Associate Professor in
Biomedical Engineering and Neurological Surgery,
Vanderbilt University, USA
County of origin: India
Believe it or not, I actually hated optics as an undergraduate student. But when I came to the US with that vague idea of combining medicine and technology, I ran into my PhD advisor, who mentioned the project she was starting at University of Texas at Austin -- applying fluorescence for detecting cervical precancers -- and I said to myself, "That's it!" Now I cannot imagine doing anything else.
I would not ever have left India to pursue a vague dream of bringin medicine (which I loved) and technolgoy (which I was good at) together in a successful way, if it were not for the support of my mother. She encouraged me to reach for whatever fulfilled me and made me realize I could do it.
It is thanks to my first physics professor and subsequent mentor, Dr. S.B. Patel, back at the University of Bombay, that I found and identified with the filed of Biomedical Engineering and Biomedical Optics. A nuclear physicist himself, he saw what I was looking for and showed me the way.
Of course, my career has developed as far as it has because of my husband's whole-hearted support. Somehow despite two full-time academic careers in biomedical optics (his and mine) and two kids, both of us have a great career and family life.
Professionally, what I like most is that I have the tools to make the difference (cliche I know) to patients and medical care in the near future. I also love being able to explore my ideas (no shortage of those) and turning students on to biomedical optics.
Personally, I love the flexibility of academia, allowing me to spend as much time as I need with my two kids while working to fulfill my intellectual needs and ambition.