We’re bringing you the best stories in lab mobility from Nature India
Every Tuesday, our ‘Away from home’ blog series features one Indian postdoc working in a foreign lab recounting his/her experience of working there, the triumphs and challenges, the culture factor, tips for Indian postdocs headed abroad and what he/she misses most about India.
This week we have Moumita Chaki, a PhD from Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB-CSIR), Kolkata, currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan Medical School, USA. She talks, among other things, about the problems of funding for independent postdoctoral research that visa-holders like her might face in the US.
Science for me
I was always interested to work on the molecular aspects of human diseases, even when I was pursuing my master’s degree in Botany. My PhD from IICB-CSIR, Kolkata was on molecular studies of Oculocutaneous albinism, reported as one of the 4 major causes of childhood blindness in India in 2002.
After that, when I was looking for a postdoc position in USA, I wanted to continue working on congenital eye-related disorders. Fortunately, I came across some literature on ‘retinal-renal ciliopathy’ and found it extremely fascinating. I was very keen to work on ciliopathy and applied to my present supervisor, one of the pioneers in the ciliopathy-field. I gladly accepted this position, when offered.
I work on nephronophthisis (NPHP), an autosomal recessive cystic kidney disease, and the most frequent genetic cause for end-stage renal failure in the first three decades of life. Interestingly, NPHP can occur with isolated kidney involvement or in a combination with diverse extra-renal manifestations. My present research involves the identification and characterization of novel genes implicated in Nephronophthisis-related ciliopathies.
Life at University of Michigan Medical School
The best thing about my lab is the funding and the easy availability of resources. This is considered as a highly favourable situation anywhere in USA, as here funding is the key. Being in a premier university, we get introduced to new products are services readily after they launch and our central core facility is also very diverse and rich.
However, if one is looking for independent funding as a postdoctoral trainee, being an international candidate limits the availability of the funding sources. In our university, being a visa-holder, we can’t apply for Institutional funding since that is limited to the US citizens and permanent residents.
Look at funds before choosing a lab
For Indian students looking at a US lab for postdoctoral training, I’d say:
1. Before choosing a lab, consider their publication record for the last few years and choose a well-funded lab. You must have some sort of funding security in USA.
2. Lab environment is very vital. The decision making becomes easier if you are called for an interview in the lab itself.
3. Social life is as important as the professional life, especially when you are alone and not with family. So, it is important to balance work and life. If you are unhappy you cannot perform well.
For me it was a smooth transition in terms of adjusting to my new environs.
Miss mom-made food
I do miss my family and homemade food cooked by my mother. I’d certainly want to come back to India to work in the future, depending on what kind of opportunity opens up.