10 Questions with Monika Patel
Monika Patel, 28, from India is a PhD Student at the University of Delhi, India.
Her PhD work is entitled “Base Assisted Chemo- and Regioselective C-N, C-S and C-O Bond Formation with Isotopic Labeling Studies.” In her research tenure, she has explored several chemistry such as Hydroamination, Hydrothiolation, Hydrophenoxylation, C-H activation, Micheal addition, Hydroarylation, Annulations and [4+2] Cycloaddition. Presently, she is working on a project focused upon the modification in the existing drug molecules that can decrease the dosage level.
Monika is a participant of the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.
Enjoy the interview with Monika and get inspired:
- What inspired you to pursue a career in science / chemistry?
I would have to say that my mentor Prof. Akhilesh K. Verma inspired me to pursue a career in chemistry. I met him during my master classes, where he taught us various organic reactions. He played a pivotal role in my career to develop interest in organic chemistry. At some point whenever I stuck in the reaction mechanisms, he always supported me and explained me in a facile manner. Thereafter, I started appreciating the logical thought process and scientific reasoning principles involved in organic chemistry. There was a vast array of day to day life practical which demonstrated simple chemistry, all of which had a real connection to real world problems that appealed to my mind for choosing chemistry as career.
- Who are your role models?
There are two role models in my life one is my mother and another is my mentor. My professor Dr. Verma always says “Never Give up”. Both of them give immense strength and courage in facing social and academic adversity. They taught me to cross all the huddles of my life and encouraged me to move ahead in my research career.
- How did you get to where you are in your career path?
I will split this question into several parts:
In my family, no one has a research background. My mom is a housewife, my father is a service man and my sister is a MBA. After high school, a guardian of mine suggested me to choose chemistry as my graduation subject and specialization as organic chemistry for the master.
An important step was to join Prof. Verma’s Lab as a research trainee. At that point of time I was not sure that I will choose research as my carrier. Gradually I develop interest in searching new avenues in this field.
My mentor Dr. Akhilesh K. Verma is like a father figure to me. What I am today is because of him. No words can express my gratitude for him. Another important mentor is Dr. Hament Rajor he is my graduation professor who encouraged me to choose the field of research under the supervision of Prof. Verma.
During my school times, I always participate in science projects. The miniature volcanic eruption model was one of my favorite activities that I like to do. I have enthusiastically participated in various national and international conferences. I have also received a young scientist award from Indian Chemical Society.
Every new beginning in life brings obstacles along with them. The optimization of any reaction condition is the major challenge in the field of organic chemistry.
- What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The coolest project that I have worked was the hydroamination chemistry; it is a very interesting chemistry of nucleophilic addition reactions. We endeavor to develop those molecules which played a vital role in many immunological and natural processes. A variety of enamines found in many natural and synthetic compounds possessing interesting physiological and biological activities. The development of synthetic methodologies for such molecules and their transformation is a persistent research topic in organic and pharmaceutical chemistry.
- What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself / your work?
I felt immense pride when my review entitled “Base-Mediated Hydroamination of Alkynes” was published in “Accounts of Chemical research”.
This is one of the prestigious journals of American Chemical Society, and for publishing an article in this journal was really tough as it require a strong background and mastery in your research field.
My second moment of pride in my life was when I received a Young Scientist Award from Indian Chemical Society. My complete research work was been presented in front of several experienced scientist and competing with other young researchers from all over India was an amazing experience.
- What is a “day in the life” of Monika like?
I normally get into work between 8:30-8:45. First, I check my emails. I spend 40% of my day on bench work and 60% at computer. Setting up for simulations, analyzing data, and reading/writing manuscripts. I have a quick packed lunch and then a group of us go out for a cup of tea at the University café. When I am doing column chromatography, I will work until I get a purified compound in good yields. The day in the life that I like the most was when I submitted my PhD thesis. It was the most happiest and memorable day of my life. Many congratulations, good blessings were received on that day. The research has not come to end, however the four year austerity has came to an end.
- What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?
After the PhD, I would like to work as a postdoctoral researcher. I also really enjoy sharing my scientific knowledge with other people and spending time tutoring at various institutes. I wanted to be a successful scientist as well as teacher.
- What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?
Besides research I love to interact or chat with people from different culture, traveling at new places and eating distinguished food that I haven’t eaten before. Exchange of new ideas, thoughts creates enthusiasm in me. Traveling at new places freshen up my mind and try to resolve the problems of life/career etc.
- What advice do you have for other women interested in science / chemistry?
One important advice I would like to give to other women is to “Learn from your failures”. The women need to be dedicated, patient and strong enough to face the failures. Science or research field has no boundaries. The knowledge you gained is not enough. The crave or greed of gaining knowledge should not end at any age of life.
- In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in science / chemistry?
The next great breakthrough in science will be introduction of a new subject “Biophyschem” that is the merger of three subjects Biology, Physics and Chemistry. The gaps between these subjects cease the discovery at one stage. For any new discovery all the three subjects are equally important.
Another breakthrough discovery will be my new projects of modification in existing drug molecules which will decrease the dosage level in humans.
What should be done to increase the number of female scientists and female professors?
I think the high school / graduates / post-graduate teachers, mentors should encourage female students at initial stage of their career to choose research as their profession. I believe that the educators act as role model for developing interest among the students. The professor in a group could have equal positions for males and females candidates. Female scientists and female professors have more commitments towards family and children, so I believe that support from the family, perks from University/institution and equality between male and female candidates will definitely increase the number of female scientist.