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Where did you grow up:
What was your academic path before coming to grad school at MIT? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?
I started as an Electrical Power Systems Engineer in my undergrad (IIT, Roorkee) where I learnt to believe that “with enough will, anyone is capable of doing almost anything they want”. Power Systems couldn’t keep me interested for long and I started looking towards Silicon device fabrication, which also became the basis of my senior thesis. After undergrad I worked for a chip manufacturing company as an I/O design engineer. I felt lost in a crowd of people running simulations and debugging chip designs. I applied to Princeton for graduate work in Device Physics where I designed and fabricated a SiGe macro solar cell. While doing that I started getting excited about applying my digital circuit design knowledge to engineer living matter. And I got an opportunity to work with my current advisor who was also at Princeton at that time. My work with him was full of “life” and gave me a chance to realize my dream of working on something which can potentially cure sick people.
What did you study after IIT Roorkee?
I did my Master’s (Electrical Engineering) from Princeton and PhD (Biological Engineering ) from MIT.
What did you want to be when you were younger? Is that still an interest of yours?
I always wanted to be a doctor and help people and even though I didn’t study medicine I’m still able to work in that direction.
What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
My first plane ride was at the age of 23, when I travelled from India to US for my grad studies.
What department are you currently working in, and when did you start there?
I’m in enrolled in BioEngineering Department and my advisor is a joint faculty between CSAIL and BioEngineering.
What are you working on and why are you passionate about it?
I’m trying to engineer Probiotic bacteria, to be able to sense the bad bacteria inside us and kill them. I’m excited about it because it can act as a natural live vaccine always monitoring the incoming threats, like our immune system, and defending us against them. In this way we can reduce our dependencies on antibiotics and prevent ourselves from their horrible side effects.
What is your favorite thing about working at CSAIL?
I got an opportunity to rub shoulders with people who are pioneers in the engineering world and have been my ideals since childhood. I get to learn how to think big and make it happen.
What effect do you think your area of work will have on the world in the next decade?
Synthetic Biology has tremendous potential. It’s an engineer’s way of seeing Biological Problems and attempting to solve them. It has the potential to revolutionize the way we think about diseases and attempt to cure them.
What are your future plans?
I plan to work on developing new strategies for curing diseases.
What advice would you give a prospective CSAIL graduate student?
MIT is a genie which can give you EVERYTHING you need to realize your dreams, and there is nothing more exciting and satisfying than to see your dreams come true. So don’t be afraid of anything and keep your eyes and ears open.