For Science Week we’re releasing a special 2 part blog post from one of our researchers Rangana Banerjee Chaudhuri. This is Part 1.

Hi myself Dr. Rangana Banerjee Chaudhuri. I was born and grew up in a middle-class joint family residing in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. At present, I am a Marie Curie co-fund Sparkle postdoctoral research fellow in Dublin City University under the supervision of Prof. Liam Barry.

I studied in a C.I.S.C.E board English medium school in India (which was mainly possible due to my mother’s zeal).There the main focus was given on English communication apart from studies which now I realize have really helped me a lot to communicate with others; especially public speaking and also to expand my overseas network. I made my first public appearance in front of the audience (apart from participating in any competition) as an anchor when I was in 5th standard. I was asked by one of our teachers to be an anchor in our school function. But now I understand how much it helps me today when it comes to some discussion, or some presentations, etc. If you can engage your audience just by your words, it means definitely you have the clarity of thought which is also very essential in the kind of job I am engaged right now.

In school, we were also encouraged to participate in various extracurricular activities like quiz, sports, arts and crafts, etc. Even if I don’t win any awards, yet I actively took part in each of the activities and so was also voted as the school captain. This further helped to shape my leadership qualities which now I find very useful while handling multiple critical projects simultaneously. Extracurricular activity was also given very importance at my home. From there I learned singing, public speaking, recitation, drawing, photography, and gardening, which I continue till date in spite of having a very busy schedule. Apart from my parents, my grandparents (both from father’s and mother’s side) also encouraged me a lot in this. My parents always encouraged me to take part in various kinds of competitions, not to win awards but to overcome my fear of confronting the challenges and in turn proliferate my inner faith. I now understand that these extracurricular activities and those competitions helped me a lot in expanding my network, strengthening the mind, broaden my knowledge, and most importantly bringing out the inner “ME”.

My parents, though being highly qualified could not live their dream of obtaining a research career due to the perpetual financial pressure of the big joint family. And so, their unfulfilled dreams somehow instigated a terrible attraction and motivation in my life which dragged me to pursue my today’s career (though not pressurized by them at all). My father retired as a high school History teacher and my mother, a Homemaker. They always helped me to visualize my own thoughts and self-rationalize them. They did their post-graduation in the Humanities field so could not guide me much about Electronics career which later turned to a Photonics career, and thereafter Microwave Photonics and Optical Communication. But they were highly motivating and always encouraged me to live my dreams. Although as a child, I did not pretty well understand, the exact meaning of Scientist, Research, etc. yet, I had this feeling that it was something new that needs to be investigated for societal benefit as well as for our own knowledge expansion (as always told by my parents when I was a kid).

Frankly speaking, I did not choose this career from the beginning.

When I was a kid my father kept saying, “You can only grow if you either have money or education. We don’t have money, dear! So the only way you can grow is by educating yourself in any field you wish to.” At that time I felt “grow” means to “grow in age or maybe in height”. But now I realize grow means “to grow in experience by gaining knowledge”.
I feel that key influencers are everybody that I have met till date– my parents, my family, my relatives, my friends, my teachers, etc. They all have an obvious meaningful impact on me and a driving factor to do something new which finally made me what I am today.

But if really I have to mention key influencers from my life who helped me to shape my present career, I would say there are two.

1. Who were always there beside me and had faith in me.
2. Those who once struggled very hard to become my obstacles such that I leave Ph.D.

Today, when I look back there are some incidents or events which happened that really helped me a lot to make my decision. I would just like to explain a few of them.
After securing 80% in my 12th standard (which may be not that good marks I know) few of my relatives told my mother, “Get her into an Arts (Humanities) honours course, she is not fit for Science”. I really failed to understand that is there any special “criteria” to study Science? Isn’t the scientific aptitude or love for it enough to choose a career based on Science? Or, is it that they are underestimating the Humanities degree. A lot of questions were juggling into my mind at that time and I decided that I will pursue a career in Science since I love it and will definitely try to reach the highest level that I can.

Since I belonged to a middle-class family, money was always haunting at the back of my mind. Though my parents always insisted me to go for higher studies, yet, I felt I should get a job to help my family. After B.Sc. and again after M.Sc. I joined two jobs, but I was not happy. Again, those very caring relatives came up and told, “You should get a job before you turn 25, otherwise you will be in great trouble”. Oh! God, again them! I started thinking is age really always a factor to get the job you wish to or is age just a number. That’s when I finally realized may whatever happen on earth I need to do a Ph.D. and be a Scientist not just to prove those relatives wrong but also to prove that if the will is there and zeal is there, then anything on earth is possible! That was the turning point of my life. I joined M.Tech. followed by Ph.D.

I am just reciting these small incidences of my life such that the students can acquire enough courage to choose the career path which they have dreamt of.