Short biographic note
I learned principal and working of various medical devices along with its handling and care. My first master’s is in Instrumentation engineering at Panjab University, India. It gave me an insight to various analytical instrumentation techniques for example, SEM,TEM, XRD, chromatography .
My second master’s was in Nanomedicine and structural biology from INP Phelma, France. Here, during my internship I studied elasticity of plant root cells with a specialization in atomic force spectroscopy technique.
AS an ESR 3, I will be responsible to perform rigorous indentation measurements on plant root tissues to detect early events in growth arrest due to environmental stress. The position as an ESR in Phys2BioMed MSCA-ITN-ETN will give me an opportunity to get myself acquainted with finer nuances of research and development.
1st June 2019
Question 1: Where are you from and where are you conducting your research now?
Harinder: I am from the north of India and my hometown is almost 250km away from Delhi. It is a small city called Chandigarh but it is one of the most beautiful cities in India. It was the first planned city in India designed by a French architect called ‘Le Corbusier’ - I really love it. Right now, I’m doing my PhD in the Institut de Biologie Structurale of Grenoble, France.
Question 2: Can you describe your project in one sentence?
Harinder: To analyse plant root diseases and study cell wall structure with the help of nanoindentation.
Question 3: What is the biggest difficulty you are facing within your research right now and how do you plan to overcome it?
Harinder: Because my institute is located in a really secure location, when I’m having a boring weekend or have work to catch up on, I want to go to my lab and do some experiments but I am not allowed to. Sometimes I feel like taking a day off on a weekday, on Monday for example, and I wish I could work on Sundays to make up for this day, but I can’t. Also, I cannot stay in my lab until late even during the weekdays. I don’t like these constraints which I feel can be a bit of a disadvantage. I need to come early some days so as to finish my work on time
Question 4: What’s the best and worst part about academia?
Harinder: The best part is sharing the knowledge that you have with other people. The worst part, which I think everybody knows, is that it pays less when compared to the corporate world. Apart from that, a lot of good things are in academia: when you become knowledgeable in your field, you are able to share what you know with others and if you can inspire the younger generation and other people in other fields, that to me would be the best part. Sharing is caring I would say. If someone can be inspired by my research, I would be humbled. But for that, I have to work really hard.
Question 5: Why did you choose a research path?
Harinder: I chose a research path to escape from monotonous work which everybody does in the ‘typical corporate’ jobs. Research is really interesting, and you learn life-long skills. Being a scientist is really cool and we get to learn and explore many things. My life will not get boring if I continue doing research, designing experiments and writing protocols: that keeps me motivated.
Question 6: What do you think is most important when you do research? The discovery of new phenomenon’s or the translation of science into something that can be used by a broad audience?
Harinder: I guess discoveries are always translational. It’s not like one day I just go to the lab and puff! I discovered something! Somebody has always done some research on a subject before and we just carry it forward. We do a little more and a little more and someone else eventually will take my ideas and carry them forward. One day someone will come that will take this research on a larger scale and apply it to something usable by a broad audience.
Question 7: What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your CV alone?
Harinder: Probably that I am trained as a classical singer in Indian classical music. For 10 years of school, apart from studying, I spent all my time singing and going to music competitions. Also, I bake really good cakes!
Question 8: Give me an example of when you failed at something. How did you react and how did you overcome it?
Harinder: After my bachelors, I did an exam for one of the most prestigious jobs in India. I really worked day and night for that exam. I felt very confident that I would get through it, but it was 100 million people fighting for 1000 seats and so I did not pass. Yes, I did cry, and I was sad. I realised that I spent so many months on something I eventually didn’t achieve. But I did not let it demotivate me. I started applying for other things, like my masters. My advice would be to always have a backup and 2 plans in case one of them doesn’t work out, you didn’t waste your time completely.
Question 9: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 3 things would you bring and why?
Harinder: Well, let’s assume I will have food to eat and water to drink. I would say my cell phone plus 2-3 power banks so I can talk to anyone on and be social (laughs). Everything else would be provided by the island. The third one would be… No, just power banks and cell phone! They surely have coconuts over there; I can survive on that (laughs)!
Question 10: If we finish this interview and you step outside and find a lottery ticket that ends up winning 10 million €, what would you do with it?
Harinder: I guess I would save half of it and the other half I would donate to charities in India. But I would make sure that each euro would be used in the most useful way. I would probably donate it to a charity which supports children that are really poor and are not able to access good quality of education just because of lack of funds. If I can sponsor them, I would be happy, because education is really important to me. Everybody should be able to get the best education. For me, maybe a good house and a car…?
Subquestion: Would you finish your PhD?
Harinder: Of course! Because after finishing my PhD I have to go back to India and I have to teach people. I have to be an inspiration to all those women over there, so definitely! I was 28 when I came to France for my masters and at that time people in India criticized me and my parents for ‘not getting your daughter married’ and instead sending her abroad for education. People did not understand why they did this. But my parents knew the importance of education and instead of bounding me in some marriage settlements they actually gave me the freedom to go anywhere to study and be myself. When I came to France, I realized how different my parents were from rest of the people back home, which I know is different from the western culture. So, I want to go back to India and tell people how they should encourage their daughters and women in general to be independent.