Kavya Sharman, PhD

Data Scientist, VC Associate, Pun Enthusiast

Photo Credit: Elaine C. Chen
Photo Credit: Elaine C. Chen

Background

The common denominator of biomedical research, and life in general, is complexity. Everything we encounter has an inherently complex, multidimensional organizational arrangement, from the evolution of our history to the interplay between molecules in cellular pathways. My goal is to try and make sense of that complexity.

I received a BA in neuroscience degree from Vanderbilt University in 2016, worked at Vanderbilt’s Department of Biomedical Informatics for some time and then went on to work for MONQ, a startup in Nashville. I returned to Vanderbilt in 2018 as a PhD student in the Chemical and Physical Biology Program.

As a computational student in Dr. Richard Caprioli’s lab, I developed computational techniques for linking complementary imaging modalities including imaging mass spectrometry and multiplexed immunofluorescence to understand the molecular basis of Staphylococcus aureus infection.

Over the course of my work, I’ve contributed to 9 journal articles and 1 book chapter, given 5 oral presentations in professional conferences, and presented 8 posters. I recently was awarded one of the inaugural Vanderbilt Graduate Council Anchor Awards for my efforts building a student community for computational students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through my varied experiences in industry, academia, healthcare, and informatics, I have focused on developing cross-disciplinary linkages. As an undergraduate, I worked with students and faculty to organize seminars and research match fairs to engage hundreds of students in scientific research. I co-developed a “Systems Thinking in Biomedicine” seminar to foster scientific dialogue across disciplines. Most recently, I co-founded S Phase Bio Fund, a student-lead investment fund dedicated to educating and investing in emerging biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.

Now as a postdoctoral scholar in Jeff Spraggins’s lab at Vanderbilt, I am developing Python-based computational workflows and user-friendly data visualization platforms to integrate and analyze multimodal imaging data. I also joined Chai Angels as a part-time VC associate, working with the Founding Partner and team to develop investor materials for the data room including deal memos, pitch decks, and quantitative fund models. I also meet with founders and LPs to identify investment and growth opportunities for the Fund, which is largely focused on female-founded businesses across varied industries. 

Ultimately, I am excited to explore ways in which we can leverage the power of computation to drive unforeseen hypotheses and push the envelope of biomedical research.

Treasured Colleagues

I believe the success of a venture is directly related to the quality of the team

I have had the pleasure of working with many teams over the last ten years, forming meaningful relationships and leading to exciting results.

Mark Frisse, MD, MS, MBA

PROFESSOR EMERITUS, DEPARTMENT OF BIOMEDICAL INFORMATICS, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER

"Remarkable woman who mastered a number of complex tasks while working with me. Her work required strong interpersonal skills, a calm demeanor, empathy, creativity, and intelligence. Kavya is a gifted professional.”

Elizabeth Bowman, PhD

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, GRADUATE PROGRAMS IN BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY

"Kavya is a rare student who is mature beyond her years, knowing exactly what she wants out of her training, her career, and her life. She has big ideas for her community and regularly catches me off-guard with her level of thoughtfulness and seriousness in her ideas."

Ariel Helms Thames

MD/PHD STUDENT, SIM CO-FOUNDER, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY

"Creative, committed, and a finisher with an artful eye for quality. The perfect partner for embarking on an innovative endeavor that hasn't been done before.”

Publications

MUSINGS

WHY YOU’VE GOT TO BE YOUR BEST CHAMPION

AND A GUIDE FOR HOW TO MAKE IT HAPPEN

TAKING THE EASY WAY OUT... NOT ALWAYS A BAD THING

AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO PRIORITIZE YOUR LIFE

FEELING LOST? ANCHOR YOURSELF TO YOUR VALUES

HOW TO LET GO OF SOCIETAL PRESSURES AND REFOCUS

"You can't do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth."

SELECTED PHOTOGRAPHY

Experience

2023

VC Associate (part-time) at
Chai Angels

Developed investor materials for the data room (deal memos, pitch decks, quantitative fund models) and met with founders and LPs to identify investment and growth opportunities for the Fund, which is largely focused on female-founded businesses across varied industries

2021 - 2022

Co-Founder, Managing Director at
S Phase Bio Fund

Established a new student-led investment fund to educate graduate students on investing in emerging biotechnology

2018

Research Analyst at Seminal

Conducted research across topics such as artificial intelligence, labor markets, and the molecular basis of learning, contributed research and data for articles, created stand-alone research briefs on independent topics.

2017 - 2018

Scientist at MONQ

Led a team of scientists and engineers to conduct neuro-olfactory research, created and implemented a new inventory and production management system, wrote scientific articles, and established an internship program.

2016

Business Development Coordinator at Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Established collaborative business partnerships within Vanderbilt and the Nashville community, assisted in course development, proposed a novel program to build the pipeline between academic research and technology transfer.

2014 - 2016

Co-Founder of
Scientific Immersion & Mentorship

Built a successful program to match undergraduate students to research labs, launched faculty-led seminar series, and implemented a student-focused research conference. 

Education

Postdoctoral Researcher | Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Doctor of Philosophy | Program in Chemical and Physical Biology, Vanderbilt University

Bachelor of Arts | Vanderbilt University

High School | Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, & the Arts

Skills

Python
R
Computer Vision
Machine Learning
Statistics
Project Management
Entrepreneurship
Graphic Design
Adobe Creative Suite

selected courses

  • Fundamentals of Management 
  • Financial Accounting 
  • Entrepreneurship: The Business Planning Process
  • Venture Capital Short Course Workshop
  • Entrepreneurial Sales Workshop

Contact Me

Why you’ve got to be your best champion

Many times I get stuck—my code doesn’t work, or my project is at a standstill, or I can’t focus.

In those moments, I usually end up spiraling in my mind. Recalling all the times I’ve failed. All the times I felt lost and out of focus. The spiral deepens and before I know it, I’ve imagined myself out of a job.

It’s so easy to get into these spirals. Like whirlpools in the water, gravity sucks you in and it’s easier to fall in than fight and pull yourself out.

In times like this, it’s important to have a support system that can pull you out.

Family, friends, a good therapist. These are all terrific options.

But what do you do when it’s 3am, you can’t sleep, and you don’t want to bother anyone?

You’re the only option right? Well, kind of…

Taking the easy way out... not always a bad thing

Here’s a question for you. Whatever happened to the easy way out?

Take energy for example. We’re taught in physics that energy takes the path of least resistance. Why? Doing so allows it to preserve its energy and travel a longer distance than if it were to take a more complicated path.

My advice? Take the easy way out.

Spend time on the things that help you.

Ever heard of the Pareto Principle, colloquially known as the 80/20 rule? My colleague, Michael Simmons, wrote a terrific article on ways we can apply this rule to our day to day lives. The concept as it relates to work habits is simple: 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts. The important thing is to identify the 20%.

This is huge. Every day we hear successful people say ‘you have to grind to be successful,’ ‘work hard, play hard,’ etc. I’m here to tell you while that may work for some, it doesn’t apply to everyone.

My advice? Use the 80/20 rule and prioritize your efforts. What are you working towards? And which of the 20% of them will get you the 80% return?

Feeling Lost? anchor yourself to your values

I have a friend who’s been struggling with career options. She’s in the process of applying to graduate schools but can’t decide between schools. Her biggest worry? What will people think?!

When I was struggling with choosing my next steps after graduate school, I felt lost. Like a leaf in the wind, I would go in any direction the breeze took me.

‘You’d be a great psychologist!’ someone said to me once. And so off I went, looking at psychology degrees.

‘Your calm nature would make you such a good surgeon,’ someone else said. Within moments, I was looking at medical school options.

As fun as that was, it was not sustainable. People around you giving advice based on what they think of you comes from a good place but isn’t sustainable in the long run. Each and every piece of advice is laced in bias. Perhaps the person giving it always wanted to go to medical school and didn’t get the chance. Perhaps they had a great experience with a psychologist and think you would be great at that role. Regardless, the intent is good, but the impact is not consistent.

So what to do?