The un-glamorous world of infectious diseases

PhDs of India
6 min readOct 4, 2021

“It is essential that we appreciate people when they do a good job, before complaining about all the mistakes they made. That was my biggest takeaway from working in the UK, where I went for a short period after my PhD. It is a very common thing in India, even in places like CMC, where I worked for most of my life, to have expectations of a certain level and when you don’t reach that level, you are considered a failure. Having remained in such a competitive atmosphere, I was initially petrified when I went to the UK. I am socially awkward at the best of times, and I felt I would not make new friends. Apart from being told that my English was old-fashioned, surprisingly, not only did I make great friends, but I also found validation.

I have always been interested in science, particularly biology, where one could figure out how living beings worked. Ophthalmology, psychiatry and infectious diseases attracted me the most. When I went home after MBBS to study ophthalmology, I discovered my family had a history of familial tremors, which worsened with old age. So I thought a profession that required me to do fine surgery wasn’t the best option, and I ended up studying microbiology, which was the closest thing to infectious diseases. Unfortunately, as a doctor in India, you only get to see a part of the problem and not the whole picture. Such a partial picture wasn’t satisfactory to me. Hence, when I got a job in the research and development wing, I readily accepted it.

Doing a PhD was a very different process from what I was used to. I could choose my own direction and figure out how things worked. It took me almost eight years to get my doctorate. I received a fellowship to go to the UK after my PhD. Although the pay wasn’t high, I wanted to go because it meant I would have the freedom to do what I wanted to. So, I decided to leave my children with their grandparents in India and flew to the UK while my husband went to the US. My UK supervisor had collaborations with a phenomenal scientist, Mary Estes, from Baylor College in Houston, who worked on rotavirus. When I was visiting my husband for Christmas, my supervisor gave me an invitation letter to go and meet her. She initially was hesitant to let me work with her for just a year but eventually agreed. Fortunately, it has been a great collaboration, and we are still working…

PhDs of India

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