“I got into agriculture serendipitously. Over time, I developed a keen interest in entomology and agricultural microbiology. I went ahead with agricultural microbiology for my Master’s, and the knowledge I gathered during this period motivated me to pursue a PhD in the same.
I initially started my PhD at Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University, but the lack of financial assistance made me question my decision of venturing into this path. My then supervisor encouraged me to write the entrance exam for the ICAR- Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi, which I fortunately qualified and eventually, I joined the Division of Microbiology, ICAR- IARI. Although I spent a small amount of time at Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University, I will forever be thankful for the immense help I received from the faculty there without any vested interest of theirs , something that we do not see very often in academia.
The biggest hurdle in my PhD was the pandemic, which delayed the progress of my work. Additionally, my work was completely dependent on the availability and working of a particular instrument called Gas Chromatograph (GC), which broke down midway. Since, my work was dependent on the performance of GC, I lost almost eight months in fixing it. Nevertheless, after a long, painful wait, the instrument was finally repaired. I clearly remember getting the peak of my compound for the first time, after injecting my sample into the instrument! That feeling of exhilaration at that moment, will forever be etched in my heart. I was also fortunate to have an extremely supportive supervisor during this entire process. Often, her home-cooked food (for which I am ever grateful) has done wonders to uplift my mood during a stressful situation.
In addition to my research, I love playing cricket regularly. Sports has proved to be a very good de-stressor for me, and I encourage more and more PhDs to play sports, not just to maintain physical health but a good mental health as well. Furthermore, talking to fellow PhDs surrounding me, sharing our perspectives about various ongoing social problems helps me decompress my daily stress and failures. Being aware of each other’s journey always helps us remember the fact that we are not the only ones going through such stress and things will eventually be better. I feel most PhD students tend to isolate themselves during their journey which is not conducive to personal growth. To grow personally and academically, we need to interact with people because science and scientists do not grow in a vacuum.”
-Shriniketan Puranik, PhD in Agricultural Microbiology, ICAR- Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi
Interviewed and written by Debalina Acharyya