Thursday, October 10, 2013

"On being asked to write about post-doctoral plans by my grad school".

Postdoctoral Proposal Requirement
In the fourth year of study, students prepare a description (up to one page in length) of their plans after graduation and how the doctoral education the student has received will be utilized in the future.  You should include some articulation of the "skill set" you have acquired during your graduate training and comment on how these skills could be used in the next phase of your career. 

This is what I wrote grudgingly........

Graduate school has been exciting so far. The greatest lesson has been a first-hand experience of how the initial fluttering of an idea, after being churned over and over again, slowly begins to take shape and eventually transforms itself into something more tangible. It has been equally fascinating to observe people around me going through the same process and doing it differently. I have learnt from seeing others as much as I have learnt by doing it myself.

It is rather hard to be explicit about what skills I have acquired along the way. I certainly don’t feel like I have acquired much. Some confidence in my ability to think, a bit of time- management, a lot of people-management, a little more reverence for deadlines and an ability to handle acute sleeplessness. Yes, I have also acquired some experimental skills like building microscopes, putting wires in the brain, etc but that is beside the point!

I am confident that I will be able to think my way through a problem and wish to pursue academic research as a post-doctoral fellow in neuroscience. I don’t really know what I would like to study. I am fascinated (mostly since yesterday since I started thinking about the future) about how a population of neurons in a brain region goes about doing its job, especially in the context of decision-making. The ability to monitor large ensembles of neurons with 2-photon imaging in a carefully designed behavioral task, could give us some insight into the workings of the decision making process. Bayesian approaches have been quite successful as a broad description of how the brain works. It is necessary to bridge the gap between such Bayesian models and the mechanics of how it is realized in the brain. It would be highly interesting to find such algorithms being implemented by a population of neurons. These ideas are extremely premature and moreover I really don’t understand the Bayesian approaches that well yet. I hope to have a better understanding of what I really want to do when I am ready to embark on that journey.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Zindagi tham si gayi hai, waqt bhi ruk gaya hai

Zabaan khamosh hai, jaane kis din ke intezaar mein.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

An Artist’s Dilemma

The Canvas lies in front of me. Naked.

Screaming silently to be touched,

To be painted with colors bright and true.

Her eyes reflect the desire to be created

She promises to be a masterpiece

My Magnum Opus.

I color her with passionate strokes

Lost in the revelry of creation

In hues conjured just for her

Her form mirroring my imagination.

Suddenly a thought crosses my mind

Just like a black cloud veils the brilliant sun;

What if all my colors are spent?

For all I have is just one box left!

What if I may never paint again?

Never get a second chance.

A strange fear fills my heart

Deep, relentless and unyielding.

The canvas smiles at me.

Mocking my indecision.

I hesitate for a moment…

But passion blows away my fear.

The pain of an unfinished painting

And the burden of a promise not kept,

Is to an artist a constant thorn,

An indelible scorn to his zest.

My dilemma thus resolved,

I paint her again with renewed vigor

With the hope that when it is done,

My art will surpass its creator.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Moner lodai

Chaitra rate ghum bhenge jai

Cheye roi aakash pane,

Kiser tore byakul e mon

Bhabi boshe songopone..

Proshno jage khane khane

Uttor tar pai kotha re --

Bandhon bhenge jokhun gechis chole

Abar keno ashis praner majhare ?

Kenoi ba nebo tore apon kore?

Khubdho mon nalish janai gobhir sure.

Premik mon minoti kore chokher jole-

Nijer kore ne tahare sokol bhule.

Dui moner nirob lodai

Dekhi boshe chupti kore,

Andhar kete sokal hole bhabi

Mon er andhar kaate kemon kore?



Saturday, March 27, 2010

One Hour with James. D. Watson

Ever since I had arrived at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, almost everyone I met spoke of Jim Watson. Some good stories, some not-so-good ones, but nonetheless everyone spoke of him. He also seemed to be present everywhere. I could find him on the walls of the Urey Cottage and the dining hall. I could see his life-size portrait smiling back at me every time I entered the Grace auditorium. He was also present (at least seemed so) in our dinner conversations with senior students, in casual talks with professors and by the time we were supposed to meet him, even in my imagination! I had been told the last night that if you were a Russian or a tennis enthusiast, Anna Kournikova was his favorite topic. Unluckily I was neither.
When we entered the lecture room at the Marks Laboratory, he was already there; sitting smilingly at the head of a long wooden table. I had seen him for the first time the day before, when I was walking down the hill towards the Jones laboratory with the half-frozen harbor to my right. He had driven past me in his verdant Jaguar. I thought it was him but couldn’t be sure. Now I was, as I looked carefully at the man who shot to fame fifty seven years ago when he proposed along with Crick the iconic double helical structure of DNA, “the secret of life”, as he prefers to call it. By the time he was a little beyond thirty, he was already a Nobel Laureate. His features still bore semblance to many a picture that I have seen of him from his youth. His eyes had retained that mischievous twinkle.
After we had introduced ourselves, he said that he would be telling us about his latest book titled ‘Avoid Boring People’. He quickly added that it had a double meaning but didn’t elaborate further. It seemed to me that he didn’t care to explain it to someone na├»ve enough not to get it! Fortunately I was saved of this humiliation almost immediately. Soon after, I was slightly shocked when he said, “I am the most famous living scientist. (Since) Madame Curie is already dead.” Vanity irritates me and is almost always untrue but I realized that in this case he might actually be correct! He spoke of his childhood and of his excellent education which enabled him to do what he did. He regarded Max Delbruck as his idol until he met him and realized that Max was no better a scientist than what he was! He briefly mentioned parts of the now famous story of how ‘The Double Helix’ was discovered. His memory didn’t betray him as he mentioned excruciating details of a bygone age with considerable ease. He would laugh often but almost always alone. His laugh was very awkward and it sounded like a snore. Yet no one could miss the air of superiority it embodied. He often said things that shouldn’t be said. Luckily we were prepared for that. We had already been warned by Dawn, the Admissions Officer and our sweet hostess.
His book deals with his rules to become famous. I agree with a few and disagree with the rest. Some of them were indeed nice. He believes that “If someone is the most brilliant person in a class, it’s not the best place for him”, with which I agree. After a slight pause he added, “But he should at least be the second best!” It was followed by his usual grin. He mentioned the need to look out for the big questions rather than solving things that everyone else could do. At some point he was talking of passion in science when he suddenly turned towards me and exclaimed with disbelief, “I don’t understand how arranged marriages work in India!” I only smiled back at him because he was not interested in knowing the answer. He also spent some time talking about how CSHL was better than Harvard or Cambridge! It was the most one-sided informal chat that I have ever been a part of. But it hardly felt awkward. It seemed that’s the way it is supposed to be with Him!
Soon, his casual and my much awaited one hour, was spent. He suddenly stopped and asked us the details of the Broadway show that we were to see that evening in New York City. When he heard it was Billy Elliot, he made a not-so-prudent comment on homosexuality. Then on my request, he agreed to pose for a couple of group photos which soon turned into a rage. And then after we shook his hands, all of us one by one, he drove away. He had lived up to his reputation of being an entertainer. He seemed to me incapable of being dull as he was of being mediocre. What shall remain with me, apart from a faint memory of that one-hour, is a signed copy of his famous book: “The Double Helix.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Every time I go for a movie with my friends,
I observe something similar when it ends:
Though everyone has at least something to say,
We wait for someone else to show the way.

And when the silence between us begins to be felt,
“Neither too good, nor too bad”, someone yields.
A perfect opinion it is, I think;
Concealing more than it reveals!

A predictable conversation then always starts,
Careful neither to praise nor to hurt.
Soon everyone starts following everyone else
Yet trying to sound cleverer than the rest!

Why are we so afraid to speak our minds?
And dread the vox populi?
It might be in-vogue to embrace conformity
But the greatest crime is to lose your own identity.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


When a thought suddenly visits your mind
And you are tempted to speak aloud,
Do ponder over it for a moment or two
Or else later you will rue.