We’re bringing you the best stories in lab mobility from Nature India
Every Wednesday, 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’s blog features Mainpal Rana, a PhD from the Biological Sciences and Bioengineering Department of Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur and currently a postdoctoral associate at the Magee-Womens Research Institute Pittsburgh affiliated to University of Pittsburgh, USA. He tells us the joys of not having to wait for reagents for experiments and the woes of not having Indian utensils in an American kitchen.
Growing up with Nature
I was born and brought up in a village. My village Koyer in the Karnal district of Haryana was a rich habitat of living things. That included vegetation, insects, birds and other animals that were not only spread over the vast agricultural fields but also abounded in many ponds and a small forest. This enormous variation always intrigued me.
In school, science experiments were always exciting. The drive to know how everything works was my biggest motivation for getting into science. As far as I can remember, I was always interested in science.
Looking at stem cells, genes
During my PhD, I tried to answer how germline stem cells maintain their identity using C. elegans as a model system. My interest to study the process of meiosis got me to my current lab in the Magee-Womens Research Institute Pittsburgh. Now, I am trying to understand the role of a gene for multiple defects during meiosis which result in aneuploidy (Down syndrome in human is an example of aneuploidy).
Model systems, reagents aplenty
The best thing about my lab is the availability of other model systems such as mice, rats and primates within the department where one can readily test the finding to make results more significant. Further, laboratory reagents and enzymes don’t take much time to arrive here. Delay in the reagent availability was one of the biggest issues during my Ph.D. time in India. In addition, the quality of research as well as a huge research community to share research reagents make this place one of the best to work in.
Some of the qualities of people in USA that I like most are honesty, independent life, responsibility and punctuality.
Harsh weather a minor detriment
It wasn’t a smooth transition for me when I came here from India but it was not very difficult either. I was welcome by freezing cold and snow the day I arrived. I had never experienced such harsh weather before. The clothes that I got from India were not good enough to save me from the bitter cold. Fortunately, my apartment was warm and cosy and the buses were also warm. So the only uncomfortable period was the time spent outside waiting for transportation, which was not very long.
The weather is one of the things that I don’t like here. One thing that most Indians won’t like about apartments in USA is the kitchen – they are not designed for Indian cooking.
Credit card a must
Offices for international students in the universities usually have orientation programmes for new students to help them settle here. Some tips that I can offer from first-hand experience are:
1. Open a bank account and apply for credit card as soon as you can as most of your daily shopping would be through debit or credit card.
2. Plan ahead for clothing depending on which state in the US you are moving in to as some regions can be very cold here. Probably a good idea is to buy winter jackets and coats from the place where you are planning to move.
3. Indian kitchen utensils are not available everywhere. So it’s best to contact Indian friends living in the US to inquire about Indian stores.
Miss the festivals
I miss my family back in India the most. I also miss Indian festivals which were not only a reason to get together but also provided the company of family and friends. Also, the variety of sweets and special Indian food used to be things to cherish.
I’d definitely come back to India. In fact, I will soon start looking for jobs in India.