How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and fascinating career?
As a child growing up in India I was fascinated by biology and how our bodies work. I grew up with my grandparents in Bangalore. Spotting my interest in movement, my grandparents and aunt enrolled me in Bharatanatyam dance classes. Bharatanatyam is a classical Indian dance form traditionally performed in temples but now staged more widely. We even did a flash mob performance in Cambridge’s Market Square.
What did you study?
I went to the US to take my first degree. At Albright College in Pennsylvania, I majored in biochemistry and French. It’s a liberal arts college and the courses open to us were wonderfully diverse. I was able to take art history and literature alongside my major subjects. It suited me perfectly but I admit I was left confused about what direction to follow.
Tell us about your career path
Returning to Bangalore, I spent six months as an internship student at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS). This stint was a wonderful introduction to the world of research: I realised that I loved working in a lab and carrying out experiments. The lab’s principal investigator, Apurva Sarin, let me explore the world of research while I was mentored by one of her PhD students.
I went on to take a master’s in Geneva and PhD in Neurobiology at Hamburg. I worked in a lab looking at neural circuitry in the olfactory system of mice. My PhD focused on understanding how messenger RNAs and proteins get transported within neurons in the brain. In 2006, I started my postdoctoral research in Christine Holt’s lab in Cambridge. Her lab looks at how nerve connections are established and maintained during development.
My husband, Amit Nair, did his PhD at Cambridge’s Department of Zoology and his postdoctoral research at the Babraham Institute. We first met when I was an intern at NCBS, Bangalore, and we were incredibly fortunate to find postdoc positions in Cambridge. For both of us, Cambridge has turned out to be a city of opportunities.
What are you doing now?
I am a Founder Director at ASK Scientific, a Cambridge-based research communications company helping corporations, universities and other R&D organisations effectively communicate their research. Our team consists of PhD-qualified academic and industry professionals who speak 11+ languages.