Bharti Singal is a postdoctoral scholar at UC Davis and CEO of Program Kalpana. (Courtesy)

A Positive Force for Women in STEM

by | May 3, 2021 | On Campus, Technology

Many people struggle to find a clear purpose and make connections while quarantining. For Bharti Singal, however, creating an immersive mentoring program with a team of scientists to uplift young women in STEM fields helped her achieve both and more.

A passionate academic from Delhi, India, Singal is currently a postdoctoral scholar in the biochemistry department at UC Davis. She is investigating the role of proteins associated to microtubules, which are microscopic hollow tubes within a cell, in ciliopathies and developmental disorders related to the brain. As a young girl witnessing her father’s interactions as a clerk in a hospital with various medical professionals, she dreamed of a career in medicine.

Her interests in studying the complexities of the human body only grew as she pursued higher education. However, at 15, Singal faced new challenges with the sudden death of her father.

“With him, I lost my educator and my mentor who taught me how to dream big. My life turned upside down, but his teachings have stayed with me until today,” said Singal.

Despite her hardships, Singal persevered and pursued a career in the field she fell in love with as a child with the encouragement of her mother and sister. As a member of the Udayan Shalini Fellowship program of Udayan care — an organization that provides housing and education to disadvantaged communities in India — she was motivated by the program’s mission to help others reach their full academic potential.

Singal works at Vigyanshaala International, a nonprofit organization working to make quality STEM education more accessible to marginalized students worldwide. The team there noticed a peculiar gap in STEM statistics. “In India, 45 out of 100 STEM undergraduates are women but only 15 in 100 secure STEM jobs,” said Singal. “There is a leaky pipeline where women get in the line but don’t make it through. [Program Kalpana was created] to address the causes of this leak, namely, low visibility of relatable role models, gender stereotype related to work or ability, low self-efficacy, and insufficient practical STEM experience.”

Kalpana, meaning “imagination” in Sanskrit, seeks to provide support for female students aspiring to enter the scientific space. “While understanding the future demand and the current underrepresentation of women in higher STEM careers, [I], along with [my] team have envisioned an ecosystem where self-development and 21st century skill development with a scientific outlook is at the focal point,” said Singal.

Singal currently serves as the program’s chief executive officer and oversees its design, development and execution. As CEO, Singal is managing teams of Kalpana Network, mentorship program, mentor coordination and curriculum development.

Program Kalpana seeks to foster an educational environment and supportive community for its students by matching young female undergraduates with mentors in the STEM field. Kalpana’s first cohort consisted of 60 mentees spanning 16 cities across India. The mentees selected engaged with more than 30 STEM leaders from five different countries over the course of eight weeks. By 2030, Kalpana aspires to have over 100,000 students enrolled globally.