My tryst with scientific research: Part 1

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I always had a dream inside my heart that one day I will receive an International prize for my research work. This dream remains dormant in my mind only to wake up during the announcements of various prizes like Santi Swarup Bhatnagar awards, Nobel Prize, Infosys Prize and similar kinds. The surge in the emotions attains new heights when the award goes to a woman.

I too had a dream, to excel in my area of work, to contribute something to the society, to return back my dues to the humankind, to do some fruitful research, to discover something useful, to explore the unknown.

With those dreams in my heart, I joined my doctorate but as typical woman in India, I too was forced to sacrifice my emotions and passion once my marriage was fixed. I tried my best to latch into it, but didn’t find much support from anyone. That too I was suppose to relocate from Lucknow to Bangalore after marriage. Hence even my guide was not so positive about my continuation of doctorate post marriage. She clearly explained to me that I should not try to board two boats at a time. According to her, once the marriage of a girl is fixed, she gets transformed from a professional to a housewife. In other words she clearly indicated that I have become useless for her and her research work.

Post marriage, after having a kid, the dormant thought of research again started bothering me. But there was a big gap of six to seven years post marriage. I tried at various places but there was no positive response. Then I thought I should try something intermediate before jumping directly to the doctoral admissions. To bridge the wide gap I applied for M.Phil. at Jain University. Passed the test, but the interview panel had lots of ladies. Again, those expected questions, ‘Would you be able to manage both, the family and the studies?’ ‘There is a break in your studies; would you be able to cope up with the course?’ I was determined, so I told ‘yes’ to every conditions they put. Still no one was ready to accept me. Then the Pro-VC of the university intervened and told, ‘we need to give her a chance, she looks confident!’ And with that I was admitted to the course that appeared more like on compassionate grounds than merit or determination.

I attended the coursework with one campus of the college approximately 14 kms and other around 20 kms from my house. The classes and labs were distributed between those campuses. I started leaving my two and half year old kid in a crèche. He supportively managed. At times my husband also did the baby-sitting. Sometimes, the classes were in the morning as well as evening session. I used to board the bus, attend the morning class, come back and feed my son and again board the bus for the evening class. Even travelling in overcrowded bus to college twice in a day did not dampen my flying spirits.

The coursework was comprehensive. The lab was quite good. The experiments were supposed to be conclusive with assumption of earlier experience. I never had such experience in my masters had not worked on experiments. There were people to make fun of me due to my ignorance on experimental techniques, but there was no one to help. But I was determined so I started asking and taking help from juniors. Slowly I picked up. My experiments yielded good results. My guide advised to immediately communicate the data to a journal. I didn’t have an iota of knowledge of this process. I wrote the paper and communicated but it bounced back citing reasons of paper not following the guidelines of the journal. The English was also termed poor and there were lots of other queries also.

I sat peacefully and went through each and every query word by word. Most of them were explanations and others when I incorporated, added value to my manuscript. With that I uploaded the revised manuscript to another journal and was selected for publication after a minor revision. This was one of my biggest achievements in my tryst with scientific research. The department was shocked. The biggest problem in research institutes today is that people are more concerned about others research work. If it gets rejected, others feel happy. If the work gets accepted, others feel bad. People even do research on others research work to find out the lacuna and ways and means to highlight them. Putting others down is one of the objectives of researchers in an ambitious research institute.

Then came the thesis writing exercise. I had all the data stored and classified, the plots ready and the write up corresponding to the objectives segregated. So I was able to compile them all quickly in one file. One of the colleagues had suggested saving the file with versions. This helps in reverting back to the lower version in case of any problem with the higher version of the file. This had helped me too as the latest version of my file was not opening once I embedded mathematical equations inside it. I immediately reverted back to previous version of the file and incorporated equations with another editor; otherwise my entire work and the effort would have been wasted.

I completed my M.Phil. successfully but the research bug started biting me again. Meanwhile, my guide was also started trusting my skills and research ability. I put forth my proposal for pursuing my doctorate under her guidance. Though I was not sure of getting through the admission process, I had made up my mind to pursue it. I started framing the research objectives for my future work keeping the standards and the duration of Ph.D. in mind.

contd…

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