Conversation: Sai Krupa Das
Sai Krupa Das, NG02, thrives on making connections. She makes them in research and teaching as a scientist in the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) and as a faculty member at the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. She also makes them with her fellow Friedman School graduates as past president of the school’s alumni association and one of Friedman’s top fundraising volunteers. She is an enthusiastic co-chair of the annual fund on the Friedman School and HNRCA Brighter World campaign committees. “These many hats help me appreciate very clearly what the needs are,” she said, “and where help is needed most.” One Tufts spoke with Das about that appreciation and how she builds strong support for the HNRCA and the Friedman School.
What brought you to the Friedman School to earn your PhD?
I came from India to the United States in 1995 and was excited by the chance to earn a PhD at the Friedman School. It had always been a clear choice. Between my bachelor’s and my master’s, I had worked for five years studying energy metabolism in adults. I knew there was an amazing amount of cutting-edge, seminal work going on in that field at Tufts. And for my master’s, and in my work in India, I had used a lot of the work that comes out of the labs at the HNRCA on addressing the obesity epidemic and on weight-related health challenges around the world. Tufts was the place to look up to.
As a scientist at Tufts now, why also take on the role of active volunteer?
When I’m committed or passionate about something, I try to do my best and more. I’ve always gotten the most satisfaction, outside of work, from helping people. It’s an idea that was ingrained in my early education and abundantly reinforced at home. My parents have always made sure, and still do, that anyone they could reasonably help was doing okay. As for why I volunteer for Tufts, my family sacrificed everything to prioritize education, so I am very aware of its value. I feel passionate that others who also want that experience should be able to afford and enjoy it. Education is the best thing; it’s worth striving for.
You have generously pledged a gift to the HNRCA Future Leaders Fund and are actively seeking others to join you. What inspires you to give back in this way?
I enjoy making connections that build togetherness around an important cause, and scholarships are certainly a top priority. Students who pursue scientific research have an innate curiosity and drive for finding the answers to a variety of problems and issues. Wouldn’t it be great if they didn’t need to worry about living expenses? Scholarships allow them to focus on their work. I am inspired to support this effort because the need is great. I also know there are many others who would likely give to this important cause if they were engaged in an honest conversation.
How do you describe the Friedman School to those you’re speaking with about support?
Never before has human nutrition been so important to health: there is the potential threat of not being able to feed the planet by 2050. At the same time, in the United States and globally, obesity and chronic disease are on the rise. In addition, the population of older adults will outnumber other age groups, posing several socio-demographic and health-care challenges. That is why the Friedman School’s and HNRCA’s interdisciplinary science and policy work is so important. Ultimately, it serves the single purpose of ensuring that everyone is healthy.
What does it mean to be a successful volunteer?
I think the best volunteers make that genuine personal connection. They invest time in people and help them appreciate what their support means.
What do you find rewarding about giving back to Tufts?
The rewards are there when you see participation, or when you engage with someone who might have lost touch with the school and center, and when you know and see that a student is helped or research facilitated. Personally, I find it most rewarding when people say, “Thank you for taking the time. You invested in my giving, and so I’m going to translate that into support for students.” And that is so important. The Friedman School and HNRCA inspire brilliant minds who carry forward the torch to make our world brighter. Our graduates do great things. Supporting them is what we can do!