Believe in the best of everyone you meet along the way. It is quite liberating.
I do not remember how I got interested in research, but I think it was around the second year of my Bachelors, pursuing an engineering degree in Biotechnology when I took the decision to go for higher studies. It wasn’t until a few years later that I decided to venture into Neuroscience.
I struggled a bit to find the right PhD programme for me, but that is a story for some other time. When I received an offer from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, I had a feeling that was it. Three amazing lab rotations later, I decided to join Dr. Vidita Vaidya’s lab for many reasons, two of which were that I loved the science the lab was doing, and that I admired Vidita for the person she is. Currently, I am studying the neurocircuit underlying anxiety and depression, and possible therapeutic interventions.
Grad school has taught me many things. It is still teaching me something new every day. Over the past few years, not only have I grown scientifically and intellectually, I have also learnt a lot about myself. In my first year, I often thought I would never reach the point where many of my peers a little further ahead in their journey than me are, that my admission offer was a fluke, and soon enough I will be discovered and thrown out of the campus for being a dud. Humorous hyperbole aside, I understand now that it is probably the same for everyone. As a new graduate student, it is tough to deal with imposter syndrome. Given the amazing people around me at the time, I quickly understood that no one knows everything, and everyone learns at their own pace. The only thing important is that you do enough to be a little better than yesterday.
I have made some amazing friends in the past few years who became an incredible support system when I was at my worst, and have learnt to love myself in all my imperfect glory, while being aware of what I need to work on to be a better scientist and a better person every day.
If there is one thing I would like to ask of anyone considering an adventure in academia, I would just echo my mentor’s words and say: You spend most of your twenties doing a PhD, make sure you don’t spend it all behind a bench.
Praachi is a research scholar pursuing Neuroscience at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research-Mumbai, India.