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When She Did A Great Job Working On Small Things

In order to be successful one can’t solely rely on excelling in their field. It also needs much more than that. Besides expertise, one also needs right opportunity it transforms itself into brilliant results. What matters here is the strategy you follow in the direction of success.

The person in picture today proved herself in her fraternity by delving herself in pure science. Prerna Sharma, a 30-year-old assistant professor in Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), was utterly confused about academics as a kid. Today, her research papers are published in national and international journals. Here is a small glimpse of her journey from school to post doctorate.

Early life

Prerna Sharma completed her inter college education from Rukmini Devi Public School, Delhi. When she was pondering over which stream to choose after STD 12, her father approached her asking her the same question. She was all perplexed and clueless how to reply to him. She neither wanted to be a doctor, nor an engineer. The icing on the cake was that she repelled corporate jobs as well. All doors seemed closed to her and she was on time crunch to decide where she wanted to head with her career. She hated the idea of admission tests, which were mandatory in order to get in any college. It seemed merely an analysis of speed and accuracy to her.

It was then she decided to study ‘pure science’ by accidentally stumbling upon the choice. Pure science is the study of specialised soft condensed matter physics with materials like creams, gels, shampoos and even cell membranes which seem like simple fluids, but are much more complicated. They have a complex structure that require a lot of research and study. Now that she had a direction, she chose to study science and started pursuing Bachelors in Science from St Stephen’s College, Delhi.

Physics being her weakest subject demanded her major attention. Solving equations was troublesome for her since high school. She worked with diligence in order to stand out in the subject and soon she could master the subject after putting in efforts for an year.

After completing her bachelors Prerna decided to pursue PhD from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai. Her mentor was Professor Shankar Ghosh who guided her in the stream and made sure that Prerna’s concepts were clear. When Prerna started assisting him in setting up experimental laboratory, she had a breakthrough. She was fascinated by the way each particle reacted.  Her curiousity got the better of him because she found the subject that would have led her to the destination she desired, to quench her inquisitiveness. During her PhD, she got a chance to be a member of Indian research team, which published a paper in Nature Physics in 2008, a prestigious science journal.

“I was interested in knowing how fluids interacted with each other in the two-dimensional world,” Prerna told Forbes.

Her research and post-doctoral phase

After completing her Phd from TIFR, Mumbai, she moved to Brandeis University, USA for her post-doctoral work that focused on self-assembly with biopolymers. Sharma was never intrigued by the bigger dimensions but somehow small things captured her interest and she researched to find the answers to them. What captivated her interest most was how different liquids interacted with each other. Prerna felt that in 2D the rules were very different from 3D which fascinated the scientist in her. Her approach to the research was very different, she would focus on minute details from their core while others were focussing on bigger horizons like Big Bang Theory or Higgs Boson particle.

“When Prerna came to us after completing her BSc, she was a rookie. But she is hardworking, has had great international exposure and, today, her research gets published in top science journals,” her former thesis advisor tells Forbes.

Success followed

She is often mistaken for a student in IISc which makes her blush as she is a part of faculty there. Even though she didn’t have any affinity for the subject she gained expertise in, she made it through by sheer hard work. She didn’t miss the opportunity to excel in the subject and studied it whole heartedly. Although, she had a tough time studying Physics, differential equations and many other theories, she focussed on small details and observed them minutely.

Prerna believes that the little things might not have answers to big questions like the birth of universe, but are no less majestic in the way they operate. She is endearingly called the ‘Scientist of small things.’ Her research work gets published in top science journals now.

In the time where women in our country are struggling with basic rights and are the ones to compromise, Prerna takes pity on their plight and wonders when she will come across a stage of gender equality. However, there are people like Prerna who are making the country proud by making small things appear significant as they add up to something noteworthy.

She is one of the thousand people who are shining brighter with each passing day and proving that ‘Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard.’

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