What do you do?
I work on the fundamental and applied aspects of light scattering. More specifically, I send coherent infra-red radiation into kilometers of optical fibers to see how light interacts with matter. I further use this interaction for the development of devices used in mainstream areas such as RADAR, satellite communication, and electronic warfare.
Why did you choose this field?
When I was in school, I wanted to be to a volcanologist. I remember indulging in books and TV shows about volcanoes. But as an undergrad, my friends and I were working on a simple optics project. The project was to generate a rainbow from a single drop of water. We had to do the entire experiment in a dark room. More than the experiment, I fell in love working in the darkroom with very minimal light. That is something which we are generally not used to and it attracted me for sure. I think that was the first time I changed my decision from being a volcanologist to an optical physicist.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I am a single parented child and I am the first graduate in my family. So it was quite challenging for me to fight through certain social stigma. Daddyless daughters are still looked down upon in this society and some comments pass through us like sharp needles. Though I have learned to ignore such comments, those did affect the child in me. But I had extraordinary support from my mother and her motivation is what had led me to where I am. As a kid, I knew I would be someone working in a lab but whatever has happened is definitely much bigger.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love working on anything that has a logical basis. So STEM is automatically a winner. I wake up looking forward to interesting problems that will kindle my curiosity. There are a lot of unsolved problems but some kindle me better than others. I love such problems.
Best advice for next generation?
The world is a tough place but we are equally tough. We are all in it together and let us make the world a better place. I know it is not easy to swim through the dirt that has accumulated in the world in which we live but let us try. Be bold in exploring the world around you.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” ― Marie Curie