When it comes to dating, Shruti Kuppa, 28, is emphatic about one thing: “No workaholics.” “I’m here for the hustle, 100 percent, but ... it’s hard to make time for someone new if you spend all your free time working,” said the Virginia native, who works in electric vehicle research.

This “powerful” gal wants “a friend and partner combined in one.” “I am nerdily passionate about things, and I like that in others. ... I am into murder podcasts and mysteries. I like consuming niche subjects in-depth.”

We set up Shruti with Will Lacy, 31, a self-described “curious” gent who is a product manager by day and law student by night.

He told me he hasn’t had luck with online dating because it “doesn’t facilitate long-term connections” and he tends “not to find the nerve to follow up” when he’s interested in someone. He turned to Date Lab because he has “annoyed all my friends to death asking them to set me up with someone!”

For Will, a partner who is happy with herself is a must. “I’m not looking to complete anybody. I’m uncomfortable being the ‘white knight’ in a relationship.”

We had food delivered to their homes: Chinese for him, Japanese for her. Will admitted he felt awkward trying to manage his sesame chicken and steamed dumplings over Zoom. “There was something logistically complicated about trying to eat and be engaging over video.”

Shruti had no problem eating on camera and was eager to munch on her various rolls. “I had been thinking about the meal all day,” she said with a laugh. “This was a great opportunity for me to finally eat sushi after a month!”

He said conversation was easy from the start because Shruti was “outgoing, warm, very easy to talk to. We have things in common. We understood the other’s life experiences.” Which he told me was important because it had been a “sticking point” on previous dates.

Shruti said he made a great first impression: “He seemed nice and cool from the get-go. I thought it was sweet that he was wearing a rose pin on his lapel, and his apartment looked really nice and clean — and that’s definitely important.” She noted that the virtual date allows you to “get an intimate look into the way people live” from date No. 1. “I appreciate that he put a lot of effort into dressing for the date.”

They “clinked” glasses — a beer for him and a hard seltzer for her — and gave each other tours of their apartments and art. Will told me Shruti has a feminist art aesthetic, and his is mid-century modern. “I have NASA posters that have a mid-century feel.” Shruti appreciated that they were “both into space.” Her dad is an aerospace engineer, and she went to space camp growing up.

They bonded over their love of travel and shared their post-quarantine dream destinations: Japan for her, Shanghai for him. Both had to cancel trips because of the pandemic. Will liked her “cosmopolitan outlook” and her desire to understand and visit other countries. “It’s a very important part of my life,” he said. He studied European Union policy and is “very interested in internationalism. It makes you a better person to be open to other cultures.”

They could relate to each other’s experience of working full time while pursuing a graduate degree. “We have similar politics and similar perspectives on what equity looks like at this time,” Shruti told me.

These two peas in a pod did have their differences: Will’s guilty pleasure is anime; Shruti’s is trashy mysteries, though they both agree on the “Radiolab” podcast. The one thing that gave Shruti pause: “He doesn’t cook. He does a meal-delivery service during the week and then orders every meal on the weekend. It’s kind of weird to never cook for yourself.”

But that hiccup didn’t stop Shruti from making a move at the close of their two-hour date. “I decided to ask for his number since I wanted to see him again. He’s definitely someone I want to talk to again during quarantine.”

It was good that she asked, because Will admitted he’s not a “very good judge whether there is a spark or not, and it’s 10 times harder over video chat. Not being able to read the vibe off of her, I don’t know that I would have presumed that she was interested in hanging out again.”

While Shruti made the move to exchange numbers, she told me, “Initiative is an admirable trait.” And she was hoping that he would take some initiative and ask her out.

Rate the date

Shruti: 4 [out of 5]. “He’s really nice and interesting. I like people who are nerdy about whatever they are nerdy about, and I like hearing about that. He definitely likes to share and listen.”

Will: 4.25. “We hit it off quickly — good conversation. I was impressed with her professional goals and work-life balance.”


They texted after the date. A few weeks later, Will asked Shruti “in” for another video date. While they enjoyed each other’s company, Will said he still wasn’t sure if there was a spark, and Shruti said it was more of a friend vibe.