Finishing academic performance. I began to appreciate the
Finishing the rat race of national level engineering entrance exams, I entered Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IITK), a
premier institute popularly viewed as an assurance of a comfortable job. But due to the prevailing research-oriented
atmosphere in the campus, the most interesting transformation that happened to me was that I developed a keen interest in
exploring newer scientific ideas as I started attending seminars, interacting with faculty members and exploring scientific
literature on engineering. I also got to realise that teaching is an enriching and satisfying experience for me. Eventually, I
decided to pursue a well-suited, meaningful and satisfying career of an academician for exploring, learning and teaching.
Earning a PhD degree is an essential step towards this goal in order to gain the required skills to function as an independent
researcher. I believe that the rigorous research environment and open-minded social ethos at the Yale University will help me
achieve this goal.
Before college, I had read sparsely about nanotechnology; primarily about the wonder material, graphene. William
Atkinson’s Nanocosm was a particularly exciting read with its discussions on Drexler-Smalley debate and projections about
the state of nanotechnology in not-so-far 2015. I got an opportunity to explore the subject with added rigor when I joined the
Department of MSE at IITK. I began to interact with some faculty members, discussing the basics of MSE as departmental
courses were to start only by third semester. Dr. N. P. Gurao encouraged me to gain a broader perspective of the field (‘it’s
not just about graphene’). He facilitated me with all the requirements to conduct some simple experiments on non-Newtonian
fluids, crystallization, observation of microstructures etc. Some emotional upheaval had taken its toll on my grades in the first
year, but this experience enthused me and had a positive effect on my academic performance. I began to appreciate the
philosophy of the discipline like the materials paradigm, correlation between microstructure and properties etc. I spent the
summer break exploring mechanical properties of Al-Alumina composites using CES material selection software. In my second year, I joined the research group of Dr. S. S. Gupta (Mechanical Engineering), to perform molecular modeling
of graphitic systems viz. CNTs, graphene and nanocones and characterize these using continuum models. Here, I gained
some proficiency in Tinker and LAMMPS packages. I was given an opportunity to freely explore topic of carbon nanocones
while developing skills in molecular simulations, then pick some findings having novelty and explore those methodically to
frame a comprehensible narrative to be later put in a communicable format. In a particular study, I investigated the
pulling-out, pushing-in and compression of a single nanocone from a stack of such cones and morphological changes
incurred during these processes at 0 K in molecular mechanics simulations in TINKER package (and later, in molecular
dynamics simulations at various temperatures in LAMMPS package). This work on nanocones resulted in a journal
publication in Carbon, two international conference presentations and a poster presentation. This was my first experience of
rigorous research work and subsequently communicating a technical article. I realised the role of perseverance, rigor and a
healthy questioning attitude for any worthwhile exercise in scientific research. I also got an opportunity to train an
undergraduate intern in molecular mechanics and dynamics to study mechanical properties of carbon nano-helices.
With such an exposure to research and exciting undergraduate course template, I decided to go for an Integrated Masters in
Technology Programme to explore the various fields further; taking postgraduate courses related to characterization
techniques, device fabrication, nanomaterials etc. In the Crystallographic Texture and Microstructural Engineering course,
while presenting on the topic of crystallographic texture dependent bacterial adhesion, I got interested in this area and started
to look into the relevant literature. I decided to join Dr. K. Balani’s group for my M.Tech. thesis as I got to know about their
research on bacterial adhesion over various types of material surfaces. Inspired by discussions I had read in Biophysics of Infection (ed. by M. C. Leake), I decided to investigate the initial stage adhesion of bacteria on biomaterial substrate.
Approaching the issue from multiple viewpoints; firstly using classical MD simulations, I checked if the force values
required to stretch s. aureus adhesin proteins correspond to those observed in AFM-based single cell force spectroscopy
experiments. Then, inferences were derived from statistical analysis of the data from retraction curve obtained from the
experiments. Now, to investigate adhesion quantification at bulk level, I plan to utilize nano-scratching of bacterial cells on
various substrates using nano-indenter tool to observe their adhesion strength. Results from various exercises will be
correlated to determine the extent of initial stage colonization of substrates by s. aureus. Since the course template restricts
the number of courses to be taken each semester, I have been supplementing my knowledge to pursue research on such
interdisciplinary topics using library and online resources about basics of continuum mechanics, biophysics, and
nanomedicine. It has been exhilarating to study and experiment with the various approaches to cell-material interaction
phenomenon across various length scales; incorporating the insights gained thereby on the appropriate scale to characterize
the system and model the studied phenomenon. Hence, I would like to explore the field further and build a career in research.
But it is not only due to my interest in scientific research that drives me to choose the life of an academician. Being
associated with Rural Technology Action Group has made me realize how technology needs to be implemented to solve
social problems. Further, teaching has proved to be an enriching and fulfilling experience for me; first, designing and
delivering lectures as a language teacher and later in science education, instructing students conducting experiments as a
teaching assistant. I believe that my interests are matched by my abilities, and I am resolved to choose the career of an
academician for myself, a socially responsible one at that.
At Yale, interdisciplinary research work led by Dr.. Corey S. O’Hern on stimuli-responsive, protein based nanogels aligns
nicely with my interests as the project incorporates a thorough investigation involving simulation and experimentation. I
would be interested in studying such materials across length scales, from molecular to meso-scales, to see how molecular
structure of proteins involved affects their behavior at higher length scales. Similarly, building on work already being
pursued by Dr. Udo D. Schwarz, given the limitations of AFM-based force spectroscopy methods would be interested in
developing other nanotribological tools and methods to investigate into cell adhesion on implant materials. Moreover, I also
find research on composition dependent cell adhesion, spreading and survival on alloys by Dr. Jan Schroers exciting and
would love to pursue the same.
The practical nature of research work being done at Yale along with the minority friendly campus culture makes me aspire to
join the community. I believe that my understanding of the subject, exposure to research, skills gained thereby and will to
excel is suited for one deserving of joining and enriching the Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science department at
the Yale University.