As someonewho has applied to various higher study programs, I am no stranger to narratingthe story of my life, at the least the parts I think have been most influentialin shaping who I am today. However, as I tried to compose ‘my story’ in itsentirety, some surprising themes emerged that seemed to have influenced most ifnot all the important choices I have made. Looking back, it appears that all mysteps to reach where I am today were carefully planned. Yet, I cannot shake thefeeling in my reconstruction I am deliberately omitting the decisions that didnot work out as expected. When you growup in a city such as Kolkata where abundance of human life makes it merely a dispensablecommodity, you really have two broad, mutually exclusive ways you start toregard life.
Either you treat it as if you can replace one life with another oryou develop a fascination for life. You start believing that everyone has aresponsibility to learn, care for, and preserve life in any form. Fortunately, myfamily having successfully grown out of adversity always emphasized theimportance of ‘fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves.’ For me,science was the best tool to improve and impact human lives. Thus, my careerchoice was obvious to me from an early age. Yet, in reality, when the timearrived to forgo other options, ‘taking the decision’ was not quite as simpleas ‘making the decision.’ The valuesthat drove me, or at least the ones I thought were influencing my decisions,were almost trumped by the lure of a financially secured and socially acceptedcareer path.
The ‘best and brightest’ in my state or my country do not pursuescience. Their future more often than not entails a career in engineering or a medicalprofession. Either path offers lucrative and more abundant job offers than onein scientific research. But, a scientific career would permit me to utilize mytalent doing what I love while allowing me to impact the society. I realizedthat was something I was not ready to give up. Any remaining doubts I haddissipated when I talked to my family. Whatever dreams my parents had for me,it did not take them a moment’s hesitation to stand by me and offer meunequivocal support. With their encouragement, I embarked on a journey I alwaysaspired.
I facedsimilar choices when I was about to graduate with a doctorate degree. During myPhD studies, I felt the way science is done is not what I had expected. The researchthat gets funded are meant only for incremental changes. The research questionsdo not arise from the aspiration to cure the most challenging diseases. It’seasier to get funded if the research proposal is safe rather than one thatdared to dream differently. In Back to Methuselah by George Bernard Shaw, theserpent tempts Eve by saying, “You see things; and you say “Why?” ButI dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”.” To me sciencemakes the largest impact on society when scientists dream things that were notand ask why not. This was missing the way academia does science today.
Scientificstudies designed to improve human life hypothetically are no longer sufficientto me. Invention and innovation must be accompanied by business models therebyenabling society at large to easily access and benefit from scientificadvancements. Hence, my decision to pursue a business/science crossover careerpath. Inretrospect, I could not be happier with either of my choices. At first glance,they may seem at odds with each other but they were both inherently driven by whatwill allow me to make significant impact while doing what I love efficientlyutilizing my talents and skills.