Kiran Dhillon, Ph.D.

Kiran Dhillon, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Researcher


Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Milestones

Milestones

My road in life took a while to figure out.
As a child in India, my grandfather told me, "You're going to be a doctor." It sounded great to me!
In high school, I loved science; we did some live dissections that really stuck with me.
After finishing my undergraduate work, I still thought I wanted to go to medical school.
I spent some time drawing blood at a lab and realized that I didn't want to be a physician.
I loved human disease though, so I decided to instead pursue a Ph.D. in genetics & go into research.
Teaching a genetics class for the first time really helped me understand and appreciate the field.
I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer; my role as patient has lent new views to my research.
Keep following my journey
Education

Education

highschool
High School
undergrad
Bachelor
Biology/Biological Sciences, General
Western Washington University
doctorate
Doctorate
Genetics, General
University of Washington-Seattle Campus
associates
Associate's Degree
Whatcom Community College
Career

Career

Postdoctoral Researcher

I study chemotherapy resistance in breast and ovarian cancers.

Career Roadmap

Roadmap
My work combines:
My work combines:
Science
Science
Medicine
Medicine
Problem Solving
Problem Solving

Day to Day

I do lots of cell lab experiments working in a hood and taking care of cells in petri dishes that are grown inside of an incubator to mimic the human body. In the main lab, you'll see me doing lots of molecular biology and experiments involving manipulating DNA. I attend many seminars to hear about the work of others, and I give my own seminars to present my work as well. I also co-founded an org that promotes diversity amongst scientists, so there's some administrative work involved with that.

Skills & Qualities Beyond School

You have to tap into your creative side - science requires a lot of creativity, and the ability to think outside the box. Biology is complex and mysterious: we think we know what's going on, but you have to recognize that you'll have huge blind spots in your knowledge, and then you have to be able to think flexibly and think around problems in order to solve them. You also have to have a lot of confidence and good self-esteem. Science is challenging! You have to be okay with failing.

Advice for Getting Started

Here's the first step for high school students

It's a really long path that you have to go down before you can start doing postdoctoral work, so make sure that you have that passion and endurance to put in all of those years of schooling and hard work. The best way to test the waters is through an internship, so start looking for those as early as high school. You'll be able to see that research in the real world is much, much different than the science that you're taught in text books, plus, you'll have a head start going into college!

Recommended Education

My career is related to what I studied. I'd recommend the path I took:

undergrad
Bachelor
Biology/Biological Sciences, General
doctorate
Doctorate
Genetics, General
certification
Associate's Degree
Hurdles

Hurdles

The Noise I Shed

From Society in General:

"You're a first-generation female scientist of color - how are you going to do this?"

As an immigrant from South Asia, it was difficult pursuing higher education at times because I didn't have any role models who'd received their degrees. But my parents always supported me, and I felt motivated to break the barriers they'd reached. Later on down the line, I decided I should become that role model for other people and for South Asian female scientists; I founded a group, Hutch United, that encourages diversity in the sciences to do my part in bringing about change in these fields.

Challenges I Overcame

First-Generation Immigrant
First-Generation Immigrant

My mother was killed in a car accident when I was 16 and trying to finish school. Being South Asian, I was expected to help run the house and take care of my family, all while showing Indian hospitality. There were some long nights but we got though.