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Biotechnology students selected for direct Ph.D program in various universities across USA with fellowship

B.Tech. Biotechnology (2012-2016) students were selected for direct Ph.D. programme with fellowship. Ms. SaiLavanyaa Sundar will be joining Ph.D programme in Dept. of Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Massachusetts, USA. Ms. Vinni Novi T will be joining Ph.D programme in Department of Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering, Michigan State University, Michigan, USA. Mr.Kannan will be joining MS and PhD in School of Sciences , Department of Biology, University of Texas San Antonio, Texas, USA. Director, Faculty of Engineering & Technology, Dean, School of Bioengineering and Faculties from dept. of Biotechnology congratulate and wish them success for their future endeavour.

From students perspective

Ms. SaiLavanyaa Sundar

My puerile passion and interest in the tryst between technology and biology was enhanced multiple - fold while pursuing my undergraduate degree in Biotechnology at SRM Institute of Science and Technology (formerly known as SRM University). Working in the Bioprocess Engineering Laboratory, under the constant guidance and motivation of Dr. V. Vinoth Kumar, proved to be a major factor in assisting me to reach where I am today. My internship at the Universitè de Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada, under the guidance of Dr. Hubert Cabana, showed by a glimpse of what scientific research is all about. That was when my interest in study of proteins and enzyme technology was piqued and I gained confidence that I wanted to pursue my research career.

After getting admitted into the Master’s degree in Biological Sciences – Applied Biotechnology – Professional Science Masters option at University of Massachusetts, Lowell (UML), I took up several courses during my first year of Masters’. After reading many research papers and having many enlightening conversations with the faculty at UML, I was very interested and impressed with the amazing research work carried out in Dr. Jeffrey Moore’s lab on cardiovascular physiology and the effects of mutations in actin and myosin proteins on muscle contraction, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, in specific. I was certain that pursuing a Doctoral degree in Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology in the Moore lab would help me fulfil my long-term career goals and satiate my thirst for knowledge. Having personally experienced the academically enlightening, healthy and competitive environment at UML, with appropriate and flexible curriculum, I applied for a transfer from the Masters’ program and was fortunate to be admitted into the Doctoral program in Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology (BMEBT) with financial aid and a teaching assistantship position. I wish to thank my parents, friends and all the faculty at SRM Institute of Science and Technology (formerly known as SRM University) for all the support and motivation, which was the initial stepping stone for me in research and that helped me realize my potential and true interests.

Ms. Vinni Novi T

My fascination for the subject Biology, in school, led me to choose Biotechnology as my undergraduate major. I am an avid nature lover and through the knowledge I gain from my experiences I wanted to contribute to the protection of our environment. Though the undergraduate curriculum at SRM covers all topics in Biotechnology very well, I realized that I need to gain deeper understanding of the fundamental knowledge before I could contribute something of my own to this field, and an advanced training in a reputed graduate program will fulfill this need of mine. I decided to apply abroad since I felt that there is more flexibility in the education system and I wanted to get exposed to the academic environment there.

My journey towards getting admitted into a PhD program in the USA with fellowship started when I was in the third year of my undergraduate course. I began by checking the requirements for applying to universities abroad and started preparing for the GRE and TOEFL. By the beginning of the fourth year in college, I finished both the tests, leaving enough time for me to decide on the programs and universities I wanted to apply. I applied to both MS and PhD programs and was fairly confident in gaining admission to one of the universities since I had a published review paper and had done internships in the Biological Engineering field. Unfortunately, my plan did not work and I did not get into any of the universities I applied. There could have been several reasons for this but the most significant was the fact that I did not do enough homework on selecting the universities and the program. I had chosen to apply for Chemical Engineering programs at highly ranked universities that had projects related to environmental protection. I overlooked the fact that I needed more research experience in the Chemical field which was lacking in my profile then.

I had been placed at three IT companies during the placement period in the final year and had to take the offer at one of them. Even then my heart was set on getting an admission abroad to pursue my goals. After about a month of working for the company I realized that I needed to gain more knowledge about research and work more on topics related to my interests if I need to get an opportunity to study abroad. That is when I quit my job and started looking for internships. Fortunately my parents were very supportive of my decision since they too understood my predicament.

Hunting for opportunities was the hard part. I sent several mails to different institutes and Biotechnology companies and hardly got replies. Fortunately, my search did not last long and I finally got a position as a research intern in the Department of Chemical Engineering at IIT Madras. I worked under the guidance of Dr. S. Pushpavanam, institute chair, in the Pushpavanam Research League (PRL) for nine months. I worked closely with the senior MS and PhD students in the lab and through my experience there I learnt more on Chemical Engineering concepts and research. During this period I also published a research article based on my final year project which I did at SRM Institute of Science and Technology (formerly known as SRM University) in the Department of Biotechnology under the guidance of Dr. V. Vinoth Kumar in the Bioprocess Laboratory. With these added advantages I applied to universities in the US once again. This time I chose to apply to different programs like Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering, Biotechnology and Chemical Engineering instead of sticking to just one.

I succeeded at gaining admission in most of the programs, both MS and PhD. I chose to pursue my higher studies at Michigan State University for PhD in Biosystems Engineering since the program curriculum allows me to choose courses based on my interests. The program focuses on research in environmental protection, disease prevention and renewable energy production and I am very excited to learn more and work on these topics. I will be working with Dr. Evangelyn Alocilja in the Alocija Nano-Biosensors Lab which focuses on detection of pathogens in the environment using synthesized nano-biosensors and hence, prevent diseases.

Not many colleges in India encourage undergraduate students to start working with professors on different projects. SRM Institute of Science and Technology (formerly known as SRM University) is one of the few institutions that promote such activities in order to enable students to understand the subject well and also to know what research is about. I sincerely thank the H.O.D. and the professors in the Department of Biotechnology for supporting students who wish to pursue higher studies. I specially thank my class in-charge Dr. S. Nageswaran and my guide Dr. V. Vinoth Kumar for supporting me during my admission process.

I can now say that one of my first steps towards achieving a sustainable future for our environment has been a success, and I hope to continue pursuing my goal with the same enthusiasm. My experience in the past one year has taught me one thing and that is tough times never last, but tough people do (by Robert H. Schuller).

Mr. Kannan Thangamani

What? When? How? Why? Asking questions, getting to the why of things is inbuilt in humans. This curiosity, this drive is what has made mankind think about a higher purpose, a deeper meaning to everyday life. It is this innate need to ask why that has compelled us to go beyond simply existing and to start questioning that very existence. I believe that this curiosity is the reason why our science and research has evolved the way it has, in such a short time. As a child I was filled with an insatiable sense of curiosity, this inquisitiveness has continued to my adulthood. As I grew up, so did the level of my questions. This is what first drove me to pursue science.

I am fortunate to be admitted into a direct PhD program in the field of Neurobiology at The University of Texas San Antonio. It’s a 5 year long course with full support for tuition fees and also a generous stipend. I belong to a middle class family, where paying tuition for studying Master’s degree in US is just a dream. Getting a direct Ph.D program is the only way to achieve your research dream without putting monetary pressure on your parents.

I would like to think a few small things apart from academics that I did during my life had led me to this point in my life.

  • Always made sure I had a good rapport with my teachers from my childhood, and I was lucky to have amazing faculties all way from school through college who guided and supported me.
  • My interest in research was put in to practical use in SRM Institute of Science and Technology (formerly known as SRM University) where I joined the lab of Dr.S.ThyagaRajan in my second year. This is one of the important decision in my life which provided me the experience on which I applied to Universities for direct Ph.D.
  • Applied and received the INSA-IAS Summer Fellowship, which allowed me to work in CSIR-CDRI.(more the experience, the merrier)
  • Presented my work Academy for Neuroscience conference 2014 which gave me confidence and exposure.
  • Always value people over material. Share your knowledge as it doesn’t reduce but only increase with sharing.

    As this article is for my juniors I would like share a few points from my very little experience.

    • Even though GPA is just a number, so is your salary in future. (don’t compromise on either one)
    • Build your resume as per your future goals. Attending 10 workshops on different fields doesn’t speak about your goals. Be a little streamlined and focussed on your area of interest.
    • Start early on your goals, start planning on filtering colleges and competitive exams from third year.
    • Keep your eyes open for opportunities like scholarships, fellowships, internships, make sure they pay you for the work you do and not the other way around.
    • Always have a backup plan.

      I would like to thank my class in charge Dr.S.Nageswaran, and the faculty of Department of Biotechnology for supporting me in achieving the first step of my long time career goal.