“We have always felt a strong connection with science as kids and would ask a lot of questions about things around us. We would even dress up as scientists wearing lab coats and safety goggles since we were 10. It often surprised us that there weren’t many female scientists in the world and we aspired to break this stereotype. Our school also played a major role in shaping up our academic choices.
The desire to do a PhD intensified after we secured the IAS summer research fellowship and went to IISc for 2 months. We eventually got admitted to JNCASR which not only provides us the best of facilities but also an extensive collaborative network between different departments.
But we had different expectations before enrolling ourselves into the PhD program. We hoped to work on topics that seem fancy from the outside. But research is more about contributing to whatever area one gets into, no matter how ‘cool’ or ‘dull’ the subject matter may seem. The number of papers isn’t a criterion to judge how good a scientist you are either. Quality always rules over quantity.
Being in the same institute and field is both a boon and a curse for us. We can always discuss problems and motivate each other; but we are often compared by people based on the number of publications we have. Initially it would bother us a lot but over time we have realized that our work is different and can never be compared. We now shrug off the comparisons and just focus on our own research, supporting each other through thick and thin.
A major milestone in our journey has been achieving a personal goal of weight loss. We both used to be overweight and were diagnosed with PCOS. It was our sheer encouragement for each other that helped us work out extensively every day. In the last two years we have lost significant weight. Exercising and getting comfortable in our body helped us in our respective PhD lives. At present, it helps relieve our PhD stress; this is a time when we just focus on ourselves for a short while. And we are good to go the next day.”