Here is the interview with Little scientist “Nishtha”. I met her couple of times during my undergraduate studies and if i am not wrong we met during our college festival. She is an incredible person with lots of courage to do things differently and taking the lead. She is smart, fit, loves adventure and travelling. I am sure reading her interview will give you a pump to follow your dreams.
Can you please introduce yourself to the readers?
I am writing this from Australia as I am pursuing a doctorate degree here. I am an Engineer with an M.tech degree in Nanotechnology. Science, Food, Travel and Dance are 4 keywords to best describe me.
So, you are doing Doctorate studies. What motivated you to pursue Doctorate studies?
I have always been a mad lover of science. Since Grade 4, I had Discovery channel on my TV from 8 am to 11 am. This continued till my teenage. Watching the magic of science unfold on TV made me curious to experience it in person. Thats when I went to pursue B.tech and M.tech in Nanotechnology. Where there is will there is way! I got accepted for an intenrship in University of South Australia. My supervisor was impressed with my work and offered me a PhD position. After my internship, I thought to pursue my love for music and dance and go to mumbai! Funnt I know! But that was necessary, I reckon, becaue I realised how badly I miss my laboratories and working for science. Thats when I decided to accept the PhD offer and here I am!
I believe that you are working in the area of plasma science and reactive species. Can you tell us about it in general?
Many people confuse plasma as blood plasma. I, on the other hand, work with the physics plasma- some people may call it plasma gas. You may have heard of plasma TV, for instance. Plasma gas is basically the fourth state of matter (solid, liquid and gas being the other three). Simply speaking when you break solid atoms, liquid state is generated. Breakdown of liquid atoms leads to gaseous state. Now imagine breaking the atoms of gas- that is plasma. We get a cocktail of charged particles, ions, reactive species, UV, etc. in form of a plasma gas. In my PhD, I plan to use the “reactive oxygen and nitrogen species” present in plasma for medical purposes such as wound healing, wound decontamination, cancer therapeutics, etc.
What are you doing different in this area that is increasing the overall impact? Can you share some simple experiment? May be a Reader could get interested to pursue research in the similar area?
Plasma medicine is very novice. Although quite a few plasma devices are available in market for surface decontamination and cosmetics, we have a long way to go to use the devices on human body for therapeutics. Little is known about the mechanism of plasma delivered reactive species into the tissues and tissue fluid. Here we are talking about a cocktail of reactive species including H2O2, NO2–, NO3–, NO, HOCl, superoxide and hydroxyl radicals. So basic questions we need to address is- which reactive specie is being delivered into the skin, how much concentration is being delivered, are there reactive spcies washed away by the constant blood circulation, can we use the same device to kill cancer cells and proliferate cells for wound healing, what doses to be given?
Not an experiment, I would like to share the idea which led to the excitement and faith for this topic in me. Since ages people have credited reactive species/oxidants as the cause of all the diseases in humans. Free radical theory of Aging in 1993 adhered to the concept of “oxidants are bad”. This led to development of “anti-oxidants are good for you!” products in market. But how is it possible when Reactive species play a key role in human evolution and functioning of cellular pathways necessary for human body. Curiosity led scientists to test whether the reactive species/oxidants are cause of disease or just an effect from the disease. And intesntigly the results were positive. A small dose of reactive specie can be helpful for the biological processes. If you are more ambitious and want a noble prize, how about prove that “reactive species doses can enhance innate immuntiy”? Imagine it like a vaccine, an enough dose of reactive species to trigger the defence system of humans!
Can you tell us about your process of finding the research interests or forming basic structure of your research project?
The secret lies in “reading”. And especially when the field is very new and your contribution will also matter. I read the good research papers and figure out what gaps in our knowldge exist. Then formulate an experimental plan and sit with supervisor! Also, when you read, your scientific writing skills improve. This is essential to publush papers!
Would like to continue to work in the same area?
Yes! It is a simple and honest yes.
I think we had talk enough about the work and science.
Do you have any hobbies? Do you get enough time to pursue them?
I love to paint, dance and sing. I also like to learn new skills if time permits- be it a new language or rock climbing. Always eager to learn new things! As a PhD researcher in my final year, I don`t get a lot of time unlike 1st and 2nd year. Therefore, I try to do activities which can be included easily in the routine.
What kind of acitivities you do to stay fit both mentally and physically?
I think good food and good company are prerequisites to feel good. I cook with my friends every now and then. For physical being, I have tried various things- aerial yoga, yoga, pole fitness, rock climbing, hiking, etc. I am lover of forests and greens , so hiking or bush walking is my favourite activity.
How many countries have you travelled? Which is your favorite country and why?Any weird, surprising experience you would like to share?
I have been lucky to visit 9 countries in past 1.5 years- all credits to my research collaborations expanded all over the world! I don`t have a favorite country because they are unique and special in their own. But one monument which stole my heart was Eiffel Tower. I spent 5 hrs on a stretch just staring it! Speaking of weird, Japan is a country of surprises and inspiration. There are developing countries, developed countries and Japan. Too advanced to be true! A balance between technology and nature, modernity and customs. Make it your mission to travel Japan once!
What advice will you give to the sophomores or high school students who are Planning to pursue there career in science?
If you find science difficult to understand and painful to pursue, there is something wrong with the teachers or resources you are referring! Try to watch animations videos or youtube channels like ASAP science to see the real beauty of it!
If you have more questions, you can contact her through Instagram and the google scholar profile.
My Instagram page is nishtha.gaur or ‘Lit Scientist’.
My Google scholar profile is https://scholar.google.com.au/citations?user=nYfIHTMAAAAJ&hl=en