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Amatullah Mustafa Nakara

Student

Vellore Institute of Technology

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Go for it, it is worth the risk!

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WHAT DO YOU DO?

I am a final year undergraduate student pursuing Bachelors in Biotechnology at Vellore Institute of Technology, India. I also voluntarily research in a lab at Vellore Institute of Technology in the Department of Biological Sciences. My research focuses on biosynthesis of nanoparticles, holding a future potential for therapeutic applications. I have also actively involved myself with the Academia and Research (A&R) Committee of After iGEM; an initiative to promote diversity, inclusion, exchange of ideas and knowledge and outreach post the annual International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition held at Boston, USA. As a part of the A&R Committee of After iGEM, I led and hosted webinars on iGEM projects previously commended by judges. The overall idea of this initiative was to promote inclusion and outreach between teams from different institutes and exchange of ideas at the global level. In my free time, I enjoy experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen or listening to soft music!

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

I was among a packed and spellbound audience at the iGEM 2019 Giant Jamboree at Boston, USA. The speaker was Dr. Rettberg, President of the iGEM Foundation. He was describing how synthetic biology tools could be fine-tuned to elicit desired therapeutic effects. ‘Knowing is not enough; we must apply!’ he thundered. ‘We need to design efficient molecular tools for better treatment of diseases’. He stressed on the importance of knowledge in biochemistry and molecular biology to be able to design and develop such dynamic molecular assemblies. It instigated thought that this was what I wanted to pursue a career in and, my aptitude for Biochemistry convinced me that I could look forward to a future in this field.

HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?

Hailing from a minority community, I did face numerous obstacles in my career, and life, in general. Belonging to a middle-class family, university fees were difficult to afford. I strived hard at the university, and bagged a Merit Scholarship for three consecutive years, to support my education. In general, I believe obstacles are a part of the journey, and the best way to tackle them is to strive even harder to compensate.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"

Younger me was a shy kid, who was hesitant to try anything new. I wish younger me would have the confidence to knock at that one door to ask for an opportunity, the courage to firmly say “I want this”, and the optimism to try out that one new idea that I always believed would work out. I wish younger me would have known that I underestimated myself and in reality, was capable of so much more!

WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?

I enjoy working in a laboratory setting. I find my inclination towards the understanding of rhetoric around biomolecular interactions and the interplay of biomolecules in cells and organisms. I believe the STEM field has a lot more to explore and every small thing or parameter tweaked can lead to a new result, providing new insights! I also believe there is no end to discoveries in Science, and the more is known, the less it is. I love working to design experiments, play with parameters according to my observations and understanding, and of, course, await the unexpected results!

BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?

I would like to give one advice to all women in STEM – go for it, it is worth the risk! I believe there is nothing that can hold a woman behind, except her own self. Apply for that scholarship that you think you have almost zero chance at, mail that one scientist you were always intrigued reading about – take a chance! Nothing is lost with a small chance, but when things work out unexpectedly, you will be amazed at how much you could achieve and what you are capable of!

INSPIRATION

I am highly inspired by Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. She is a biology researcher-turned-entrepreneur, and the Chairperson of Biocon Ltd., am Indian-origin organization with a focus on developing genetically engineered biosimilar molecules and pharmaceutical drugs that are well-known and sold in the global market. She grew up as a daughter of a brewmaster and after completion of a postgraduate degree in brewing, upon return to India, she found no companies willing to offer a brewing job to a woman. With zeal and determination, she founded Biocon India, a company that initially produced enzymes for alcoholic beverages. The company though did well in the global market; their progress was slowed down as it was difficult to find employees willing to work for a woman. Over years and after facing many obstacles and turn-downs just because of her gender, Mazumdar-Shaw led Biocon to be the first Indian company to get FDA approval in 2001. Mazumdar-Shaw has also received numerous accolades for her pioneering work in industrial biotechnology. With my interest on similar lines in the field, I hope to become like Mazumdar-Shaw one day!