Nikhil Srivastava Summer Blog 2019

“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.”  Saadi Shirazi

The above lines perfectly define my journey through the Khorana Program this year. It may just be an internship of two months, but it has been a lifetime memory for so many new and first experiences. The first time I heard about the Khorana Program, I was working as a summer intern at the Cytogenetics laboratory of Banaras Hindu University in 2018, from an IASc summer intern from JNU. It was a striking moment for me, as I always wanted to visit the US and experience the life as a student there: I wanted to experience the advancement in science about which we have already heard about. I took getting selected into Khorana Program 2019 as a challenge to me. I started preparing myself, and that was how this beautiful journey begun. From August 2018, I started to work on my write up because I wanted it to be flawless and perfect. Professor Madhu Tapadia, from my department, helped me a lot in finalizing the document by keeping alive its soul. My roommate, Mr. Pushp Ranjan, was the main critic editor of the final write-up. I was not sure if I would get selected when I finally submitted the application form in September end because I knew I would be competing with some of the very experienced and brilliant minds of India.

I was in a workshop in Bangaluru (NCBS), in the afternoon of 11th January 2019, when Avirup Sanyal and I, who was also a participant at the workshop, got an email from IUSSTF. It felt as if thunder just struck over me – man, I was going to America this summer! I am a simple student coming from an undecorated background; I could never achieve this on my own, not even my parents can think of sending me to the US without any fellowship. But Khorana Program, supported by DBT (India) and WinStep Forward, definitely provides an opportunity to simple students, but dreamers like us in Science to see our field with a brand new vision.

At the end of January I got accepted by Prof. Juan Alfonzo from Ohio State University, then official processes of employment started and by the mid of May I was ready to go. I landed in Columbus, Ohio on 31 st May. My PI, who is a very generous person, came to pick me up from the airport. I visited my lab just the next day, I am very happy to say this loudly – my lab at the Ohio State is one of the best things which have happened to me till now in my life. I met very nice people in my lab all from different countries and having their own important experiences to share. I worked for the first time here on Trypanosoma brucei, which is known to be the causal organism of African Trypanosomiasis, sleeping sickness. We were working on the mapping of domains in the tRNA deaminase. Again, this was my first time to work in an RNA lab and I got to learn so many molecular approaches which will definitely help me during my future research endeavors. My mentor in the lab, Dr. Sameer Dixit, is the person who helped make me feel comfortable and feel at home, I have learnt a lot both in science and life from him and my other colleagues in the lab. The Ohio State University is one of the best universities in the world and surely I felt that throughout my stay, full of humble and helpful people. I lived in a dorm in the university campus so I got an opportunity to interact with other summer students from different places like China, Japan, European countries etc. Apart from lab and lab work, I also refined myself in cooking at the dorm common kitchen – I prepared lots of Indian foods as dinner which also helped not to miss my country too much.

This whole journey, along with me has been a journey of many important people in my life, whom I am always indebted to. This is a very fortunate and rare opportunity that a regular Indian student can have in his life. This is the biggest fellowship, I would say, for two months and that too, at our stage of career Indian government offers. In the coming future when I will do PhD, I would definitely remember the teachings throughout this period, because this was the time when a lump of soil started to take the shape of a vase.

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