“I began as an electronics and telecommunication engineer but my desire to work in the healthcare field led me to pursue a Master’s degree in biomedical engineering with a focus on image and signal processing. Because I didn’t take biology in junior college, the transition was difficult at first. However as we focused more on the electronics of medical equipment, things became clearer.
I don’t think doing a PhD was even on my radar. I rather wanted to learn and explore the biomedical field more and therefore opted to teach before going for research. It was a learning phase for me during which I developed a strong interest in comprehending the complexity of the human brain and the processing of cognitive ability. I was the youngest among the professors. However, I was never looked down upon by my colleagues; they instead saw potential in me to do research and pursue a PhD. After two years of being a professor, I qualified for a JRF position funded by BRNS in Jaipur which gave me an opportunity to work with doctors and I even developed a software for classifying EEG (brain) signals. That later went on to be pretty helpful for my PhD which revolved around the study of healthy aging in young and older adults.
One of the biggest challenges I faced was a lack of facilities and adequate funds which I believe is a persisting concern in such a large and populated country like India. However, during the first year of my PhD, I set up a collaboration with a laboratory in Taiwan (supervised by Dr. Huang), which was the turning point in my research career. It made me realize the value of collaborations in order to make the best out of a PhD. Dr. Huang and his team work on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in addition to EEG signal processing, which helped me learn multiple things in parallel. I saw a stark difference in the scientific temperament between India and Taiwan. There were sufficient funds and resources available, allowing me to work twice as efficiently as I would have in India.
When I returned, I still had a year left to finish my PhD. It was mostly about writing papers and communicating with journals at that point. As a result, when the pandemic struck shortly after, it had no negative impact on my PhD work. The online defense, on the other hand, however was a letdown. I expected more public engagement and questions, which I believe would have…