[New] Interview of Ramarani Sethy

21 March 2018 par G. Laurent
Ramarani Sethy and her passion for photochemistry
Ramarani Sethy is in the third year of her PhD at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan, under the supervision of Professor Tsuyoshi Kawai. In parallel, she is conducting research at ENS Paris-Saclay’s PPSM laboratory for supramolecular and macromolecular photophysics and photochemistry. She decided to pursue research in photochemistry during her studies at one of the prestigious Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs). We asked her about her international academic background.

Why did you choose this study career?

I have qualified in all India competitive exam the Indian Institutes of Technology-Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE). Through IIT-JEE I have Joined IISER as an INSPIRE fellow to pursue my career in Science. In my fifth year of IISER, I came across Prof. Tsuyoshi Kawai during Asian and Oceanian Photochemistry Conference (APC) and our Dean of IISER Thiruvananthapuram Prof. K. George Thomas introduced me to Prof. Kawai. I found very interesting Prof. Kawai’s research profile so I applied for a PhD position under his supervision through MEXT scholarship screening.

What were your reasons for studying science?

Initially I wanted to pursue a career in engineering. In India, students often favour this option. I was also drawn to medicine. But when I discovered the integrated bachelor’s-master’s programme in science offered at the IISER of Thiruvananthapuram, and the career opportunities it offered, I decided that this quality programme was for me. I liked the physics courses but I quickly turned to chemistry, with a desire to specialize in photochemistry. When I see the result of a photochemistry experiment, I’m a bit like a little child. At first you don’t see anything, but when you light it up the result becomes bright and colourful. I wanted to understand the causes of this type of phenomena.

What did the training in IISER bring you in terms of knowledge, skills…?

In our first 2 years of IISER we were taught all four basic science subjects (Math, Physics, Chemistry and biology) which help us to gain knowledge in all the topics and also to decide suitable major and minor subjects for our Integrated BS-MS course that we have to choose in our 3rd year. Being a chemistry major as well as biology minor I have acquired knowledge and research experience in both the subjects. I have worked for 4 months in a biology research laboratory under Prof. S. Murty as a minor project and 1 year in chemistry research laboratory under Dr. Mahesh Hariharan as a part of major project of Integrated BS-MS program. Also I have worked as a summer intern in various chemistry research laboratory .These research experiences helped me to obtain knowledge and skills in different research fields of chemistry. I have learnt fundamental analytical and spectroscopic characterization techniques like NMR, FTIR, GCMS to characterize synthesized organic molecules and also different purification technique like chromatography (HPLC).

What training do you follow at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology? What did NAIST training and supervision bring you?

I have joined NAIST as a 3 years doctoral program under supervision of Prof. Tsuyoshi Kawai. During my 2 years of Doctoral course, I have worked with different chiral organic systems in their self-assembly state. I could be trained in different spectroscopic techniques and expertise in design and synthesis of organic chromophores. I was also able to experience in using microscopic techniques like TEM and SEM as well as other spectroscopic instruments such as circular dichroism and circular polarized luminescence. This research experience and skills improved my understanding in the areas of photochemistry and supramolecular chemistry. This taught me that hard work, perseverance and patience are an integral part of carrying out research.

Why did you choose to do a PhD research visit at ENS Paris-Saclay?

I joined Dr. Rémi Métivier group as an Internship student for collaborative science research on “Microscopic and spectroscopic investigation on fluorescent chiral supramolecular assemblies.” In PPSM, I work on spectroscopic techniques like Time-Resolved Fluorescence Measurements and microscopic techniques such as Fluorescence Microscopy and AFM to investigate mechanistic insight of our molecular system. Our group has already an established collaboration with Dr. Rémi Métivier. So I proposed the research plan and come to ENS Paris-Saclay as an international internship program of Graduate school of Material Science, NAIST.  Our group has already an established collaboration with Dr. Rémi  Métivier. So I proposed the research plan and come to ENS Paris-Saclay as an international internship program of Graduate school of Material Science, NAIST.

In your view, what are the advantages of doing a PhD nowadays?

A PhD teaches you to address and solve a problem autonomously. The scientific experiments you do give you a better understanding of a particular subject and improve your rational thinking. For industrial and academic careers, the PhD is a step toward doing applied research. The research experience you get while doing a PhD is an excellent asset in establishing an independent career.

What are your feelings about research in France?

If you compare how research is organized in France, India and Japan, the main difference is probably communication. In India, for example, people are very respectful of the hierarchy. You only dare to interact more with professors once you get to PhD level, because you feel like you know a bit more than when you were a master’s student. In France, everyone communicates with everyone else. There are perhaps fewer communication barriers. In Japan, too, you can talk with lecturers and professors. Professor Kawai is very enthusiastic about my thesis; he’s considerate and keeps an eye on my prospects. I talk with him a lot. It was he who suggested that I come to France and ENS Paris-Saclay.

What are your plans for the future?

After my thesis defence at NAIST in October, I would like to go into an academic career and do a post-doctoral fellowship in France, with the idea of returning to India afterwards to find a position. By having several different laboratory experiences, you gain a broader view of research.

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