Hey people! “Hallo, ich bin Yash” and there goes all the German I have learnt since arriving in Munich. Anyway, I’m one of the15 people from all over the globe who will be working in the DNA Robotics Consortium. I’m a part of The Simmel Lab at the Technical University of Munich and here begins a sneak peekinto my life.
I’m from Pune – the most livable city in India and also the city dubbed as Oxford of the East. Pune is an amazing place for a lot of reasons- beautiful people, great culture, food to die for, and of course I come from Pune, so yeah!
I thought it would be nice to make this a Q&A
(In no way trying to feel like a celeb on The Ellen Show, seriously.. I swear.. Oh,c’mon… no… nein.. nope.. ummm.. ‘kay.. Okay.. maybe, just maybe.)
*The Ellen Show Theme playing in the background*
*Camera rolling on 3.. 2.. Go..*
-So tell us about your life as a schoolkid.
I studied at The Bishops School in Pune, and as a kid,I dreaded Math, was intolerant of Physicsand had a love-haterelationship with Chemistry that’s why Biology and Iended up together (more like I had to). And I kinda found solace in Biology – it appealed to me (not only because I would get good grades but also..) ‘cause studying living systems was something that I always found fascinating. As the years pressed on, my fondness for biology grew and I was drawn more and more into the subject.
I loved playing cricket,and never got a kick at football ‘cause it was apparently reserved for the cool kids. I grew up with a large family who laughed together, cried together, ate together, and celebrated together but even then I was a very shy and reserved kid, with a few friends, a pet dog, and a crush who never knew I existed.
*Ellen and everyone else laughs*
-And then came college?
By the time I completed schooling and preliminarycollege, my choice of studying Biotechnology was clear to me. I had made my peace with Chemistry while Math and Physics still seemed way out of my league. I enrolled at the University of Pune for a Bachelor’s in Science (Biotechnology) and studied at the Modern College.
It was the most amazing time of my life, it was here that I first stumbled upon my fondness for research when my guide DrThombre offered me a place in her researchclan, we worked on Gold and Silver Nanotechnology,attended conferences, presented posters, gave interviews, won medals, life zoomed past and as all good things come to an end, I graduated. I made friends here, who are now like family and if I could ever go back in time, 2012 is where I would want to land.
*All say awwwwwww*
– ..and then?
After 3 years of fun, frolic, friendship, and science I decided to leave my city and study in Delhi. I signed up for a dual masterin Nanoscience at Amity University. Delhi was a first in many senses but most importantly it was the first time that I moved away from home, it was scary but gradually the feeling sunk in and by the time I left, it had transformed me into being more responsible, confident and self-reliant. Even still, Delhi was a mixed bag of ups and downs academically as well as personally.
Halfway through Amity, I had my eyes set on compiling a master thesis and a PhD abroad. In my final year, I would come back to my apartment after 9 hours at the university and begin sending out applications often until the wee hours of the morning. After dedicated efforts, the late nights and early mornings paid off, I was selected to work at an international lab and in 2018 I moved to Strasbourg, France where I worked on my master thesis at the University of Strasbourg with Dr Boos. My thesis was based on synthesizing and functionalizing mesoporous silica and ultimately using it for heavy metal treatment, a core Chemistry project, my master thesis was a lot of fun, Chemistry was in love with me but my fondness for Biology never dwindled. On a sidebar, the hunt for an appropriate PhD was going on in full swing, I was juggling with taking care of my experiments, writing out applications and giving interviews. It was early July in 2018 when I was interviewed by Prof. Simmel and he was more than happy to have me on board.
The serene city of Strasbourg
– How did it feel?
My joy knew no bounds, I was on cloud nine. In 2016, I would not have imagined myself anywhere close to where I am right now, Steve Jobs said in one of his speeches, ‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.’ I do not know a better line that makes more sense to me than this one. In October, I moved to Munich after spending a few months at home and here I am just at the foot of an Everest to climb. I would like to think I made my family and friends very happy if not proud but I certainly am happy and very grateful for everything that’s come along.
* Dramatic music streams in the background*
– What will your PhD be about?
So, in this consortium we will be working towards developing DNA Origami structures capable of sensing and actuating – DNA Robots and eventually using them at a molecular level for biomedical and engineering applications. My role here is to develop interfaces that would allow our DNA Robots to move over certain distances, I will be working with colloidal particles as well and vesicles and of course DNA nanostructures. I will have secondments at BaseClick, LMU, and AU where I will work with my fellow ESRs and broaden my horizons while learning with them.
*Everyone acts bamboozled*
– How do you like your new city?
Munich has been mesmerizing, it is a very beautiful place, plus it is the home of F.C. Bayern Munich which just tops it off. I think the people we meet when we move to a new place have a lot of impact in making an impression of the place and in Munich. I can say I have found incredible people who make it an incredible place and it already ‘feels like home’.
– Speaking of home, do you miss it back there?
Yes, of course. I miss my family, my friends, my cousins, and most of all I miss my pet – Rio. I have no certainty of when I would get a chance to fly back, but I’m making good use of the time cause I’m already picking out gifts for when I go home.
Rio this is everyone, everyone this is Rio
– Ok, let us not get emotional, tell us about your hobbies.
Since Strasbourg, I have been overcome by a deep desire to travel, so I have been fulfilling it by travelling around to different cities, feeding the amateur photographer in me and running a blog on Instagram (@travelling_trails), I also like reading books and binge-watching Netflix on lazy days. Like most Indians, I am a big time foodie. I write poetry sometimes but it stays a secret (I did not say anything, you did not read anything, we’ll never talk about this).
Yes, I shot this, the picture of course.
*Here comes a cliché*
– Any signing off words of wisdom?
I read this somewhere and it is worth a share- ‘Life more or less is all about laughing at your tears while still crying them out’, makes sense eh?
*Everyone applauds, Ellen hugs me, cameraman says cut, lights fade off, we are done here*
So that was me guys, there are a few more people waiting in line to share their lives and research, so stay tuned keep watching this space and stay kind.