Tell us a bit about yourself – what was your PhD about and where did you study?I earned my PhD in Nanotechnology from Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati), India in 2018. My doctoral research was focused on designing self-propelling micro/nanomotors for theranostics and water treatment. The artificial micro/nanomotors are miniaturized devices that can either be driven chemically or driven by external forces, like light, acoustics, magnetic or electric fields. My project looked at (1) Non-biological pH taxis of polymeric magneto-catalytic micromotors for sensing of pH gradient while in motion; (2) Formic acid fuel-driven magnetic micromotors for hydrogen generation; (3) Facile lithography-free fabrication of paper-based tubular micromotors for drug delivery applications, and (4) Carbon soot-derived active micromotors for environmental remediation. Apart from conducting experiments and analysing data, I have keen interest in sketching, cooking, mobile photography and cricket game.
What do you do now? What did you decide to do next after gaining your PhD?I’m currently a Senior Research Fellow at Centre for Excellence in Nanoelectronics & Theranostic Devices (CENTD), Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, India, working on fabrication of low cost and biocompatible micro/nanomotors using plant-based materials (buds, leaves) for anti-cancer therapy. I have decided to stay in academia and thus, will be pursing postdoc at the end of this year.
Has having a PhD helped in developing your career? If yes, what has been the biggest impact? If no, why do you think that is?Definitely YES! Being the first generation of student in a start-up lab, I got a rare opportunity to set up the lab & to develop, establish new protocols for micro/nanomotor fabrication. My PhD has helped me to develop into an independent researcher, with proven ability to deliver impactful, innovative results which led to high impact publications. The years invested in PhD training has made it possible for me to prepare myself as a tutor, as I used to supervise my lab undergrads and PhD freshers on a regular basis. In addition, my PhD trained me to be persistent, and it has also assisted me to strengthen my managerial, critical thinking, writing, and presentation skills. Last but not least, one of my findings during my PhD has helped me to earn the coveted Gandhian Young Technical Innovation (GYTI) Prize, which was conferred by honorable Vice President of India in 2019.
What’s one piece of advice that you’d offer prospective students considering a PhD?A PhD student’s top priority should be mental wellness and physical fitness. It’s very important to take care of your emotional wellbeing while completing a PhD, as the PhD tenure is not always an easy phase of life for everyone. Many students encounter the feeling of uncertainty, loneliness, anxiety, insomnia, depression, negativity, procrastination and imposter syndrome during their PhD journey, just be assured that you are not alone. It is better to take a day off at regular intervals, hangout with friends for a dine out or a movie show (maybe during Sundays), and also try to engage in conversation with people apart from academic chitchat. In addition to this, whenever required, never hesitate to avail counselling services (most universities provide it), which helps a lot to cope with stress and anxiety. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and always make time for yourself. Always work on strengthening your positivity and stay motivated, and remember – “You will withstand any storm with perseverance and endurance.”
And what one thing would you suggest that new PhD graduates should do next?Firstly, never forget to take some time to relax, acknowledge your successes (both big and small) and stand strong. Secondly, emphasize on networking inside the university as well as beyond the school, it would definitely allow you to obtain a post-doctoral, academic or industrial job in the immediate future and thirdly, always have a schedule, but don’t beat yourself up if you are not able to complete all scheduled tasks, believe me, often, it never does, but it will help you to stay focused.
Lastly, what’s your favourite memory from your time as a PhD student?As a PhD student, my favourite moment will be – my first visit abroad for attending an international conference in Germany. I was intrigued by the scenic scenery and sights of the lovely green town of Hannover (Germany).
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