I was born in India. My father has served as a government officer. My mother is in the academia. I have a sibling who is a lawyer. I have seen a fair bit of India, owing to the transferable nature of my parents' jobs. My childhood was spent living in small towns and cantonments, where everyone mostly knew everyone else. I am agnostic, apolitical and tend to support logic & reason. I am allergic to myths, miracles, superstitions and godmen alike.
I went to college in Manipal where I got my Bachelors in Engineering. Biomedical imaging fascinated me quickly. I interned with Siemens in my junior year and, and worked at IIT Delhi for my senior year project. I was selected by Stanford University India Biodesign Program as a Research Intern to work on Translational Health & Medicine in 2010. I worked on low-cost breathing devices, inspired partly by the growing number of respiratory illnesses in India & China.
I was offered M.S. at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Columbia University which I declined to pursue an integrated PhD program at Virginia Tech. I worked with Dr. Ge Wang, a pioneer in Computed Tomography, on Multi-scale CT i.e. integrating conventional medical CT with microCT & nanoCT. My research also involved investigating X-ray Fluorescence & Luminescence towards making hybrid systems. This was one of the most satisfying phases in my academic life. I lived in an idyllic town and worked with brilliant people & fancy equipments. Sadly, Dr. Wang moved to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and I had to discontinue my plans of working under him towards a PhD. I graduated with a M.S in Electrical and Computer Engineering in May 2013. I was generously helped by Dr. Guillem Pratx of Stanford University in finishing this project.
I had packed my bags to return to India and start afresh. I thought of just quashing the whole ‘R&D’ plan and declined a PhD offer from NTU Singapore. But fate had other designs. Dr. Robert Kraft, a brilliant teacher and a MRI physicist, offered for me to stay back and give it another try. I started working on a doctoral program in quantitative MRI. My work involved detection of heart failure by MRI based blood-flow measurement. I also tinkered around with the equipment and contributed to the Fat/Water separation package being developed at Siemens US. I personally feel I learnt a lot at this phase of my graduate life. It was the proverbial 'drinking from the firehose' when one had to juggle learning topics ranging from electrical engineering to nuclear chemistry. For reasons inexplicable, my equations with Dr. Kraft didn't remain the same. I was graded poorly and forced out of the doctoral program. I bailed out with a second M.S in Biomedical Imaging in 2015.
I worked for a few months at Amity University Delhi (Late 2015 - Summer 2016), where I was offered an instructor's job by Dr. Ashok Chauhan. It was a good break and I enjoyed teaching & mentoring undergraduate students. I quit this position and re-joined a PhD program in Information and Computer Science in University of Tokyo. My research now primarily involves Machine learning and applications of this work to public health and medicine.
When I think of all the up and downs in my story, I realize that there were some mistakes which could have been prevented. But many of these events were destined and couldn't be avoided. The takeaway: It is life's way of teaching valuable lessons. There is always a second chance and it is for us to grab them in time. In my closing thoughts I am reminded of Randy Pausch's Last Lecture where he says: "Brick walls are for people who don't want that goal badly enough".