What opportunity to expand the scope of

What do I want to be?

This is the one
question that has never had a constant answer through the years.                            I
chose biology-mathematics group in high school because it was the only choice
left after I had ruled out the other options. But it was also subconsciously
influenced by the fact that I have always liked to do simple science
experiments at home. One day, when I was in our biology lab, identifying slides
through a microscope, I decided that I wanted to earn my doctorate in a field
where I get to find or help find cures for diseases caused by microbes, which
will not only benefit individuals, but the society at large. And there stemmed my
desire to become Dr. Nandhini Nagarajan.

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My ardour for research
in biology led me to select Biotechnology as my undergraduate major. I am
fortunate to have parents who accept and support my decisions. They instilled
in me, valuable principles, morale and the need to be strong-minded and
independent.

During my undergraduate
studies, I was intrigued by every subject that was introduced over the course
of the program, although, my interest was initially piqued by the bacteria. They
play a major invisible role in our lives. I am fascinated by how quickly they undergo
mutations and affect the other biotic and abiotic factors of the environment. Hence,
my primary interests are in the fields of Medical & Environmental
Bacteriology, Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering.

I never pass up an
opportunity to expand the scope of my knowledge, which is what led me to attend
various in-plant trainings, workshops and conferences that I could find and
afford at that time, in fields closely related to my areas of interest. I was a
student member at the Society of Biological Chemists and Science Congress
Association. I attended a 1 month training on “Cell Culture and Molecular
Biology Techniques” at Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University
(TANUVAS), where I learnt the basic skills to operate effectively and
efficiently in a professional level research laboratory.

Working on my mini projects
in Bacteriology gave me a hint of the complications faced in research. In my 5th
semester, I worked in a team of three people, on my first mini project,   “A
study of bacterial profiling on menu cards, identifying the effective
disinfectant concentration and testing of virulence gene in dominant species”. The
project idea was inspired by an article which stated that food menus were one
of the most contaminated objects in eateries. Therefore, our project was more
of a statistical analysis on the types of bacteria that could be found in these
food menus. This project was selected to be presented in “National Conference
on Recent Advances in Science and Engineering Research” held at Arunai
Engineering College. Though we had to tackle a few hurdles during the early
stages of our project, experiencing the exhilaration of a positive result made
us more determined to succeed.

I started my second
mini project, “Analysis of genotoxicity of tannery effluents”, in my 6th
semester. While we were able to prove that the bacterial isolates from the samples
were mutated using Ames test, we were not able to further develop it due to
lack internal resources and funds, since we had to personally finance the
project.   

I did my dissertation
project in pathobiology, on the topic, “Phenotypic and genotypic
characterization of virulence factors among clinical isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa” at Larsen &
Toubro Microbiology Research Centre, Sankara Nethralaya, one the best eye care
hospitals in Chennai. I worked with a total of 30 clinical isolates of P. aeruginosa to detect the presence of
5 phenotypic (alginate, phospholipase C, alkaline protease, elastase and biofilm)
and 3 genotypic (exo U, exo Y and las B genes) virulence factors. Though
initially, I was allotted only 4 phenotypic and 2 genotypic virulence factors, through
excessive literature review and hard work, I outdid their expectations by
determining the presence of 5 phenotypic and 3 genotypic virulence factors. I consider
this project, a testament to my persistence and sincerity.   

In my opinion,
extra-curricular activities are as important as academics. I joined the
Rotaract Club of Rajalakshmi Engineering College and was an active member
throughout the 4 years that I was there. I also wanted to contribute to the
progress of my department and so I took part in the departmental activities as
much as I could. During my 6th semester, the Department of
Biotechnology initiated the Journal club, for which I was selected to be the
Associate Co-ordinator and the Technical Head for 3rd year
undergraduates, from over 30 candidates. I also headed the Technical Committee of
“Neogeogenesis – A National Conference on Environment and Its Protection”,
organised by our department.  

I have to admit that I am
a perfectionist, obsessed with being clean and organised. I work to achieve
perfection with perseverance and patience. I believe that these qualities are a
necessity for an aspiring researcher.    

 As my grandfather used to say, “We need to
walk before we run”.  My ultimate goal is
to get a Ph.D. in my desired field and work towards the well-being of the
society. For that, I need to equip myself with the perfect combination of
theoretical and practical knowledge that a graduate program can provide.

I strongly believe that
the superlative research facilities offered at your institution, combined with
the merit of learning under outstanding research professionals will provide me
with the resources, support and foundation necessary to build my career.
Though
I’ve yet to interact with the faculty members, Dr. Michael Sadowsky (Plant and
Microbial Biology), Dr. Trinity Hamilton (Plant and Microbial Biology) and Dr.
William Harcombe (Ecology, evolution and behaviour) appear to possess research
interests that parallel my own. During my time at graduate school, I plan to
apply for any assistantship or fellowship opportunities that may arise. I feel
that a Master of Science degree in Microbial Engineering at the University of Minnesota
would assist me significantly in extending the rungs of my career ladder
towards achieving my objectives.

Being persistent and
dedicated, I am certain that I will be able to take on the challenges posed by
an international curriculum with ease. I would be extremely grateful if I am
given the opportunity to pursue my graduate studies at your institution with
financial aid.