2020 Sunday Sessions

Academia’s goals are good research and publications. Industry’s aim is making money. Performance pressure is higher in academia definitely. In industry if you help them make millions, you’ll get thousands. You never own fully what you have done. The most important part is independence, in academia you get much more freedom on what you want to do and how you want to do, which is the major difference between the two.

Drug designing is done via various tools. I am using Polyamides for that. Professor Peter Dervan and Aseem Ansari work extensively on polyamides. It depends on what tools you are trying to use for drug design, there will be many many labs for each tool.

I feel academia after Masters isn’t the same as before that. PhD, Post doc, Research assistant and other research based positions aren’t counted in years, but the work done. There are times when even hard work doesn’t give good results, that is the uncertainty of research and that’s why it is different from usual coursework where everything is defined. Thus, there are times when one gets demotivated, but you need to look at the bigger picture. Don’t doubt yourself, but check what went wrong and what different you could have done. You always gain experience from your failures and that’ll help you in future and keeping that in mind I think is always important. Talk to your friends, colleagues, lab mates and seniors about it. Everyone goes through this phase.
PhD is definitely a way of life different from usual course work and job. Publications and recommendations are your currency and that’s how you are evaluated. So you have to think in terms of good research and future perspectives accordingly. Research interests some and not others, thus one has to choose the way he wants to live. Research/Academia provides much more independence and flexibility.

Different universities will be following different paths to reopening. The U.S. is currently in a COVID-19 surge and has not reached a plateau. We would encourage you to try and come during summer 2021 as the COVID-19 outlook for this winter may be quite dismal. However, if you have a mentor we encourage you to maintain monthly contact with your mentor and 1) stay updated on the university’s reopening policy 2) ask your mentor regarding internship work that can be done virtually.

Unfortunately, as of now, we do not have a definitive answer to this question. How long the executive order lasts will depend upon the 2020 presidential election, among other factors. If Biden is elected President, the order might be lifted. If Trump remains President, the order is in effect until December 31, 2020, after which his administration may decide to renew it.

Bhabesh,  the quality of work is not always reflected in the “shiny” journal where it appears. Many Nobel laureates have commented on how their best ideas faced fierce resistance and ended up in specialty journals. In the current environment of electronic searches, the journal name is becoming less relevant but unfortunately the journal name is still is used as an easy tool to judge the quality of work.

Prior research experience, especially meaningful research experience greatly enhances your chances of being selected at some of the best institutions. Having been selected as a Khorana and Bose scholar is recognized by many US schools as a sign of your potential.

Finding yourself in a supportive and nurturing lab will impact your PhD and post PhD experience greatly. We encourage you to speak to members of the lab as well as members of other labs that interact with the lab of your interest. See what the undergrad and grad students have to say about the mentor and his/her students. Also, we encourage you to speak with the mentor yourself and get a feeling for how you think your future interactions with him/her may be. Look to see where the Professor publishes their papers. If his/her papers are consistently in top tier journals, you will probably find yourself in a highly motivated lab that pushes members to their potential. This may or may not be your style. Study the lab, its members, and its work carefully. Compare it to other labs in which you are interested. Talk to the mentor and students.  Try to see if you can find a peer who has graduated from that lab and talk to them. Then make your decision!

Dr. Natarajan and Dr. Ansari encouraged students to take grad school level course requirements as the courses integrate lab work with coursework.

Some undergrad students have goals already preset before entering their internships, and some come into the internship open to the possibilities.

Either way, the internship can help shape and develop your interest (or lack of interest) in STEM based research. Dr. Niranja Natarajan (year?) knew she wanted to study cardiac disease when she applied for her internship and her current position as post doc fellow at University of Pittsburgh is a direct outcome of her early interest in cardiovascular disease.

Devesh Bhimsaria, a coder, went into his internship in a biochemistry lab with an open mind with respect to the overlap in STEM he could integrate into his expertise in coding. He eventually decided to pursue a PhD in biochemistry and engineering and now has hos own company in protein interaction data analytics.