A scientist confronts his fear and insecurities to create a more “peaceful future”

“You are forced to confront all your fears, insecurities, and doubts you have about yourself and somehow overcome them during the Ph.D. Much bravery is required,” said Mr. Neeraj Verma, one of the ASTech program Ph.D. candidates.

Mr. Verma is a few months away from finishing his Ph.D. at the University of South Australia.

“I started my Ph.D. to invent something which can lessen the stress on lab animals and contribute to the analytical science field; hopefully at the end of the Ph.D., these goals will be achieved.”

Before securing his scholarship at the ASTech program, to go through his confronting but rewarding experience, he was working as a research project fellow at CSIR-Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, in Lucknow, India after attaining his master’s degree in biotechnology from Karunya University. 

Neeraj Verma in a group photo of ASTech program candidates at Trajan Scientific and Medical, Melbourne, Australia.

His research focuses on developing a biocompatible solid phase microextraction (SPME) fiber with faster kinetics and higher binding capacities for the target analyses from the complex matrices.

However, the easy way to say it is how he explains it to people with no scientific background like me.

“The idea is to develop an extra sensitive device that can cause less stress to the animal during the sampling process for drug testing studies and reduce the lab animals’ fatality. This is meant to serve the three Rs guiding principles for more ethical use of animals in testing; Replacement (methods replace the use of animals in research), Reduction (obtain comparable levels of information from fewer or same animals), and Refinement (minimize potential pain, suffering or distress),” he said.

Mr. Verma started his Ph.D. training at Trajan Scientific and Medical, which was around a year, mentioning that it allowed him to work with an “excellent team of people” from different scientific backgrounds and expertise.

Neeraj Verma

“I was very fortunate to start there, it gave me a chance to understand various aspect of the project and learned many sophisticated techniques, which I was not familiar with earlier and later used in my work,” Mr. Verma added.

Also, he praised the collaboration between industry and academia just like his other colleagues in the ASTech program, “This opportunity also gives me a chance to see research and development setup in the industry and learn what level of determination is required to make a project successful in that setting, “he added.

For some new candidates, a Ph.D. can be exhausting; “it’s an emotional struggle and can’t be finished without having fun in what you are doing and without accepting the challenges that face you,” Mr. Verma said.

His advice to candidates who are considering embarking on a Ph.D. adventure to create a vision and commit to it with hard work and patience, “choose a lab which diversifies your learning and research skills,” he said.

James Chan, Sara Thomas, Ricardo Neto, Neeraj Verma

“During my Ph.D., I have amazing supervisors, mentors, and leaders, so in the future, I’d like to provide similar guidance, and potentially taking upon a leadership role in a research organization.”

Mr. Verma is pleased that he is in the process of finalizing his research publication now, and proud to have his research work awarded as the Best Poster Award at the ExTech conference in June 2018 at Iowa State University, Ames, USA.

In the coming years, he would like to continue with his involvement in bioanalytical sciences research. “Science leads to important discoveries which hopefully make life more rewarding, less stressful, and create a peaceful future. Every development and advancement in science is meant to make life better,” he said.

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