“I loved flies, but they didn’t love me back. I had bad allergies to flies during my PhD and I needed medications to keep them under some control. I initially got interested in the field of developmental biology after attending a journal club for the same where I saw beautiful microscopic images of Drosophila during my summer internship at CCMB, Hyderabad. In this club, several graduate students and postdocs came together to discuss scientific papers. I barely understood anything but I found the entire process of using genetics to understand development fascinating. I envisioned myself doing the same.
Even as a child, science always intrigued me. My mother used to complain about the innumerable number of utensils I had burnt while attempting to do experiments at home. When I read the biography of Marie Curie, it further fueled my interest and made me realize there were others who shared the same amount of excitement in doing science as me. A different career option was something I never even considered.
I didn’t get through any of the top tier colleges after my school and did both my graduation and post-graduation in Baroda, the city where I grew up. My parents were extremely supportive throughout and gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted.
It was in CCMB where some people suggested that I should do my PhD abroad. I had personally never thought about it. After my internship, I prepared for GRE, while doing my Master’s and applied to US graduate programs. I didn’t get through any of the top places that I applied to. Interestingly, I didn’t know about Brandeis, where I ended up going. I applied to its PhD program because I saw ‘Drosophila’ laboratories in its brochure and they had an application fee waiver.
I had a very good time during my PhD and post-doc in the US. Graduate school was the most amazing period in my academic journey. I loved everything about the place, except the cold weather! I was sure I wanted to do developmental biology and I started rotating in laboratories that resonated with that interest. But while rotating in my second laboratory, I realized Dr.Jencks, who had authored a biochemistry book that I had read during MSc, was a faculty member there. I was curious so I decided to rotate in his laboratory.