I did my early schooling in Chennai, later moved to Hyderabad for higher secondary and undergraduate studies (thanks to my Dad’s transferable job). I was always fascinated by Biology and Maths; like many kids, I wanted to pursue a career in medicine, but circumstances were favoring only Engineering J; I chose Chemical Engineering as it is a branch that can be easily diversified and closely connect to Biology among all other disciplines (Biotechnology was budding then in Chennai, didn’t have such option in Hyderabad). My research career started in IISc through Young Engineer Fellowship Programme (YEFP — 2 months summer internship program); I vividly remember I wrote a (first) proposal on a Biotech project but got an opportunity to work in Photocatalysis group, still grabbed it to test my temperament in Research.

Following it, I wanted to pursue a research career, especially an academic position. My parents were not in favor of higher studies and just wanted to get married like any typical Indian parents. As I emerged as a Gold Medalist for being the university topper in undergraduate studies and secured a national level 3rd rank in GATE -2003 exam (entrance exam for Master’s degree), my parents were in a way forced to let me go and pursue my dream. I joined IISc for M.Tech and continued my research in the Photocatalysis group because I wanted to complete the research work I started as a YEFP fellow. The education style in IISc is completely different, not a cakewalk. Still, I strived to receive the prestigious Prof. Kuloor Memorial Award for being the Batch topper

Further, I wanted to go to the USA for a Ph.D. Of course, my parents were once again worried and laid the stumbling block; I struggled to convince them and finally started off to Ohio State University with a University Fellowship to pursue Ph.D. in Biomolecular & Chemical Engineering. Yes, I researched the interface of Biology and Chemical Engineering, investigating the effect of solvent composition in Protein Crystallization. The training was pretty tough; metaphorically, it was like a process of transforming graphite to diamond!

As postdoctoral experience in a research lab provides an added advantage in academia, I was looking for a postdoctoral position in the USA. Still, this time my parents were too stubborn, so I had to return to India.  I still managed to do an Industrial postdoc in Dow Chemicals, Pune. I was working on modeling cellulose, thus picking up the interest in Carbohydrates, a comparatively less studied biomolecule than proteins or DNA/RNA. After a short stint in Dow, I joined the Department of Biotechnology, IIT Madras, to set up my own lab. Simultaneously I also ventured to set my family too. Managing two reins simultaneously is not an easy task, especially when one corresponds to an overwhelmingly demanding task like childcare with minimal family support. I had to fold my wings to create a cocoon for my kids. The initial period was highly stressful because it was taking my time off from my dream career. Still, I eventually realized it is necessary to avoid a life-long regret, as I don’t have the right to deprive a toddler’s early childhood happiness in pursuing my career goals. Now, it is time to open my wings and fly. If you are interested in flying with me, join the Team!

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