This Arts & Sciences coffee cup was one of my first possessions when I started at WPI in August 2012. Every morning as I fill the cup with hot coffee, it reminds me of my role as a scientist and teacher. Drinking coffee with this cup is inspirational!
Molly was my first pen pal at WPI—she was 5 years old when she wrote this letter. Our lab's research is involved in public outreach via TouchTomorrow, and one of the projects involved understanding your backyard’s soil composition and ecology. Molly and her parents were the first people to send us their soil sample with Molly’s sweet notes on her experience as a soil scientist. This letter is a constant reminder that there is not an age limit to science.
These two Indian deities, Lord Ganesha and Mahalakshmi, can be found in every workplace and house in India. I keep it in my office because it constantly reminds me of my culture and also that you can take me away from my homeland, but you cannot take my homeland away from me.
‘da worm’: Caenorhabditis elegans is a nonparasitic roundworm that we conduct research with in our laboratory. As neuroscientists, we are interested in understanding the mechanisms that underlie how neurons (cells of the nervous system) work in networks to coordinate behaviors. Our work on worms involves understanding the role of smell in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
One of the gifts my MQP student (Huaming Sun) gave me when we submitted his qualifying thesis in computational biology. The symbolism of this decorative fish is abundance, success, and wealth.
Here hangs our published research from the past few years. Seeing the names of my graduate students on these peer-reviewed publications is a constant reminder that great science is only accomplished in teams.
All of the accomplishments in my scientific career—from my PhD thesis to the award of tenure from WPI—can be found on this wall. Every time I open the office door, it reminds me of what I have achieved, but also makes me ask, "What more can I do?"
Neuroscience. I believe that it is one of the most exciting branches of science. Why? Because our brains are unique, and it defines who we are. Understanding how the brain functions with new emerging technologies and finding a way to communicate that to my students is not just a job, but a passion for me.
My journey as a teacher and a scientist began during my undergraduate years, when I took a course in improv comedy. Improv taught me to think spontaneously. There is no set script or dialogue, but characters are created collaboratively in real time. My improv training also motivates my research—the importance of understanding behavior and motivation through the study of chemistry of the nervous system. It’s not at all surprising that I should find a happy home here at WPI, where we focus on the technical through educating and motivating the whole student.