Postdoctoral Laboratory Manager
Sir William Dunn School of Pathology
Tell us a bit about your role
I have been working with Professor Jordan Raff since February 2010 as a Laboratory Manager. Along with my work, I enrolled myself as a DPhil full-time student in 2014. I was awarded a DPhil degree in the presence of Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson in 2019 from the University of Oxford under Professor Raff’s supervision and Raff lab member’s tremendous support. DPhil was a challenging but worthwhile experience as I was a mature student, and I was restarting my studies after 19 years, with my family commitment and full-time laboratory management work.
I belong to a Hindu middle-class family in India. My grandparents were farmers in Indian villages, who never went to the School. My mum was allowed to study until year five, and my dad until year ten. My dad worked in the Indian army away from our home in the village until I was seven years old. Thereafter, my mother and we three siblings moved with my dad and could attend a state school in India and then in Japan, where my dad was the personal assistant of one of the Indian diplomats. We lived in Tokyo for three years (I was just 13 years old at that time). My dad decided that he will not move back to the village, as he would support our studies, and decided to settle in Noida, near Delhi. Where I completed my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Science in 1995.
My curiosity about science was generated while I was in India working as a technical sales executive and product manager selling the reagents and equipment to various biological institutions and laboratories in Delhi between 1995-2000. I was very interested in their work and desired for how I could use the reagents and equipment which I was selling. The real breakthrough came when I moved with my Husband to Cambridge, UK for his PhD, and I got an opportunity to work with Professor Matthew Freeman at MRC-LMB, Cambridge, UK. I learned how to work in the laboratory and various techniques such as Drosophila work, cloning, PCR, yeast, and bacterial culture using all the reagents or equipment that I was selling in India to various Indian scientists. Thereafter I moved to Oxford to work with Dr. Ariel Blocker on Shigella work and then at Jenner Institute on the development of HIV, TB, and malaria vaccines. I also worked with Oxfordbiodynamics, an Oxford University spin-off company for the development of cancer diagnostic kits before joining Professor Raff's laboratory. Over these years I was able to obtain various scientific and technical experiences which motivated me to keep learning new things. I am an author and co-authors of several peer-reviewed scientific papers.
I consider myself very lucky at every step in my life and the incredible support of my family, friends, colleagues, and my supervisors (moving out of the village with my dad, living in Tokyo for three years, my parent’s decision of not returning to the village, my Delhi University degree, where I met my husband, moving to Cambridge and working with Professor Freeman, Oxford work and then Professor Raff moving to Oxford). The sales job gave me the confidence to talk to anyone in the scientific field and help the scientist with their reagents and consumables needs. The laboratory work environment gave me the platform to think and to make an important contribution to science at every step of my work life.
Working with Professor Raff and DPhil at Dunn School was a game-changer for my scientific career. Raff lab did race for life for CRUK to raise funds, organized Dunn School first Christmas Party with free drinks and food competition, Lab retreats, we presented our work at the International conferences (BSCB, Centrosomes, and spindle pole bodies conference), lab meetings, and Journal clubs presentation, contributing and raising funds for various charities and causes. I even help to crowdfund an ambulance for my village in India at Dunn School. During the 2019 lab retreat, I generated and presented the document to reduce laboratory plastic waste after watching blue planet series II showing the problem of plastic pollution in the sea. @JRafflab Tweeted about it and there was tremendous interest in the document which I then shared with a large number of scientists around the world.
To make labs more sustainable in the Department, Professor Anton van der Merwe created the “Dunn School Green Group” on 13 January 2020. I am the founding members of the Dunn School green group and we actively promote various ways to reduce our laboratory’s carbon footprint using my own experience in the Raff lab and advertising through the department's and Oxford University sustainability mailing list and social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.
What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?
To be able to contribute to science as a scientist for the development of the human race and being part of the Dunn School Green group.
Can you tell us about something you've done, contributed to that you're most proud of?
Two things I am proud of:
- Obtaining a DPhil from University of Oxford and first author peer-reviewed publication at 49 years of my age with severe menopausal symptoms along with my lab manager and my family responsibilities.
- Obtaining Laboratory Environmental Assessment Framework (LEAF) silver award for the Raff lab. Next year I am aiming to get the gold award for the Raff Lab.
What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?
The women’s contribution to science is less represented. There should be more opportunities for women to be the leaders and at the top decision levels. There should be quotas for them. Age should be just a number, and not to count the career gaps for raising young families for them.