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Ramya Vishnubhotla

NRC Postdoc in Physics at National Institute of Standards and Technology

Don’t buy into the myth that you need to be a “genius” to be a scientist or engineer. That term is subjective. What matters is that you have passion.,

What do you do?

My work is in applied biophysics —  I use biosensors to detect nucleic acids and drug targets, and to study the conformational changes of DNA due to physical and chemical stressors. This serves as a proof-of-concept for eventual disease diagnostics with sensors.  

Why did you choose this field?

Physics was my favorite subject in high school! I had great teachers, and loved problem solving. I started off as a nuclear engineering major in college, but realized that wasn't the right fit for me, so I switched to a double major in physics and astrophysics, and tried different types of research. In graduate school, I knew I wanted to do research relevant to the medical field, which led me to my work with biosensors. 

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

"I spent too much time worrying about grades and thinking I wasn’t smart enough. I wish I had known that wasn’t true!"

I struggled a lot in intro physics in high school. It took me a while to build an intuition for the subject. 16 year old me would have never thought I would get my PhD in physics from an Ivy League many years later! 

Why do you love working in STEM?

STEM is great for many reasons: lots of job opportunities, interesting work, good salaries, and the chance to extend technology and humanity’s collective knowledge just a bit further. I wake up looking forward to working in the lab!

Best advice for the next generation

Don’t buy into the myth that you need to be a “genius” to be a scientist or engineer. That term is subjective. What matters is that you have passion for what you are studying, and are willing to work hard— everything else will follow. Also, don’t believe that you don’t belong just because you are surrounded by men. STEM can be for anyone! 

Fun fact

In my spare time over the last several years, I have been training in boxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.