Doing a PhD in Neuroscience in Japan is fairly off the beaten track, but the feisty and determined Piu Banerjee takes it in her stride. Her fascination for the brain and being the batch topper for 4 years ensured that she would get a life-altering opportunity at the National Institute of Genetics. To enable this, she received the MEXT (Monbukagakusho) scholarship from the Japanese government, which confers funding for 5 years, pays for tuition, and provides a monthly stipend.
Piu is very clear that she is where she is today because of her education at Shiv Nadar University (SNU), where she studied biotechnology. Mentors from her own department’s faculty, like Dr. Soumya Pati who introduced her to the field of neuroscience, guided her at every step. They were always available to answer questions in person, online, or on the phone.
Initially keen to study medicine, Piu changed her mind after joining SNU. She attributes her love for research to her teachers at SNU. They allowed her a glimpse into a life of research and showed her that a work-life balance was possible. They were truly thrilled at her success. SNU as an institute also ignited her passion for research through its Opportunity for Undergraduate Research (OUR) programme, which gave her exposure to hard research while still an undergraduate – something that is almost unheard of in India. The Ph.D. students she interacted with were extremely supportive too, helping her with experiments, answering queries before exams, and more. Her relationships with these people are still strong and positive.
The friends she made, the teachers who motivated her, and the opportunities she got at SNU helped Piu grow into a well-rounded person. She declares, “SNU played a huge role in this journey of mine. I cannot stress its importance enough. It provided me with guidance, a research perspective, mentorship by a brilliant faculty, family-like friends, the memories of a lifetime and a second home. I learned and grew a lot here, and it will forever hold a very special place in my heart.”
Piu next took the adventurous step of moving to a new country for a new experience in education. For a homebody like her, this was a huge step, and though she still misses home, her self-confidence and strength of purpose, even when out of her comfort zone, have made a tremendous difference to her life. She didn’t want to take money from her parents, so she applied for a scholarship. Such decisions show the mettle of a person; and that mettle is honed by a quality education that goes beyond mere academics, bolstered by a community of faculty and students who support each other unflaggingly.
Says this young achiever, “More than anything else, my education has helped me become a non-judgmental, open-minded person. It has helped me analyze the same situation from the individual perspectives of multiple people before judging them for it. That really changes the line we draw between the good and the bad, the acceptable and non-acceptable. I think this is really important to shape the kind of society we want to live in.”