The field of molecular biology advances our understanding of diseases, and enables the discovery of new therapeutic interventions that can address unmet medical needs.

Moumita Ghosh, our next pathbreaker, R&D consultant at Cytiva (previously known as GE Healthcare), a Biotech company located in Uppsala (Sweden), works as part of a team involved in development of new drugs and therapies based on novel methods to characterize proteins

Moumita talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about her PhD which was focused on uncovering the underlying mechanisms responsible for the development of cardiovascular diseases.

For students, one of the most exciting things about research is its contribution to a growing body of knowledge in specific areas which can make a real difference in patients’ lives !

Moumita, can you tell us about your growing up years?

I grew up in Ranaghat, a small town located in the Nadia district of West Bengal, India. Ranaghat is situated 74 km away from Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal. During my childhood, the town lacked development and did not have an English medium higher education school or other advanced facilities that are available today. After completing my Bachelor’s education, I worked as a medical representative in a pharmaceutical company in Kolkata. Later, I worked as a quality control chemist in a Kolkata-based pharmaceutical company before moving abroad.

My family comprises my father, who is a retired government employee who worked for the Indian Railways, my mother, who is a housewife and my younger sister. They have been a source of inspiration to me throughout my life. Their dreams motivated me to achieve the success I have today. My immediate family here in Sweden comprises my husband and my 6 year old daughter. Their love, extensive support, and understanding are the strength of my life. 

What did you do for graduation/post-graduation?

I completed my schooling from Brojobala girls´ high school, a Bengali medium state government school in Ranaghat. Following my higher secondary education, I pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy (B.Pharm) from Gupta College of Technological Sciences, Asansol, West Bengal under the affiliation of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad University of Technology (Previously known as WBUT). I completed my master’s degree in Biomedicine at Linköping University, Sweden.

My doctoral degree in Medical Science was earned from the prestigious Karolinska Institute, also in Sweden.

What were some of the influences that led you to such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

As I mentioned earlier, my parents have always had high expectations for my professional career, which motivated me to strive for excellence. Although I was an average or slightly above average student during my school years, my life took a turn when I began my Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy at Gupta College of Technological Sciences in West Bengal, India. It was during this time that my interest in science and innovation started to grow. I began to dream of establishing myself as a scientist in the medical field, and this fueled my drive to excel in my studies. 

I worked hard to achieve my goals and was able to obtain a Master’s degree in Biomedicine from Linköping University in Sweden. This was a significant achievement for me and allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the field that I was passionate about. I then went on to pursue my PhD in Medical Science at the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

While my journey was not without challenges, my passion for science and innovation kept me motivated. I am grateful to my family for instilling in me a drive to succeed and for supporting me every step of the way. Today, as a scientist, I am proud of what I have accomplished, and look forward to continuing to contribute to the field of medical science through my research and innovations.

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path. 

Although I had big dreams for my professional career, the path to achieving them was never straightforward. After completing my bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, I wanted to work in research or quality control in a multinational pharmaceutical company. However, limited opportunities in West Bengal made it difficult for me to pursue my desired career path. Instead, I started working in marketing as a medical representative for a pharmaceutical company, followed by a role as a quality control chemist in a small-scale company in Kolkata.

Despite these setbacks, my passion for innovation and research never waned, and I began preparing for the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam, which was a requirement for applying to higher education programs abroad. In 2008, I was admitted to a fully-funded Master’s program in Biomedical Sciences at Linköping University in Sweden, which proved to be a turning point in my career.

During my Master’s thesis, I was exposed to high-quality research work that resulted in scientific publications in reputed medical journals. After completing my Master’s, I worked for about a year as a research intern at Linköping University. 

Throughout my Master’s program and one year as a research trainee at Linköping University, I conducted independent research focused on cardiovascular diseases. As a result, I successfully published four scientific papers in reputable journals. My research efforts were focused on uncovering the underlying mechanisms responsible for the development of cardiovascular diseases induced by oxysterols and iron-containing molecules. Our studies ultimately revealed how iron-containing MRI contrast agents may contribute to the progression of atherosclerosis.

In 2012, I commenced my PhD studies at the renowned Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. My PhD thesis, entitled, “Hormonal influences on cholesterol and bile acid metabolism: Focusing on involvement of PCSK9”, explored the impact of hormones on cholesterol and bile acid metabolism, with a particular emphasis on the role of PCSK9. As a result of my research efforts, I was honored with the prestigious Alvarengas Prize in 2020 by Svenska Läkaresällskapet, Sweden, for my contribution to the field. Specifically, one of the articles from my PhD thesis, “Differential regulation of LDL receptors by ACTH: posttranscriptional control by PCSK9 in the liver and by IDOL in the adrenals,” received recognition.(Link here). 

After completing my PhD, I worked for two years as a postdoctoral researcher at Karolinska before becoming an affiliated research scientist with the institute.

During my postdoctoral research, I continued working in the same laboratory where I had completed my PhD. My research during this period was focused on exploring the effect of Lp(a) on cardiovascular diseases in individuals with Familial hypercholesterolemia.

I am also a registered pharmacist here in Sweden. Despite the challenges I faced along the way, I am proud of the journey I have taken to achieve my dreams and look forward to contributing to the field of medical science in meaningful ways.

In regards to obtaining my pharmacist license in Sweden, I completed my B.Pharm degree in India. However, to acquire a Swedish pharmacist license, individuals who have completed their pharmacy education outside of Europe must complete a competitive complementary pharmacy education program offered by a Swedish university. I met this requirement by enrolling in and completing the program offered at Uppsala University, Sweden. Following this, I received my Swedish pharmacist license from The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare, and I am currently a registered pharmacist in Sweden.

Currently, I work as a full-time R&D consultant at Cytiva (previously known as GE Healthcare), a Biotech company, while also maintaining my affiliation with Karolinska Institute as a research scientist.

How did you get your first break?

My first significant breakthrough came during my second year of masters when I got the opportunity to work as a research intern at Linköping University. It was a turning point in my life as I got exposed to high-quality research work, and I realized that research and innovation were not only my career but also my passion. During my research internship, I gained valuable knowledge, skills, and experience that helped me secure admission to the prestigious Karolinska Institutet for my PhD.

Working as a research intern also gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams of establishing myself as a scientist in the medical field. The experience and exposure I gained during my research internship opened up new possibilities for me and broadened my horizons. I was thrilled to see my research work resulting in scientific publications in reputed medical journals. The research internship was a significant stepping stone that enabled me to pursue higher education abroad, and it also provided me with the foundation to build my career as a researcher and innovator.

Luckily, my first break after my PhD was quite smooth. Of course, social platforms like LinkedIn have been a big support. I got my current job via Agap2 Sweden, a multinational life science consultant agency. 

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Challenge 1: Despite achieving a first division in my secondary board exam, I fell short of the required marks to secure a seat in the science department of the school I was studying in. It was heartbreaking for me to think that I may not be able to pursue science for my higher secondary education if I continued in the same school. But I didn’t give up on my dream and instead chose to enroll in a different school near my hometown that offered science education. And I successfully completed my higher secondary education in science, with a happy heart.

Challenge 2: Another significant challenge that I faced in my life was when I decided to pursue higher education abroad. It required me to prepare for international exams like IELTS, which was challenging in itself. However, the most challenging part was convincing myself and my family to move to a foreign country. But with the unwavering support of my parents, I took the big leap and moved abroad to study.

Challenge 3: Adapting to a new country also meant learning a new language, which was another challenge. Although English is widely spoken and understood in Sweden, Swedish is the official language, and learning it was crucial for me to integrate into society. I had to put in a lot of time and effort to learn the language, and even today, I am still learning and improving my language skills. 

Overall, these challenges have shaped me into the person I am today, and I am grateful for them as they have made me stronger and more resilient. 

Where do you work now? 

As a life science scientist and pharmacist, I have spent the last 12 years pursuing my passion for research in molecular biology, protein characteristics and purification, metabolism, and cardiovascular research. My current role is R&D consultant at the R&D department of Cytiva, a Biotech company located in Uppsala, Sweden. Additionally, I am proud to be an affiliated researcher at the prestigious Karolinska Institute, also located in Sweden.

What problems do you solve?

In my current position, I work as part of a team working in the process of development of new drugs and therapies in the field of life sciences. I use my extensive knowledge and expertise to conduct research, develop and design experiments, and analyze data. My primary focus is on the development of new methods to characterize proteins, which involves the purification, characterization, and modification of these proteins to optimize their therapeutic potential.

My work as a researcher has led to several scientific publications in reputed medical journals, including studies on cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders. I am constantly seeking new challenges and opportunities to expand my knowledge and skills in the field of life sciences. My passion for research and my commitment to advancing the field of life sciences continue to drive me forward in my career.

How does your work benefit society? 

I strongly believe that the work I am doing in the pharmaceutical industry, as well as the research I conducted during my academic career, is ultimately geared towards improving healthcare for mankind. The purpose of my work is to develop innovative drugs and therapies that can effectively treat and cure diseases, ultimately enhancing the quality of life for individuals and communities worldwide.

Throughout my research work in the field of molecular biology, protein characteristics/purification, metabolism, and cardiovascular research, I always had a deep passion for advancing our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of disease and discovering new therapeutic interventions that can address unmet medical needs. My industrial work is focused on designing and developing novel biopharmaceutical products, which can make a real difference in patients’ lives by addressing the most pressing healthcare challenges. 

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

My PhD research focused on studying the role of PCSK9, a blood circulating molecule, in the development of cardiovascular disease. PCSK9 was a relatively newly discovered molecule, but it quickly became evident that it played a crucial role in the pathophysiology of cardiovascular disease. Through my research, I contributed to the growing body of knowledge on this molecule and its effects on the cardiovascular system.

One of the most exciting things about my research is that it has helped to pave the way for the development of new treatments for cardiovascular disease. Thanks to the efforts of researchers all over the world, we now have treatments that target PCSK9 and can help prevent the development of cardiovascular complications. Knowing that my work has contributed in some small way to this effort is incredibly rewarding.

One particularly memorable moment in my career came when I had the opportunity to present my research to a group of Nobel laureates at Karolinska Institute in 2016. I was thrilled to have the chance to share my work with such a prestigious group of scientists and to receive their recognition and appreciation for my contributions to the field. It was a humbling and inspiring experience that reminded me of the importance and potential impact of scientific research.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Follow your dreams: Even if there are challenges or obstacles, it is important to pursue what you are passionate about. If you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, you can overcome the challenges that come your way.

Work hard and be persistent: Success is not achieved overnight. It requires hard work, dedication, and persistence. Be willing to put in the effort, even if it means sacrificing other things in your life.

Be open to learning: Learning is a lifelong process. Be open to new ideas, experiences, and perspectives. It is through learning that you can grow and develop both personally and professionally.

Seek guidance and support: Don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek guidance from mentors, teachers, or professionals in your field. Having a support system can help you navigate through challenges and provide valuable insights and advice.

Give back to the community: As you achieve success in your career, it is important to give back to the community. You can do this by volunteering, mentoring, or supporting charitable causes. Making a positive impact in the world is one of the most rewarding things you can do.

Future Plans?

As a scientist and researcher in the field of life sciences and pharmaceuticals, my ultimate goal is to contribute to the development of innovations that can improve the quality of human life. I strongly believe that scientific research has the potential to solve many of the challenges faced by humanity, such as developing new drugs and treatments for diseases, finding sustainable solutions to environmental problems, and advancing technology for the betterment of society.

In pursuit of this goal, I am always eager to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements and discoveries in my field, and to collaborate with other scientists and researchers to develop innovative solutions. My passion for science and innovation has been a driving force in my academic and professional journey, and I am grateful for the opportunities that have allowed me to pursue this path.