I’ll be introducing my eighth guest in this Interview blog series today. Wow! We have come a long way, I want to thank each one of you who’s been an avid reader of this series. 🙂
My next guest is a PhD student at Cancer Biology Lab in the Toxicology department of Jamia Hamdard University, New Delhi. Her research focuses on understanding the alleviation of colon cancer using plant extracts. We were batchmates during our masters degree in Toxicology. With larger than life attitude, she faces problems and struggles in life and research with a smile. For her, whether it is a failed experiment in a lab or a lost argument at home, there’s nothing which an extra-large pepperoni pizza or a stuffed aaloo parantha toppled with butter can’t solve. That’s how she rolls? 😛
I am thrilled to introduce to you my next guest on this interview blog series: Beyond Lab Bench, Alpashree.
Hey Alpa, I am super excited for this! Thanks for agreeing for this interview.
Was research your calling? If no, then why did you choose to do a Ph.D.?
Alpa: As a kid if you asked me if I wanted to do a Ph.D., I would have called you crazy for sure. A Ph.D. degree or career in research was never the plan. I wanted to be a doctor, the stethoscope and than grin on their faces did look glamorous in the TV as a kid. But destiny had different plans for me. I did bachelors in Microbiology from University of Delhi and masters in Toxicology from Jamia Hamdard University. During this time, I got interested in physiology of living system and the mechanism associated with various toxicants and diseases. There was no looking back then, and that’s how I hopped on this journey of getting a ‘Dr.’ at the front of my name.
Haha yes, Dr. Alpashree soon! Tell me, what is your Ph.D. in? What exactly is your research about?
Alpa: Hopefully, fingers crossed. I am a Ph.D student in Toxicology division in Jamia Hamdard University. Our lab works on different type of cancers, their mechanism, targeted pathways, and its chemo prevention via dietary supplements or natural plant products. My work focuses on plant extract with potential biological activity and its preventive potential on the possible early/late markers of colon cancer and the underlying molecular mechanism. To put it simply, I study the potential of plant extract to prevent colon cancer using rats.
What is the most interesting fact about cancer according to you?
Alpa: Cancer is not just a disease, it spreads like a wildfire if not controlled at an earlier stage, its fascinating. What extremely fascinates me is the resistance capacity of the ‘naked mole rat’ to cancer due to the presence of hyaluronan.
Haha, ‘naked mole rat’ reminds me of Rachel’s inside out cat in ‘Friends’- just in smaller size. 😛 Do you name the animals you do experiments on? If yes, what is it? (Do NOT lie!) 😀
Alpa: LOL. Not really. But, we call them white monsters sometimes when they create ruckus and delay our experiments. I work on wistar rats, that is why white monsters.
What is the most common misconception you face about being a Ph.D. student by your friends and family outside science?
Alpa: The most common is if you’re doing a Ph.D., you are boring. People who think so are ignorant and have no idea what they are missing on. You are aware about what a fun person I am to be around. Right? 😉
I shouldn’t be the one to spill the beans here, as you’re my guest. But, yes not denying that. 😀 Anyway, tell me what do you think about science communication and if you have been involved in any scicomm activities?
Alpa: Communicating science is a part of research and gives us an opportunity to present our work and exchange new updates, novel approaches in science community. I have presented my research work at national conferences as a mandatory process of research. Other that that, I love teaching. I started teaching biology to school and college students since my under graduation days. Something which started as a part time job has become an integral part of my life now. I love breaking down complex biological concepts into easy to understand information for my students. This has helped me to be an effective science communicator.
One thing you hate and love about doing a Ph.D. and being in research academia?
Alpa: Definitely hate my current situation, when all the the data and research findings needs to be compiled for thesis writing. It’s bit overwhelming, I have to figure out the head and tail. It is like being all over the place 😀 What I have started to love about my work is the patience and resilience I have nurtured after all the scientific failures through out the years.
So, when you’re not in a lab doing experiments, planning, or writing a paper, where would we find you?
Alpa: Hahaha, you know where you would find me. I would definitely be at some cafe or restaurant hogging on my favorite food with my favorite people. Food is life, amen!
If I ask you what are you grateful for due to the present situation of the pandemic, what it would be?
Alpa: I feel this quarantine has made me realize Panda is my spirit animal 😛 I never had time to pause and reflect before the present situation of pandemic. Presently, I am taking full advantage of the lockdown by honing my cooking skills, spending time with family and some self-care. Binge sleeping my self care routine, ever heard of that?
Haha, Of course Alpa!
That’s a wrap for today guys. Hope to see you soon with another interview! 🙂