Shamik Mascharak was born in Santa Cruz, California to parents who immigrated from India in search of educational opportunities for their children. As educators themselves, his parents stressed the importance of service to others and lifelong learning—and so, every moment was a teaching moment. This included his father’s cholecystectomy, which prompted Shamik to mull over the mechanisms underlying gallstone formation. His findings after months of research culminated in a 1st place award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, an experience that sparked his drive for research.
He took this growing passion to Stanford University, where he majored in bioengineering and conducted research on recombinant protein-based biomaterials, ultimately publishing design principles he uncovered in several first-authored papers and an awarded undergraduate thesis. To connect his engineering research to real patients, he began shadowing and volunteering at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and Stanford Cancer Center. Here, he confronted the stark gap between scientific and clinical realities, committed himself to serving patients as a surgeon-scientist, and pursued an MD/PhD at Stanford School of Medicine.
Clinical experiences have inspired Shamik’s research ever since. Seeing the devastating consequences of head and neck cancer and the lack of available screening tools, he set about designing a machine learning algorithm to identify optical signatures of oropharyngeal carcinoma with Professor Chris Holsinger in the Surgical Vision Research group, publishing work that has gone on to support the formation of a company. Inspired by his surgeon mentors’ relentless drive to refine their art, he has opted to conduct his PhD thesis research in Professor Michael Longaker’s laboratory, where he is working alongside general and plastic surgeons to better understand the complex biology of wound healing and regeneration.
Shamik hopes to continue working at the intersection of engineering and surgery as a principal investigator to devise entirely new standards of medical care.