ďStop blaming the surroundings and start introspecting yourself.Ē
1) What is your journey at BPHC?
My journey on campus can be divided into semesters. I was just another overconfident first yearite who showed up for every induction. I would dance, play basketball, debate in ELAS, and attend MUNs. The second semester was the coolest of all. I got to visit U.K. with Reeti to attend ĎThe Great Debateí. We were one of the two teams that qualified for the finals from India. It was an exchange program arranged by the British Council. It was an amazing experience as a whole.
In my first year holidays, I got a research internship at University of California, Santa Barbara. I spent one and a half months there, and there wasnít a single day when I felt like not going to work. Thatís when I realized that this is what I want to do. After returning to campus, I found the faculty were doing some amazing work. I started talking to professors and help them with their projects so that I could get some hands-on experience. Thatís when I attended my first conference.
We decided to go to Delhi for Rendezvous in my 2-1. We spent every free hour in the dance room working on choreography, booking tickets and all the nitty-gritties associated with it. This was very stressful as there was a lot of work to do. But I got to interact with a lot of people and understood the importance of relationships.
I joined the course NVC (New Venture Creation) in my 3-1 and started working on my startup. I worked on it for about 4 months. It was a new experience as I had to take care of a lot of things. I was going through the website and I had to teach myself web development. I flunked the C Programming course but still managed.
I focused a lot on research from my 3-2 onwards. I would stay in the labs till 11 in the night and even spend the whole weekend there. I gave my best shot at Lab Oriented Project, a course that caught my whole attention. By this process, I learnt to document my research and communicate it effectively. It taught me how to stick to a commitment.
Fast forwarding to the present, I have got the best friends and professors I can ask for. I donít regret any moment of the last four years.
2) What is your driving force?
I met a lot of PhD scholars in my first yearís internship and thatís when I felt that this is what I want to do. You dedicate yourself completely to your PhD. From that time onwards, whatever Iím doing I devote myself to it. Seeing others work hard is inspiring for me.
3) How do you balance academics and extracurriculars?
Balancing doesnít work for me. What I want to do is what I do. When you want to do something, you do it really well. So when you are forced to do things that you donít want to do, like Compres. Every semester I felt that something was important and thatís what I did.
4) How were you able to get a research internship at the end of your first year?
The best part of pharmacy is that CDCs start from 1-2 onwards. So I got exposed to research early on. Thatís when I got to know of some professors and I applied to them. I did get rejected a lot. But eventually one professor accepted me.
5) How was your experience at Boston Medical?
I was working at Center for Genomic Medicine which is a collaboration between Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. The basic idea is that the treatment, diagnosis and cure for any disease lies at the genetic level. My professor on campus had a tie up with them. So I had to analyze a compound we prepared here with the equipment there. I spent two months totally where the first month was all about training, attending talks and poster presentations and getting to know people and the second was spent on analyzing the compound.
The style of research was very different there. Professors can visualize their work in a publication. If they think it canít be a part of their publication they donít do it. There was a lot of stress on documentation and presentation of your research. Yeah, it was a great time over there.
6) How did you get this internship?
It was a collaboration between my professor and them. So I just wrote an email if I could come and analyze this compound.
7) How important is CGPA especially for research?
CG is important and I hope that people realize it sooner than I did. Ultimately, it depends on what you want to do in life. If you are able to convince people that these are the grades that I got and they can get me to whatever I want in life. Then you are fine.
If you are able to tell people that you worked hard in some subjects and you did really well in them only because you liked them. Then, I think itís enough to put on paper. And you will get opportunities to pursue.
8) What is the scope for research in Pharmacy in India and abroad?
Iím not sticking to hardcore Pharmacy, but as you can see there are excellent programmes in the US and UK. Right now, if you want to make money or do some cutting-edge research then you must be into life sciences like Pharmacy or Biological Sciences because innovation there will never stop. There are a lot of foundations like the Bill Gates foundation that insist heavily on low cost treatment of diseases and always encourage young people to come up in such areas.
Apart from that, if you look at the industry in Hyderabad itself, itís doing great. India is one of the few vaccine producing countries. Our vaccines are exported to a few African countries. And also there are lots of generic medicines made here. Given the huge population size in India you are easily going to have a huge sample size. If you are into Biological Sciences then India is the place to be right now. You can go abroad for research and come back to India.
9) What advice will you give to a fresher of Pharmacy?
You have the whole Pharmacy department to help you. You go to the website, choose one publication and start reading it. Only when you start reading you can envision a research project or even hypothesis. So this is the start of your scientific career. Then you can talk to your professor about what interested you in his paper. This is how you go about it. You should also use all resources. In Pharmacy you have got the professors, labs and courses. So use these resources.
10) Why are you choosing to do a PhD over pursuing a Masters?
Quite a lot of people do Masters because they are unsure about the commitment required for a PhD. Many people also do Masters because they feel like they are going to need more research experience. You donít necessarily need to have a year long research experience or two or three degrees before applying to a PhD programme. I believe that if you think you are suited for a PhD and its environment, have taken the required efforts, then through your letter of recommendation and statement of purpose, you should definitely be able to convince those people. I would prefer not to waste my two years in masters but rather use those two years in doing something which I am sure of committing my time to. As a PhD student you have more credibility and bring much more to the department. As a masters student you wonít probably bring much to the department. In a PhD you are dedicating your life, heart and soul to the lab. With that kind of commitment comes equal amount of responsibility. It gets easier to convince people about your work.
11) As we all know you have your own YouTube channel; ďSit down SaturdaysĒ, we would like to know your journey as a YouTuber.
I think that you can really describe a journey if you have made it somewhere and for me I still think there is a long way to go. Making people laugh is something which I really love to do. I checked a few YouTube channels and felt that if these people can, then why canít I? So thatís how it began. I decided to give it a shot and see what happens. I put up my first two videos and told no one about it because at that time I was embarrassed. I wasnít sure if the videos were good enough. My initial videos technically werenít best because I shot using my basic camera and sometimes I forgot switching off the fan, so people can hear itís sound in the videos. But I loved every part of the process. When I was making the video, making the script, replying to the two comments on my video, all of these made me happier. Also I believe that having no resistance from my parents side, made me happy. Usually parents will be against you in such situations, but I guess my parents have been amazing throughout this. Also many of friends used to come up and ask me when I was going to upload my next video and that usually would make me happy. Now I can say that I have reached a point where I receive hate comments, which means my audience has increased beyond my friends and family. So thatís definitely one of the landmarks I have reached. I am definitely going to continue it because itís just like my stress buster, something which takes me out of the world which we live in here. Also, I believe it teaches you a lot about the creative process and how do you market yourself. That is a really important skill you need to have because at some point of time, everyone has to sell themselves. Since the videos were about me, my impression to the world so it helped me a lot. It taught me how to deal with haters in my life and move ahead of it.
12) Who are your YouTube inspirations?
I personally feel that having role models can leave you dejected at times. Because sometimes you may not reach up to the expectations. But I do get creatively inspired by a lot of YouTubers. There is Alyson Stoner, she is a choreographer and then there is Mac Steffanina, Grace Helbig are couple of YouTubers who are really cool on camera. Some people get too shy on camera and then there are these people who just own it. I was really surprised when I saw how people can make a career out of YouTube. Itís really good to see people choosing a path less taken, make careers out of that and be happy with that.
13) Are you willing to go into the field of stand-up as well?
Just last week I was presented with an opportunity to give up academics, campus life and fly out to Mumbai for a month. That one month would be spent in interacting with real people of the industry, working with my peers, etc. So basically it was a huge opportunity and I had to make a decision. One very important think about making decisions is when you make one you have to learn to live with it because honestly it just eats you up if you donít. It took me time but I realised that stand-up comedy isnít exactly like YouTube. I like YouTube more. While standup comedy is a more accepted form than YouTube, which is why I will like standup more right now but YouTube is where I really want to be hopefully in a couple of years.
14) What were the difficulties you faced as a YouTuber or more importantly as a female YouTuber?
I guess that the biggest difficulty I had to face was putting a lot of efforts in a video and very few people watching it. So that can demotivate you for a bit. Not getting the kind of response you expected is disheartening. Later you definitely deal with it but during your first videos you do feel that. It is tough especially for Indian girls. Naturally what Indian girls talk about is their periods, their moms and about people asking them to get married and it is these topics that the female comedians are expected to talk about. It is obviously very hard because when you make any other jokes people are less reluctant to laugh. People are already biased that yeah she is a girl so she shouldnít crack any swear jokes. When a female comedian goes on stage, people already start thinking that probably she is not going to be as funny as a man, wonít crack any swear jokes. Male humour is mostly based on swear words. Coming out of comedy without using any such words or any vulgar topic but sticking to much relevant and relatable stuff makes it much harder for female comedians. But now there are these huge competitions for women comedians so I guess Indians are slowly realising the fact that women can also be as funny as men.
15) What are your suggestions about building a good YouTube channel and being good on camera?
I think the best way to go about something is to first start. Get your first video out there. You may probably think years about your first video, that how you didnít have the proper audio, video, script, not funny enough, not good looking enough but trust me that isnít going to get you anywhere. If you keep obsessing about the mistakes you made it will just take the fun out of the process. People always used to suggest me to take a good camera, a proper microphone and if I would have listened to that it would have become a problem for me. Because then I would invest something in it and once you invest something you expect returns. Right now I run on zero investment except time. Once you run on such a zero investment, you can explore and do whatever you want because there are no real life consequences you have to deal with. So I would suggest to put your first video out there because honestly you donít know what is going to work and what wonít.
Getting into the technical aspects, what is very important for your YouTube video is you use trending words. One of my most watched videos is about birthdays and birthday is a word people are going to search on a frequent basis. That video did much much better than my other videos which were probably funnier. Also focus on the thumbnail you have for your YouTube channel. Then you leave it up to your audience. That is where your commitment ends and do not obsess over it. There are a lot of trending YouTube channels today whose philosophy I donít agree with. At the end of the day you have to believe in your content. Your content should make you happy. If you are not happy people watching your video wonít be. You donít need to have a good playlist rather you need to have that one good video. If you have that one video people are going to flock your channel. When you have that one viral video you donít need to have twenty viral videos. Because it attracts enough people to come back to your channel.
16) Now coming to a general view, be it your channel, academics or research, how did you overcome some of the major failures and what did you learn from them?
I guess I have been lucky since my childhood as I have had to face a lot of reality. When I used to prepare a Motherís Day card, my mom would say that you could have done better. So I have been dealing up with this that you are not always going to live up to peopleís expectations. You are going to receive criticism and you will have to take it in your stride. You need to deal with people attacking you and you need to come up with a witty reply. People are always going to say that you arenít doing enough. Also during your research professors are going to say things and criticise your work. But the best thing about professors is that they will always keep you in mind. Whatever they say to you it could be set in a harsh way or the nicest way. You need to learn to take it in stride. The second you donít is when your ego, other issues come in your way. To the people who have had bad experiences with professors, you have to believe in yourself. You can give up just because somebody gave you a bad comment. The second you receive a negative comment, either comes from a person who really cares about you or if you have done something good. For example, when I get a hate comment on YouTube, it means that more people are watching my video. That is when you know you have cleared the first hurdle and can get over to the next level.
17) So what are your future plans?
So this semester is when I will be applying for graduation schools. I knew from the very beginning that the field I want to be in is drug delivery and drug delivery systems. I want to pursue a PhD. And as far as everything else is concerned, I would pretty much like to keep everything going the same way. I have always liked to have more than one thing in my life. If you donít have a lot of things going on, you will get frustrated. You won't have something to vent your frustration or anger out. And do remember, whenever your life hits its rock bottom you always have your parents around. I eventually want to work for the WHO. That is my ultimate goal. In working with WHO, I want to go to places where they donít get proper healthcare. I want to work on cost effective, safe and better methods to cure diseases in places that donít get proper water, sanitation.
18) So wrapping up the interview, any last words of wisdom you would like to give to your juniors?
Everything in life happens for a reason. Never question why you didnít get something but observe how much efforts you put into it. Stop blaming your surroundings and start introspecting yourself. And always remember, whatever happens to you is not the end of the world. Study is not the end of the world. Whatever happens to you now, you are going to deal with much heavier problems later. Always keep the long term perspective in your mind. Always remember that everything in life happens with a good reason and you need to roll with the punches.
Thank you Ms. Sateja for your time and support regarding this.
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