I was born and raised in Bangalore, India. After I finished my schooling, I decided to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in pure sciences, a decision that was strangely opposed by my teachers, guides and peers. I was told it would be an uphill battle to find a job or pursue a scientific career in India. Unfazed, I stuck with my decision but knew that I would need make an individual effort to train myself for research career without any support from my university. In a country where there is a constant dearth of opportunities, I knocked on many doors and spoke to countless people before I landed an internship at a diagnostic centre hidden at the back of a building in a nondescript street of Bangalore. I was ecstatic. To my teenage mind managing some simple pathology protocols felt as if I had officially become a scientist. It wasn’t long after that I joined Prof. Hittalmani’s group at the University of Agriculture in Bangalore to work on my first independent research project that involved validation a novel draught-resistant hybrid variety of rice using genetic markers. Following this experience I never wanted to look back. I relished the intellectual freedom and was empowered with the realisation that every discovery impacts life as we know it.

I moved to the United Kingdom in 2011 to purse a Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences Research, which I passed with a distinction. Following this, I was awarded a graduate studentship at King’s College London to pursue my doctoral study in molecular and cell biology, which I recently completed. The bulk of my study involved validating and characterising a novel protein-protein interaction in the lung epithelial layer that controlled epithelial cell adhesion and migration, both of which are crucial to maintaining homeostasis in the lungs. My work has paved way to study inflammatory response in the lung during cancer and asthma.

Alongside my doctoral study, I founded a non-profit social enterprise called Scientists & Co. in 2016. It was borne out of a sense of responsibility I felt towards the U.K. and its people. In other words, it was my way of humbly giving back to a society who funded my study and warmly embraced me. This enterprise aims to increase the social mobility of pupils from low socio-economic backgrounds in higher education. I designed a university boot camp styled work experience called Shadow A Scientist. It also offers a range of workshops to develop skills that helps pupils gain confidence tin themselves. To date, 98 pupils from white working class and BAME backgrounds have been offered one-to-one support through this programme. Nine out of ten of them are now enrolled in a university, 63 percent of whom have received offers from a Russell Group university. I also rolled out another programme called Science Without Borders in order to reach pupils in cold spots in the U.K. and abroad. This programme has reached over 300 students across 35 schools and entails conducting workshops and offering mentoring or career counselling at the schools.

I was also selected as the President of the Global Health Policy Centre at Europe’s largest student-led policy association, the King’s Think Tank between 2016 and 2017. I had the herculean task of engaging policy-averse health students and developing innovative policy ideas. I recruited and lead a team of four to host high quality events, conceptualised innovative ways to engage healthcare workers and students, and mostly importantly, published the first ever collection of policy ideas and research in Global Health titled Breaking down Bureaucracy, Boundaries and Barriers in Health. From healthcare issues plaguing both developed and developing countries to laying the foundation for strengthening healthcare innovation in post-Brexit U.K, the publication covers topics that we have extensively lobbied to relevant decision makers. Also, for the first time at King’s Think Tank, I lead a lobby-trip for heath students to the World Health Organisation at Geneva, where my white paper on Let’s Talk, Young People’s Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing in England was discussed at length.

Another hat I donned between 2015 and 2017 was as an elected student officer at the King’s College London’s Students’ Union. I successfully lobbied for student rights, conceptualised and implemented a number of schemes and policies to improve student experience at King’s. I established UK’s representative body for postgraduate research students to improve student life and achieve research excellence. This model is now being used by other Students’ Unions in the country. I created the popular Thesis Writing Up Spaces at King’s College London, set up the King’s Doctoral Students Association and led campaigns to increase pay for student-teachers, to provide more work stations for research students and championed for greater mental health awareness and support. My work was widely recognised by both the Union and the College and I was consequently appointed as the official Student Ambassador of King’s Vision 2029 strategy.