Kalpana Gupta ’92
Helping the fight against HIV and AIDS
August 8, 1990, in the middle of a late night birthday celebration for her father at her home in Bombay, India, Kalpana Gupta received a phone call that changed the course of her life. The voice on the other line said, ‘Hi, how are you, would you like to come to Trinity?’
Within days, Gupta was buying a suitcase, and applying for a student visa. On August 24, less than three weeks after the initial phone call, Gupta arrived in Main Hall and began her life as a Trinity student. ‘I was like a kid in a candy store,’ Gupta recalls. ‘As a student of biology in India, the liberal arts curriculum is not something we were exposed to, everyone specializes so early. At Trinity, I was able to take history with Dr. Farnsworth, study Greek classics with Sr. Margaret Claydon, travel to Apopka with Sr. Seton and participate in student government. It was incredible to me that I could do it all, and still focus on my sciences.’ Gupta sought further enrichment from beyond Trinity’s campus, taking classes through the consortium at George Washington and completing internships at the National Institutes of Health and Georgetown’s Medical School in D.C.
Gupta’s experiences both on and off campus during her years at Trinity have served her well. Today, Gupta serves as director of new alliances and initiatives within the research and development group of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). Gupta joined the organization shortly after earning her doctorate in biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology from Johns Hopkins University in 2000. Founded in 1996, IAVI works to ensure the development of a safe, effective, accessible and preventive HIV vaccine for use throughout the world. The organization is operational in 24 countries. ‘Viruses don’t follow immigration laws or respect international boundaries, and as we witnessed with SARS, the spread of viruses can have enormous impact both socially and economically.’ Gupta feels strongly that we each have a role to play in the global fight against infectious disease and the inequity that allows viruses like HIV to take root. ‘IAVI is focused on a vaccine because we know that vaccines are a proven method in controlling, and in some cases eradicating, infectious disease.’ Gupta’s sense of social justice is clearly evident in how passionately she believes in her work at IAVI.
Gupta notes that she could have chosen a career as a research bench scientist, in the lab dealing with esoteric problems, but chose instead to do something that has a greater, more immediate impact on people’s lives. For this, Gupta is grateful for the education she received at Trinity and the impact the Sisters of Notre Dame had on her life.
Gupta resides in New York City with her husband, Sudhin, and her one-year-old son, Ishaan. Despite a demanding travel schedule, Gupta hopes to make it to Trinity in June to celebrate her 15th Reunion with the class of 1992.