Is it possible to be a scientist and an artist?

Sunetra Gupta, Mathematics & Biology

If you ever wondered if choosing science meant you couldn’t do arts—Sunetra Gupta is proof that you can do both! From using mathematics to outwit the flu virus to writing novels, watch Professor Gupta share in this video her career journey and fascinating research.

STEM Role Model: Professor Sunetra Gupta, Theoretical Epidemiology | 18 minute video

Highlights include:

  • Why she studies disease within the zoology department (0:25)

  • Growing up in Calcutta (1:12)

  • Falling in love with mathematics (3:17)

  • The value her liberal arts education at Princeton University (4:49)

  • Using fiction to make sense of the human condition (6:05)

  • How she is working to develop a new universal influenza vaccine (7:30)

Scientist Q&A

The Rosalind Franklin STEM Ambassadors interviewed Professor Gupta after her talk. Watch her respond to their questions in the videos below. Visit the Q&A page for more scientist interviews!

Why do you find science poetic? | 2 minute video

Did you ever think you might be wrong in your research? | 1 minute video

What is theoretical epidemiology?

Professor Gupta researches infectious diseases caused by pathogens like the influenza virus, bacterial meningitis, and malaria parasites. She uses simple mathematical models to generate new hypotheses. These hypotheses help us understand how people become infected by pathogens, suffer disease, recover, and become immune. This research can lead to the development of new vaccines. She works closely with laboratory and field scientists both to develop these hypotheses and to test them.  



Sunetra Gupta was born in India and spent her childhood in Ethiopia and Zambia. She began her science career studying biology at the University of Princeton. Currently, she is Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford, where she researches infectious disease agents that are responsible for malaria, HIV, influenza, and bacterial meningitis. Professor Gupta is also an award-winning novelist, essayist, and accomplished translator of the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore.

Shooting Stars

Professor Gupta’s used her Rosalind Franklin award to create a book about historically famous female scientists.

Rosalind Franklin Award Lecture

How have pathogens evolved? Watch Professor Gupta’s prize lecture to learn more! | 18 minute video

A key challenge for me is to overcome the resistance towards accepting that I have two careers: scientists tend to regard my writing as a ‘hobby’ while writers often assume that science is a dreary day job. The truth is that I am passionate about both.
— Professor Sunetra Gupta

Looking for resources to use in the classroom or your STEM club?

Check out The Rosalind Franklin STEM Ambassadors Teacher Toolkit for everything from classroom ready lessons on STEM Role Models to science communication skills tasters.