Women to the rescue: Deepti Bharti at McGovern Medical School in Texas
With the passage of time, the Department of Biomedical and Biotechnology Engineering has grown in leaps and bounds and making her subtle path in this research arena is PhD scholar, Deepti Bharti. Working in the field of Plasma Membrane Vesicles, Deepti Bharti has been successful in bagging Indo-US Fellowship for Women in STEMM and make her place among 10 women across India. Team Monday Morning had a chat with her to discuss her fellowship and future ventures. Here is an excerpt from the interview.
Monday Morning (MM): Shed some light on your early days in childhood and previous education.
Deepti Bharti (DB): I was born in Air Force Station, Jamnagar, Gujarat. I kept moving from one place to another as my father had a transferable job, but mostly from Kendriya Vidyalayas in various cities. Then I did my bachelors in Biotechnology in VIT.
MM: How was your experience in VIT?
DB: As it is a private college, the student crowd was huge and one could participate in a huge number of student activities like clubs, etc. The quality of education was really good and I found myself indulging in many clubs like Nature Club, Uddeshya, Peer educating platforms and many other such clubs and chapters. I was a co-founder of the Nature Club, which aimed at promoting events that aim to save and protect nature in many ways.
MM: How did you apply for the Jubilant foods internship and how was the experience?
DB: I didn’t have a big role there, as it was an industrial internship. Jubilant is a company which supplies vegetables and other such ingredients to companies such as Domino’s pizza and Haldiram’s. I was involved in the microbiological testing of these ingredients. I mailed the HR department and that was pretty much it.
MM: Shed some light on your experience at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology.
DB: IGIB is a CSIR institute. I had an option to finish my credits in VIT and spend 6 months outside my college in labs, learning how research is done. This was my motto, as I wanted to learn the workflow in various labs across India. The person I was working under was Dr.Anurag Agarwal who is the Director of CSIR IGIB. They have a set of protocols to accept a student, which is similar to most of the other institutes. I was not working on the wet lab which I am doing right now, but more about bio-informatics. I had 16S rRna and I was analysing that data. My work was to Understand the correlation between “Ayurvedic doshas” and gut microbiota using QIIME analysis tool and R statistical programming language.I also learnt python for performing few analysis.
MM: What were the criteria for acceptance into IGIB?
DB: The institute asks you for a minimum period of 2 months, which we wouldn’t get in VIT. So, only final year students who could devote so much time could apply for this.
MM: What are your areas of interest here in NIT Rourkela and under which professor?
DB: I am working under Prof. Indranil Banerjee and my co -supervisor is Dr Kunal Pal. The major area I am working on is specifically wound healing and liver regeneration and is based on the application of plasma membrane vesicles in such conditions.
I would give all my credits to Dr. Banerjee for keeping me motivated everyday and teaching me the minute technicalities of my work.He is a real inspiration.
MM: What are the differences you find between NITR and VIT?
DB: I feel the crowd here less active, and that the environment in VIT was more challenging both academically and regarding extracurricular activities. Even education-wise, I found VIT, being a private institution has its own importance towards academics and I believe that is brilliant.
MM: Tell us about the Indo-US fellowship for women in STEMM and how to apply for it and the selection process.
DB: It is a joint program by the Indian and American governments, sponsored by DST and implemented by Indo-US science and technology forum. They put up an application, and the eligible persons were the female PhD scholars starting from their 2nd year till their final year. This was very competitive as I will now be put against final year PhDs with multiple papers to their names. The unique thing is that it is meant for women from the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine. There are a set of applications that have to be applied, for example, I need to find someone in the US to accept to guide me for 6 months. I have applied at McGovern Medical School, for which I had to mail a professor from there whose field of research should co-relate with mine. This is not the end, after this, they look for the applicant’s background, research projects and academics, Statement of Purpose. After all this, I applied for the fellowship, for which I got the result after 2 months. 10 women are selected from various fields in STEMM all over India.
MM: When does the application process start? When can students apply for it?
DB: The application process starts in the mid of August.
MM: How are the scholars selected?
DB: The selection is primarily hooked on your proposal that you send in. Along with that, there are a series of questions inquiring about why does the scholar need this collaboration? In what perspective the collaboration is going to help them? What is the scholar going to gain from this work? They also discuss the various roles of different parties in this collaboration.
MM: What will be the area of your work there?
DB: As I am working with plasma membrane vesicles, I will continue to work with plasma membrane vesicles and bio characterization of them under this fellowship.
MM: What will the perks of working under this fellowship? Is this fellowship offering you a stipend?
DB: When I applied for this fellowship, I wanted to acquaint myself with someone who is working closely to my area. Dr Ilya Levental is working on Giant plasma membrane vesicles. The lab under him is quite established and advanced accordingly to perform the characterization of these vesicles, which cannot be provided in our labs due to the infrastructure we hold. Thus, this fellowship will provide me with guidance to explore different fields such as Regenerative Medicines which will be useful for me in the future.
The research is fully funded that includes my stipends, medical insurance, my contingencies and my travel tickets. The whole funding is around INR 13.5 Lakhs.
MM: What motivated you to choose to start your carrier in Research?
DB: Lately in the final year of my B. Tech, I realised that I wasn’t attracted to working for a company. I wanted to do something that can be called mine, maybe some experiment, or some work. I wanted something that belongs to me and at that instance, the field of research occurred to me. It gave me an opening to learn something new every day. Most of the times it results in failure but it is quite intriguing.
MM: What are your plans after this fellowship?
DB: After six months of this fellowship, I will return to complete my PhD. I surely think I am interested in working in the arena of research so I might apply for my Post-Doctorate. Exposure from this fellowship will positively aid me in picking up an apt field.
MM: A message for NITR junta and students who would like to pursue their carrier in this particular arena.
I would like to convey all the students joining any university or college that patience is the key to victory. When I joined this institute, I was a very impatient human. But for the research field, you need to be focused and patient. You need to love your lab and turn it into your sweet space. It’s for your benefit because once you are comfortable in that space you can learn easily and efficiently which will give you the inquisitiveness and the boost to perform new experiments every day. You have to convert it into your home. That’s what I did, considered my lab to be my happy place.
Team Monday Morning congratulates Deepti Bharti on bagging such a prestigious fellowship and wishes her Best of Luck for future endeavours.