- Akshay J Ganesh
Pradeep Kumar is a lab technician in the School of Chemistry at IISER TVM and his journey is emblematic of the highs and lows of a career in science.
After completing degree education in Christian College, Kattakada, he attended an introductory training program on lab work at the Cashew Export Promotion Council of India (CEPCI), Kollam. He took a role in the R&D wing of AVT Natural Products, working on the development of decaffeinated tea. Catching the bug for industrial work at that lab, he completed his MSc in Chemical Sciences at Annamalai University.
He returned to join as a Research Assistant (RA) at CEPCI for about 6 years, primarily analysing contamination residues of pesticides and metals in food products like cashew. His passion for Mass Spectrometry instrumentation began here, a role he is still involved in at IISER TVM. He also helped out students that came to use the lab facilities for their project work and internships, another role he retains at IISER TVM.
He enrolled for a part-time PhD program under Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, on developing polymer composites of cashew nut shell liquid and natural fibres, while at CEPCI. He was also set to attend a training program on Polymer Chemistry in the US. However, due to his father’s deteriorating health, he was forced to abandon his PhD work and relocate closer to family. He joined the College of Agriculture, Vellayani as an RA but in a different field. He credits this time as one of the highlights of his career, in terms of productivity and excitement for work. He even set up a small home lab setting with his savings, to continue his prior PhD work but it was unsustainable due to infrastructural constraints. He remembers fondly of varnishing some of his house windows with pest-repellant resin he had synthesised in that home setup.
In 2014, he registered for a PhD again at the Bharathiar University, working on pesticide residues on plant-derived samples. Two years later, he joined IISER TVM as a Junior Technical Assistant, once again putting his PhD work on hold.
Pradeep’s story also shows how even if things don’t go as planned, keep looking for new opportunities and make the most out of what you have.