Kat Kajderowicz grew up in the largest Polish-immigrant community in Chicago, Illinois. She attended Polish-English weekend school throughout childhood. Having escaped communist Poland in the early 1980s, her parents had no savings, college degrees, or knowledge of English—which translated to limited job prospects in America. Kat’s mother worked as a housekeeper, while her father worked in construction. As undocumented immigrants fighting to obtain green cards, they spent most of their savings on the American naturalization process and rarely sought medical care because they couldn’t afford insurance and feared deportation. To help financially, Kat began working as a golf caddie at age 14. Her golf clients connected her with shadowing and interning opportunities at various technology and biotechnology companies and hospitals, which inspired her career interests.
As an undergraduate at Cornell University, Kat studied both biological sciences and science and technology studies while working at the Lab of Ornithology where she built computational pipelines to better understand songbird communication. During undergraduate summers at Harvard University, Kat worked on comparative genomics and population genetics projects using plants, fruit flies, and butterflies. As a post-baccalaureate researcher at Harvard Medical School, Kat built imaging tools to visualize the development of different types of mouse retinal neurons. Kat’s original inspiration for pan-species research was her third-grade teacher who described Charles Darwin’s worldwide voyage and theory of evolution. After learning how different organisms evolved varying traits to survive their unique environmental stressors (some which mimic human diseases), Kat became motivated to look throughout nature to find better animal disease models for development of novel human therapeutics.
Currently, Kat is a neuroscience PhD student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is co-advised by Professors Sinisa Hrvatin and Jonathan Weissman at the Whitehead Institute and is researching how cells from hibernating organisms can survive cold temperature to engineer human cells to do the same. Kat envisions her work could improve organ transplantation and therapeutic hypothermia technologies. She hopes to someday lead a research group developing technologies that allow humans to safely enter and exit ‘hibernation-like’ stasis for medical treatment purposes.
In 2020, Kat’s father passed away from metastatic lung cancer. Kat served as his caregiver and medical proxy. Her greatest source of comfort was her hospital waiting room community. Inspired by the power of communities, Kat founded DNA Deviants, a 2,000+ member biotechnology group that hosts podcasts on Twitch to discuss breakthrough research and organizes career mentorship programs.