Conversation: Shilpi Banerjee

Inspired by a life-changing education, an alumna honors her parents and champions the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

For Shilpi Banerjee, GBS93, a doctorate in molecular microbiology provided a superb foundation for a career as a lawyer advising on biotechnology and pharmaceutical patents. She started that career in labs at Case Western and Caltech, but later traded research for Stanford Law School. Today, she is associate general counsel and chief intellectual property counsel for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. To help pave the way for other students to have similar success, Banerjee is co-chair of the Brighter World Campaign Committee of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; she has also contributed to the campaign’s goals by giving annually to the school and including the school in her estate plans. By sharing her estate provision, she became the first GSBS alumna to join the university’s legacy society, the Charles Tufts Society. As she told One Tufts, her engagement with the school is rooted in gratitude for her own exceptional experience as a graduate student.


What motivated you to volunteer for Brighter World?
It’s fair to say I wouldn’t be where I am today without Tufts and the supportive community I found there. I arrived at the school sight unseen and not knowing anyone. Except for one summer working in a Michigan State lab, I knew very little about the United States, or Boston. And I was coming from warm Bombay, so you can imagine the culture shock! But Tufts made me feel welcome. It was compassionate, nurturing, and welcoming. At the same time, I benefitted from exceptional training. I am very grateful to Tufts, and that’s my main impetus for wanting to give back in whatever way I can.

As part of your support for the school, you’ve established a bequest that honors your parents. Can you talk about what that means to you?
It made sense for two reasons: I wanted to show my gratitude to Tufts, and I wanted to honor my parents for their courage. I know it was not an easy decision for them, but they let me move 8,000 miles away from them. I chose to honor them by endowing a fund to help other international students, like myself, and the best channel open to me is through a bequest. What’s wonderful is knowing that the fund will be given, in perpetuity, to help future students have that Tufts experience that I enjoyed.

Why have you also reconnected with the school as a mentor to students?
Dean Jay visited me and shared his vision for the school, and everything he said resonated. His goal to help each student understand all of the career possibilities they have to choose from and assess which one is right for them really registered with me. As a graduate who went into law, I guess you can say I exemplify what is possible. When he asked if I’d mentor students and help them explore their career choices, I immediately said yes. 

I also appreciate that Brighter World is about building the school’s future, and I am naturally enthusiastic about new programming that emphasizes career exploration and development. As a volunteer in general, I will take every chance to share that story with others and, hopefully, get them excited about the dean’s vision. I want to do my small part to help the school move forward.