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.

India Today - - CONTENTS - RISHIKA KUN­DRA / Win­ner, Dr Man­mo­han Singh Schol­ar­ship 2013

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.

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