Beginning this week, we will take a peek into the lives of Indian postdocs working in foreign labs. Our blog series ‘Away from home’ will feature one postdoc every Wednesday recounting his/her experience of working in a foreign lab, the triumphs and challenges, the culture factor, tips for Indian postdocs headed abroad and what he/she misses most about India.
Teeing off the series for us is Kangkan Halder, who completed his doctoral thesis at the Institute of Genomics & Integrative Biology (IGIB), New Delhi and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Applied Synthetic Biology Group at the University of Göttingen, Germany.
Science and I
I am not sure what really got me interested in science, but I guess I was plain curious about things. I also liked the idea that in science there is a specific answer/reason for a specific question/observation. On the other hand, for any generalization there is always an exception too! And I was really curious to know these exceptions.
Why this group at the University of Göttingen, Germany?
I chose the current lab because the project was completely different from what I did earlier. So I found it very interesting and a learning experience for my career. And since the ideas related to the project are relatively new, it was very exciting. My work here is to develop a method to study structural changes and dynamics in proteins.
The best thing about my lab
All my lab mates! They are very nice and helpful, which makes every day at work very relaxing and pleasant.
The best thing about Germany
Time is a priority and everyone tries to do his/her best at the work place.
The German culture, weather and food are quite different from that in India. I am still quite overwhelmed by their punctuality in every sphere of life. The most fascinating thing about the German society is that they extend common courtesy and respect to complete strangers too, which is the reason I never felt as a foreigner or outsider.
A memorable incident I can recall from my initial days here is when I shared a student accommodation with a common kitchen for six residents. I would always caution everyone before seasoning my cooking with the Indian ‘tadka’ and to my delight, within a few minutes the entire kitchen would be mine, thanks to the delectable sneeze-inducing spices!
Looking for a postdoc position in Germany? My advice
Almost all universities have a welcome centre, get in touch with them. They are very, very helpful – they would help in setting your bank account, insurance, visa-office, accommodation, etc. Germany could be a little difficult while travelling for strict vegetarians. Learn basic cooking.
Indian winter clothes or shoes are not very helpful – plan buying here. Cycling is very common and safe – get one quickly. Language courses are not must for postdocs, but it would be very convenient at times – so if you have an opportunity, learn the basics.
I miss India
I would love it if there were a few more Indian grocery and fresh vegetable stores in and around where I live! I wish I could go home more often during festivities when family and friends miss me the most. It would also mean rejuvenating my taste buds with authentic Indian cooking and sweets.
Want to come back to India?
Absolutely! I am currently in search of a position in India, but it’s very difficult from here.