What do you do?
I am a Biophysicist and a programmer. My work involves research in cellular network and transport in living beings. I find my work quite interesting as being a member of interdisciplinary field provides me an opportunity to work on complex biological systems using concepts of cellular physics and computer simulations and animations.
Why did you choose this field?
I took this decision due to my wonderful experience at my research internships and projects during my undergrads (B.Tech). Doing a novel work which is a pinch of knowledge to huge bank of science made myself feel useful. Also, I have always been driven by actions and life story of Dr. Kalam who is the 'missile man' of India. He was a great scientist and leader. His contributions to his field as well as country inspires me to do something of the similar scale using my work. So, looking back, I guess when I got a book titled 'The women scientists of India' while I was working at IISc Bangalore, there was a physicist named B. Vijayalakshmi who had died young due to cancer but refused to give up her work until the end - that was my defining moment to choose this field as my career. It was not only an inspiring story but a defining moment of what is in store for my aspirations.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
It has been 3 years at IIT Bombay and I have learnt to swim, climb wall and got a yoga certificate for professional practises. Recently, among the thousands of applications, I was a lucky participant to be selected for Bio2020 workshop-cum-conference to present my work and interact with the leading researchers of my field. I remember in the room filled with young as well as established reserachers, there was a nobel laureate and a member of Royal academy of Science (Chemistry). Although I was quite happy and grateful for this opportunity, but I was nervous to the core. I had so many silly thoughts in my head of what could go wrong and Murphy's law to become true. But it all went fine. It was a wonderful and enthralling experience to say the least. I could be a part of something like this was beyond something I could perceive. This realization not only gave a sense of achievement but was a life changing moment for me. I wish I knew I was so capable.
Why do you love working in STEM?
The presence and reach of women in technical and research institutes is meager. This gives me a sense of my active existence in this field. The challenges are not just with work, but against social and stigma and discrimination too, which makes me strive more to work hard, prove my mettle and keep growing. On the work front, I have come to realize that there are more mistakes and failures than success in my field which is really the key for a researcher to keep going. But failing more at work takes a toll and can be frustrating at times. In such situations, defining short term goals and compensating negative results with other positive outputs helps. I am also an active yoga practitioner and a dancer, so these activities help me go through one day at a time when the times are difficult.
Best advice for next generation?
Having gone through my experiences, I would say perseverance and smart work is really the key. Find that one thing (career defining path) you want to pursue, drive out confusion and then hunt out for opportunities that come your way. It will be a constant ride of ups and downs but when you pass a milestone- 'it was all worth it' is what you would say to yourself proudly. Also, the change is going to be YOU. So, take charge of your career and define it yourself. Do not let others talk you into something else.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
“If you want to shine like sun, first you have to burn like it.” - Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam