How I Made It
With dreams of changing lives through her research Rishika Kundra sets off to the University of Cambridge this year. Mridu Rai finds out how she realised her big goal.
Rishika Kundra is one of the lucky few to have been awarded the Cambridge University Manmohan Singh scholarship this year. Find out what motivates her.
Rishika Kundra, 22, is headed to University of Cambridge as the 2013 winner of the Manmohan Singh Scholarship. She graduated in zoology from Hindu College, University of Delhi and went on to complete her masters in biomedial science from Dr. B R Ambedkar Centre for Biomedical Research. At Cambridge, Rishika’s research will focus on arthritis and she hopes that in five years time the findings of her research will be able to benefit those who suffer from the disease.
A NOBLE PURPOSE My main research interest is in the field of immunology, especially disease immunology. I’d like to work on the pathology of major autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks its own organs. Since there is no cure for these diseases at present, I want to contribute to the existing knowledge base about the progression of these diseases so they can be diagnosed and cured before they become fatal.
DREAM COME TRUE The University of Cambridge was always my first choice as it is known for a long and distinguished tradition in the field of science and is one of the oldest and most esteemed universities in the world. Scientists like Newton, Darwin, Srinivasan Ramanujam, Jagdish Chandra Bose and innumerable others have all left an indelible legacy at Cambridge, which makes it the perfect place for me to start my research career. My work at Cambridge will focus on spondylo arthritis in general and psoriatic arthritis in particular. This is a major form of inflammatory arthritis and second only to rheumatoid arthritis in incidence. Such diseases are currently incurable and also form very substantial contributors to disability and morbidity. Through my research I aim to concentrate on the pathology of disease progression in patients and try to identify the major factors responsible for the incurable stage of the disease.
THE ROLE MODEL Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, the Nobel Prize winner of chemistry in 2009, is my constant inspiration. He won the Nobel Prize for his dedicated study of the structure and function of the ribosome. For me, he is the perfect example of what an Indian mind can accomplish if provided with the right opportunities. Throughout his education, he never restricted himself to any one field of science. Due to this he attained a holistic knowledge. I want to achieve the same in life. Ramakrishnan also went to Cambridge for his research. This is an immense cause of motivation for me. I really admire his work ethics and the many contributions he made to the field of science. Looking at the way in which he led his life, I have come to realised that both knowledge and interest translate into great discoveries. You can't do without either of these qualities.
FINDING PEACE WITHIN I have always been a very nervous child. Anxiety followed me even as I grew into an adult. But, over the years, I've learned to manage things better. I’ve discovered a certain calming peace within. I owe a lot of this development to my practice of Buddhism. I follow it because it is a philosophy of life that aims to empower the individual. During my college days, I was introduced to the Soka Gakkai International which is an organisation working for world peace based on the Japanese monk Nicheren Daishonin's teachings. The most important thing I have learned till date is that everything starts and ends with us. We have to take responsibility for ourselves, our actions and our goals. Even when things are not going as planned, there is always another path available to us. It was this realisation that made me work untiringly day and night to secure a seat at Cambridge University.