Since she was studying her MSc Plant Biotechnology in Wageningen, Vidya had the clear goal to continue her academic career by pursuing a PhD. She is now a PhD student at the University of Connecticut where she will be researching in the field of plant computational genomics.
Could you please tell us a bit about yourself?
"Hi! I’m Vidya, I’m from India and I have done my Master’s in Plant Biotechnology at Wageningen University."
Since you graduated, what kind of jobs did you have and what are you currently doing?
"I was lucky to have received an opportunity to do my PhD at the University of Connecticut. However, the start of my PhD was affected by the ongoing pandemic, so I have done some other part-time jobs as a teacher at my old school in Bengaluru, India, and some freelance writing."
Is this what you always wanted to be or what has changed?
"This is exactly what I wanted. I knew I wanted to do a PhD because I always had a penchant for research and studying biology. What I didn’t anticipate was the subject. I thought I’d be working the bench and working on a lot of wet-lad research, but I ended up in a highly computational field. It was a series of decisions, from my thesis to my internship project choices. I realised that I really enjoyed bioinformatics and coding!"
What are your future goals?
"My hope is to use the education I receive to apply to the farms in India. This is not an easy job. It’s not just a question of having efficient farmland, or establishing greenhouses. This would involve a rounded approach of educating local farmers, explain the relevance of today’s scientific improvements. I hope to give back to the country I’m from, giving opportunities to underprivileged people for education/jobs. We’ll see how close I get to this dream."
How do you contribute to a better world and what role did studying in Wageningen have to achieve this?
"My time in Wageningen was fundamental to the way I approach my research, and it also played a huge role in helping me find the one area of research that I would eventually become really passionate about.
Over the years of studying in Wageningen, I feel like there was a personal shift in the way I view capitalism and excessive consumption. I now think twice of the waste and the carbon footprint that a certain product would buy. In terms of research, I have shifted fields a bit, and I’m now in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology, and so these principles of conserving nature, increasing biodiversity are quickly becoming really important issues in my eyes."
What choices have you made that have helped you to get where you are now?
"I think I allowed myself to really understand how I felt during a certain course when I took it. This was what led to me taking a bunch of courses under the plant pathology specialisation. Apart from that, I realised that I had a natural inclination towards computational work, and I enjoyed the amount of time I was sitting in front of a laptop, coding!
Having those moments of reflection allowed me to become certain of what I wanted to choose, in terms of what I wanted for my future career. I was fortunate to have some really inspiring mentors from my thesis and internship experience, and they have really pushed me to find what I’m passionate about."
How did studying in Wageningen helped you overcome the challenges that you have encountered in your previous and/or current job?
"Since I’m currently a new PhD student, I don’t have a lot of challenges right now. A takeaway point, however, from studying in Wageningen was the lifestyle and commitment. Now, when I set out to do a task, I intentionally set that goal, and work hard towards my task for the day, and then I have placed strict boundaries between work and life.
I also am very conscious of other people’s times, and I have picked up the habit of being on time for an appointment. I also think I was highly influenced by the research ethic in Wageningen. No result is just as important as an interesting one, and my research apporach is unbiased and honest."