I work to make STEM education more inclusive and equitable to support the success of all trainees. In my role I lead educational programs to promote diversity in STEM, I teach and mentor students ranging from high school through graduate and medical school, and I work with colleagues to establish policies and implement practices that promote equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging (EDIB) in the Harvard neuroscience and graduate education communities.

Photo by Celia Muto

What has been one of the most exciting or surprising moments in your career so far?
I can’t choose just one moment, but collectively I’d say that a highlight of my career is that I get to experience many exciting moments with my students and mentees. I love experiencing the “aha” moments in the classroom and celebrating successes with my mentees, such as them getting into their dream graduate program. Every time one of my students or mentees succeeds at something or experiences fresh inspiration to pursue a career in STEM I feel particularly lucky to have a job that allows me to play a small part in these trainees’ amazing journeys.

Which teacher made the biggest impact on your life?
I’ve been fortunate to have had many excellent and impactful teachers throughout my education. My mother – who has had a tremendous impact on my life – was my teacher for a few years when she homeschooled me and my brothers. Beyond my mom though (because that seems too obvious or easy of an answer) the most impactful teachers in my life were definitely two of my undergraduate instructors at Oregon State University, Drs. Kevin Ahern and Indira Rajagopal. I took a number of influential courses with them, including the class in which I was introduced to scientific research and a class my senior year during which I realized I actually wanted to pursue a PhD instead of attend medical school. But the courses I took with Kevin and Indira are just a small part of the education and mentorship that I received from them. They both gave me the opportunity to gain teaching experience as an undergraduate and Kevin served as my thesis advisor for my Honors undergraduate thesis. Both instilled a love for research, teaching, and mentorship in me, and they were instrumental in laying the foundation for my eventual career path. They continue to be close friends, mentors, and inspirations to me to this day. If I can end my career having made a comparable impact in students’ lives that Kevin and Indira made over the course of their careers, I will really know that I succeeded! 

What are some of your interests outside the lab or office?
I absolutely love being out in nature, especially doing anything in the forest. I enjoy hiking, camping, and orienteering (the competitive sport of navigating the woods with a map and compass). During the pandemic I also picked up birding as another great nature hobby. I think my favorite forest pastime, though, is trail running. I ran my first trail race – a 10km race hosted by the local Trail Animals Running Club (TARC) – in the fall of 2017 and have been hooked ever since. I especially love challenging myself with “ultramarathons, ” which are races that are typically 50km or longer. Last summer I completed my first ever 100km race and am excited for more fun races ahead. Interestingly, ultrarunning has a lot of parallels to experimental science, such as the fact that you have to troubleshoot many variables and do “experiments” during your training to determine the optimal strategies and gear for race day. Plus there’s the thrill of, “Will I actually be able to do this? It seems impossible!” So it might come as no surprise that scientists, engineers, physicians, and other “problem-solvers” are overrepresented in the trail running community :-).

Tari at the finish line of a race

Photo at the finish line of my first 100km race last summer.

Photo from my first trail race that I ran in 2017 with my husband, Ian, and my friend from grad school, Masha.

Photo from my first trail race that I ran in 2017 with my husband, Ian, and my friend from grad school, Masha.