She loves being surrounded by nature as she went to an Indian boarding school in the mountains and is often homesick for mountain forests and the chaos of Indian roads. In 2003, she moved to the United States to study biochemistry at Denison University in Ohio, which is where she got her first chance to work in a lab. Fascinated by organic chemistry and how bonds are broken and forged during chemical reactions, she decided to move to the University of Texas at Austin to get a PhD studying the structure of enzymes involved in protein translation. Determining the structures of proteins was like solving puzzles and made her interested in the many ways these puzzles can end up wrong. After her PhD, she decided to study the pathways cells use to ensure proper protein folding and how they get rid of erroneous proteins. This brought her to New York City to work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, as these scientific questions have important implications for our understanding of cancer, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Lilian is passionate about communicating science with the public and showing young minds that science is fun and not intimidating. Communication between scientists and their communities is crucial to scientific progress. She especially finds enjoyment in sharing the wonders of the natural world with middle and high school students. To that end, she co-founded an Outreach group at MSKCC for young scientists to share their work and communicate core biology concepts at schools and public spaces. She also works with 500 Women Scientists advocacy group to help make science more inclusive and engage the public in discussing important science policy questions.