International Talks

International Talks: Sayanti Brahmachari

Sayanti Brahmachari

Being a researcher is quite similar to moving to a “city”

I was 15, when I moved to the city of Kolkata, India and I would like to start this article by talking about the “City”. It is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and it is known as “The City of Joy”, “The City of Mother Teresa”, “The City of Tagore” and a “not easy city”. I lived there for 12 years and it is in the overcrowded streets that I learnt about endurance and good will under the most unlikely circumstances. As I grew up, in high school I developed a natural liking for the little laboratory works involved in Chemistry classes. I liked the colors in flame test, simple titration experiments and when the time came for me to decide what I would like to choose as my career I simply went for Chemistry.  I did my Masters and PhD. from the University of Kolkata and I moved away from textbooks to research journals. Slowly, it was the culture of the laboratory and the scientific questions that genuinely instigated my curiosity and sense of adventure.

At the age of 27, I began my journey abroad when I moved to the vibrant “city” of Tel Aviv as a Post-Doctoral fellow in the group of Prof. Ehud Gazit. With a population so much less than that of just Kolkata, being in Israel was like being in little bubble. An Israeli once told me that I was “brave”, but in retrospect, it was the best period of my life. At the beginning, I was deafened by the silence and everything was lost in translation but in no time, I was biking along the beach and cooking my own version of hummus. I soon became part of an expat community where I met people from all corners of the world and made friend who became my family away from home. In the laboratory, I focused on developing assays for the early detection and inhibition of protein aggregation in neurodegenerative diseases. I had gone to Israel for a Post-Doctoral position, yet four years later, I left with much more than that.

The opportunity to move to Italy came in 2018 completely by chance when I found out about the interdisciplinary MINDED-Marie Curie program at the IIT, Genova under the supervision of Prof. Paolo Decuzzi. When I first came to Genova I was truly mesmerized by the landscape of the place and the whole organization of the “city”. I recall myself saying that the “city” has another dimension, I found myself either in a tunnel or on a bridge. In addition, the opportunity to stay around the Mediterranean with a time difference of 4 h from home, good food and surrounded by friendly people was also quite tempting. However, to me the most important aspect of the program was the possibility to choose my own research topic; it was meant to give me the confidence in my scientific ideas and prepare me to move ahead for a career in the academia. Now, I  satisfy my curiosity in the lab by synthesizing biopolymer based microgels for slow release of therapeutics, my adventure on the streets continue with me trying to speak bits of Italian, in the kitchen making pizza and in the garden growing tomatoes.  Although the pandemic has been difficult and my experience here would have been different otherwise, I must say I am happily busy. Navigating through the thoroughfares of different cities, cultures, religion and scientific questions, I have learnt to look for common questions and interests in spite of the differences. To me the meaning of being a researcher is quite similar to moving to a “city” it’s an adventure full of possibilities.