The Ph.D.s Behind ‘My Ph.D. Story’: Vaishali

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Girl in a New City

Hey everyone thanks for stopping by to read our blog. My name is Vaishali, and I am currently working as a Postdoc in the USA. I am originally from India (Mumbai) and came to the USA 7 years back for grad school. I still remember the day I got an admit in the Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program, it felt like I had won a battle, little did I know it was only the beginning.

I never thought that I would become a ‘scientist’. Back in the day, the middle-class parents in India pushed their kids to choose either medicine or engineering as a career option. Since middle school I was inclined towards biology, hence I thought studying medicine and becoming a doctor would be my only option. However, life didn’t turn out as planned ( when does it ??) and I ended up doing a bachelors followed by a master’s in biotechnology. By the end of master’s first year I was still debating on my next career move. I had very limited exposure to research then, thus pursuing an MBA seemed like a lucrative option for getting a well paid job. However in the consequent year I rotated in a Cancer Biology lab and that altered all my career plans. Those 5 months of research significantly changed my outlook towards science, and I realized that science was my calling.

I landed in the USA with a mixed ‘bag’ of emotions, happy to be granted an opportunity to pursue my dreams but it was extremely painful to leave my family behind. I remember being miserably homesick during my first week in the USA. I had a relatively cushioned and cocooned upbringing back in India. Needless to say, I had minimal experience in dealing with people or life in general. Living all by myself in a different country, not only widened my horizons but also gave me an opportunity to learn and grow from every person I met and build friendships from the world over. Thus I think coming to the USA is so far the best decision I have taken for myself.

My Ph.D. was challenging for varied reasons, some of which I will discuss in my story, but it transformed me as a person. I am still figuring out several aspects of my life , but my Ph.D. experience has empowered me to handle the upcoming challenges. At present, I am a happy postdoc. With some time on hand now, I can indulge in hobbies. In the past one year , I have actively pursued music by learning guitar plus Indian classical music and starting a small jamming group. So yes … music keeps me going. Also, I strongly believe in ‘giving back’ in my own little way and currently I volunteer as a mentor for underprivileged students at Freedom English Academy in India. I love interacting with these students, it gives me immense happiness and a sense of purpose. In the future, I want to continue doing something meaningful and thus I want to be a part of many more good initiatives as ‘My Ph.D. Story’.

I hope that our initiative ‘My Ph.D. Story’ will inspire all the current/past graduate students or anyone who is facing challenges and dealing with mental health problems. I wish you all, the very best in life 😀

–Vaishali

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