to the emergence of resistance to malaria drugs and malaria genomics. When I started at WEHI, I had no experience in genomics; overcoming the learning curve to delve into public health problems was a big achievement.

What are you most passionate about?

I’m passionate about the interface between maths and public health. There’s a great deal of theoretical mathematical machinery that can shed light on important biological
problems. I hope to apply this machinery in the context of public health, particularly for infectious diseases.

What are your professional highlights?

I’ve developed mathematical models to understand the dynamics of the dormant parasite ‘reservoir’, which governs the risk of relapsing infections in P. vivax malaria. I’ve also been involved in collaborative research into the genomic surveillance of malaria, which aims to address questions about drug resistance and the impacts of control measures.

You have received numerous awards, including a Fulbright Future Scholarship and a Metcalf Scholarship. How have these impacted your outlook and aspirations?

The Metcalf Scholarship at WEHI was my first introduction to medical research, and the problems I worked on during my placement have very much shaped my aspirations. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some incredible people, who have taught me a great deal about academia and beyond.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

My taste in music – I love metal.

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