“As a child, I was very connected with nature. Growing up, I had a special interest learning about animals and the environment.
I moved to Hyderabad in my 4th grade. At Bharatiya Vidya Bhavans, we had a wonderful biology lab. It housed many animal specimens in formaldehyde. These specimens caught my attention and every day, I spent a lot of time trying to understand each one of them. This is where I developed my attitude of asking questions. We did not have access to internet in our school, so our only source of information was library and that is how I picked the habit of reading books. These habits came to my aid at later stages of my life.
My parents are quite supportive and encouraging when it comes to letting me make my choices. My Interest in science pushed me to take up Biology as a major during 11th & 12th. Initially, I thought I would become a doctor. However, I couldn’t end up being a doctor. Instead I became a Research Scientist. I did my bachelors in Biotechnology. Most of my friends wanted to pursue an MBA after graduation but I intended to pursue a PhD. I was very certain about it. I finished my Master’s in Biotechnology from the University of Hyderabad and joined CCMB for PhD. HCU was another beautiful phase of my life personally and professionally. It drove me further towards research. During my PhD I worked on a Malaria vaccine candidate.
Year 2020 is significant to me, not only because of Covid but also because, I happened to get married in the same year! I was on a career break for almost 6 months. Later, I joined Atal Incubation Centre- CCMB for a short term position. This eventually got me onto the mRNA vaccine development project. By the time we started working at full-pace, the 2nd wave hit. We could not stop our work, we continued our research in spite of all the practical challenges. By December, we had done a great deal of work.
We worked for almost a year. The journey was quite challenging but, I enjoyed every step of it. This experience offered me a steep learning curve. I was thrilled when the mRNA vaccine platform was finally published in the month of May. Today, I am really happy with the kind of experiments I do. I am now looking forward to taking up new challenges and expanding our research in this domain.
What is your view about women in STEM? Do you think the field requires more women?
The short answer is Yes. Not only as a woman in science but as a woman in general, all I can say is, it’s not an easy task to wear multiple hats on a day to day basis. In order to be on top of your game, an individual has to give their 100%, especially when you’re trying something novel. I don’t think woman in general have that kind of liberty. All I know is, I am fortunate that things are working reasonably in my favour. For most women, that may not be the case. I really wish to see and experience an environment where both men & women get equal opportunity to excel and are not judged for their choices.”
Humans of Hyderabad in Collaboration with Atal Incubation Centre – CCMB
Featuring Dr Nandita Tanneru, Project Scientist, Atal Incubation Centre