Alumni Spotlight: Shraddha Chakradhar
By Kala Allen-Dunn | Aug 31, 2023
Murray State alumna Shraddha Chakradhar has been just a little busy since graduating
Following her undergraduate career at Murray State and her graduation from Boston University’s College of Communication, Shraddha jumped into her new profession with both feet and quickly found success. She became an associate producer for a documentary production company, where she participated in the creation of a video series for the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the completion of the Human Genome Project.
This led to a position as an associate researcher at NOVA, the long-running PBS science documentary series, where she worked as a fact-checker and, in true PBS fashion, sharpened her ability to make science accessible to all.
“My job was to fact-check the upcoming episodes of NOVA to make sure there weren’t any inaccuracies, but also to come up with the best way to explain some of the complex science that was being described by the narrators of the series,” she said.
This valuable skill of clearly describing complicated scientific principles and research findings served Shraddha well, leading to the next step of her career advancement. In 2014, she was named Associate News Editor for Nature Medicine, where, in addition to reporting on biomedical research, including cancer and infectious diseases, she discovered her talent for working with up-and-coming professionals. She has remained committed to helping younger writers throughout her career and noted that it is one of the most rewarding parts of her work.
After nearly five years with Nature Medicine, Shraddha became a reporter for STAT, a sister publication of the Boston Globe. She was hired to write and produce Morning Rounds, STAT’s flagship newsletter. A high-responsibility job from the beginning, Shraddha’s position became even more critical when the pandemic hit, as STAT’s first report on a strange new illness soon turned into daily updates and stories about COVID-19.
“I remember we started writing about COVID-19 before it was known as COVID-19. I think the first entry was in January 2020, and this was when we were still describing it as a mysterious pneumonia-like illness. We didn’t even know what we were getting ourselves into at that point,” she said.
Following her important work during the pandemic, Shraddha took a position as Deputy Editor for the Nieman Journalism Lab, leading to her current position as Deputy News Editor for Diversity at Science Magazine. In her current job, she focuses on health and medicine, and her role as Diversity Editor means she gets to help shape the intersection of science and society.
“I’ve developed a niche expertise in something that interested me, so I’ve focused on that for the past several years of my career. I’ve leaned into a role that allows me to cover not just broader scientific topics but also scientific topics that look at science through the social lens,” she said.
That niche focus allows Shraddha to put her considerable journalistic skill to work in a way that promotes a more fair, diverse, and inclusive scientific community.
“Journalism as a field is very white. Historically, it was a profession of privilege. In accepting my current position, I saw that [Science Magazine] created this position at a time when a lot of places weren’t even considering creating positions. Post-2020, everybody was scrambling to improve their DEI efforts, but it’s one thing to put out a statement and say you want to do better; it’s another to put your money where your mouth is and, in this case, to put up the money for this kind of position. The work of this kind of job falls disproportionately on women of color, but I would much rather help be a part of the change than sit it out.”
Shraddha credited Murray State with laying a solid foundation for the curiosity and critical thinking on which she has built her journalism career. While on campus, she was a member of what was then called the Honors Program, which allowed her to take advanced courses in subjects she might not otherwise have explored as deeply.
“The best part about being in the Honors Program for me was the opportunity to take all of these courses that challenged me. I especially remember the Honors math class because I would stay back and talk to the professor about things like the concept of zero and infinity. I thought it was so interesting to learn about math in a totally different way. Most math courses through grade school and college are about learning techniques, but this was more about how we got to the point of being able to solve problems the way we do. I really appreciated that behind-the-scenes look. There were so many other Honors courses like that,” she recalled.
Her Honors Program experience encouraged her to ask questions and think differently, fundamental skills for any journalist. Her critical thinking skills were also sharpened by her time as a student worker in the Department of English, where she had one-on-one conversations with professors on a daily basis.
“The classroom time at Murray State was great, and the extracurricular time was fine too, but I felt like individual interactions with professors is where I really benefited in a way that prepared me for my journalism career because I leaned into asking questions and probing them for advice,” she said.
Shraddha’s decision to pursue a Liberal Arts degree at Murray State came from the good advice of her mentor, Dr. Barbara Cobb. Shraddha cited the Liberal Arts program as teaching her not to compromise her varied academic interests.
“Basically, I just wanted to learn it all. I didn’t want to get so in the weeds on one topic that I left any other topic by the wayside,” she explained. Her desire to avoid strictly pursuing the biology/chemistry pre-med curriculum at the expense of her English classes led her to the Liberal Arts degree, which enabled her to create exactly the kind of broad educational background and inquisitive mind needed for a successful career in journalism.
In addition to laying the groundwork for an outstanding professional career, her time at Murray State was also personally important for Shraddha. She initially moved to Murray due to her mother, Dr. Kala Chakradhar, accepting a position as a professor of social work, so her association with Murray State predated her attendance as a college student. Once she became an undergraduate, she met fellow student Patrick Greenwell during her first semester of college; they have now been married for ten years and are proud parents.
When asked what advice she would give young journalists, Shraddha emphasized the importance of developing a multifaceted resume and possessing the versatility necessary to enter the job market.
“I came into this thinking that I would be a writer -- that my brand of journalism would be the written word, so to speak. But my first two jobs, arguably the ‘cooler’ of the many jobs I’ve held, were not in the written media at all. In graduate school, they emphasized taking the news writing and feature writing courses, but also documentary making courses and multimedia journalism. I regret to say I took those courses kicking and screaming; I was not happy about doing it because I thought, why would I ever need these skills? But, sure enough, that’s what I ended up using initially after school.”
While her career path may not have gone exactly as she expected, Shraddha Chakradhar has certainly reached an incredible level of professional achievement on a national scale. Her dedication to sharing her knowledge with the next generation of science writers will undoubtedly influence the profession as a whole. She has proven herself to be one of Murray State’s most brilliant alumni, and her Racer family will undoubtedly be cheering her on as she continues to make us proud.