Author Archives: swashbuckler25

Pressure to Perform and to Perform under Pressure

To tell you all a little secret, I’m extremely nervous when it comes to public speaking. Presenting my science to others in the field is an important aspect of my job as a scientist and it helps promote my work, establish collaborations  and most importantly gather feedback for future work. Over the last few years, I’ve presented at national and international meetings, have always performed well and even won a few prizes. None of this counts when I have to give another one.

Yesterday was one such day and it drained me both emotionally and physically. In the minutes/hours leading up to the presentation, my heart races like a Ferrari and I usually lose the ability to listen/concentrate on other talks. I consider my fear a big limitation and envy those that have the natural ability to speak in public. Having said that, my fear has often manifested as my friend and helped me for the best. Realising my limitation and the risk of putting up a blank face, I often prepare and rehearse well. I always prepare a small speech for the first few minutes of the talk to set me off on a comfortable note and you know what, it works!! My brain is first tricked into following a little routine of few words it has been taught and picks up naturally while maintaing the confidence of the routine and spontaneity of an engaging talk.

As a young scientist, every opportunity to show my work is a window to many others. This is the ‘Pressure to perform’ and once I have turned myself into nervous wreck, the challenge is to overcome the obstacles in my mind ‘To Perform under Pressure’. 

Isn’t it all about accepting our imperfections Michelle? (

Post a comment below if you have experienced something similar or if you have any advice for me (maybe down a glass of wine next time ;))

Before I sign off, I want to show you a short video. In the lab, we make beating heart muscle cells from human stem cells in order to study  how heart muscle cells develop and also to model disorders of the human heart. I promised Tanya ( that I’ll post more pictures of my experiments and i wanted to fulfil it. Thanks for hearing me out


The oh so fabulous night sky!

Have you ever taken a moment to look at the night sky? When I was traveling through the national parks in U.S this summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to stargaze and learn a little more about the universe that we are a part of. National Park Service and the rangers (of particular mention, the Bryce Canyon NP) does a commendable job in not just protecting the geological wonders, but also raising awareness about the light pollution that affects the visibility of the sky. If you happen to live in a small town or a country side village, you are blessed with marvellous night skies unlike those who live in cities. On a clear night, you could easily spot the milky way galaxy, orbiting satellites and with some help, constellations and planets.

Looking at ‘Saturn’ through a telescope at Bryce Canyon NP was amazing and so was a comet shower. To start with, if you want to spot  the International Space Station (ISS) from anywhere on earth, follow this link to NASA site.

NASA’s skywatch application is also a great site if you want to spot satellites. If I have managed to intrigue you enough, open your window and take a peek into the sky. Do you see stars? Don’t stop there. Set a date night with the dark skies and all you need is a good pair of binoculars.


In this stunning picture, the photographer captures the milky way galaxy over Bryce Canyon National park.

Like stargazing? Post a comment to share your thoughts.

My very own microscope at home

Me and my partner always wish of the possibility of having our very own ‘Leica TCS SP8 Confocal Microscope’ at home. At times when we have to image our experiments (in this case, slices of cells or of the heart stained with antibodies to detect expression of proteins) we spend long, tiring hours in a dark room equipped with the most expensive of microscopes. There are many occasions when we go back to the lab in the weekends to use the microscope hoping that its less crowded. Often, after imaging and venturing out of the dark room and taking a look at the pictures, we are dissatisfied with the quality of pictures. this means another long day at the microscope.

If we only we had one of these at home, our life would be a lot more comfortable. The only glitch however, is that it costs almost a million euros. 😉

ImageThese microscopes are capable of scanning through different layers of a section with precision, stack all the layers to project a cumulative image.

ImageWhat you see here is a group of heart cells- their nucleus in blue and sarcomere (basic unit of a muscle cell) in a striated pattern in green. Isn’t it a cool picture?

The Grandeur of the Grand Canyon

‘Awe-inspiring’ is the word that comes to my mind when I think of the Grand Canyon and it is called so for a good reason. Vision of canyons carved by the mighty Colorado river stretch a vast 200 odd kilometres and its sure to leave you mesmerised.

This summer, I went on a big american road trip from Las Vegas, Nevada to San Francisco, California with my boyfriend and we returned with memories of a lifetime. This post is the first of a series of travel posts about our road trip that I’d like to share with you. It all started with an ‘American Heart Association’ conference in Vegas which we both attended (Yes, for real! Someone came up with the idea of organising a conference in Vegas). Five days in Vegas for the conference were extremely tiring with a busy schedule and the hustle of the most populous city in the world left me extremely exhausted.

My boyfriend fancied driving a Jeep with a four-wheel drive which we picked up from the airport and off we went towards South rim of the Grand Canyon. Before I went on this trip, I did extensive research on which part of GC to go to- The North rim and the South rim are maintained by the National Park Service while the West rim is un by the native Hualapai people. If you are short in time and have just a few hours to peek at what GC looks like, head to the West rim. It is the closest from Vegas if you are heading from that direction. I’ve heard of the ‘Skywalk attraction’ which is very popular with tourists. But, if you are looking for a real park experience and have a few days to spare, head to the north or the south rim. The south rim is more crowded than the north during summer and is also a few degrees warmer due to a difference in elevation. The driving distances between the two (about 4 hours from S-N) make it difficult to visit both if you only have a few days at hand. Mind that accommodation inside the park is booked way in advance during the summer, which is why we had to stay at the nearby town of ‘Flagstaff’.

Once in GC, we received a map and a seasonal newspaper with loads of information about activities at the park.


We walked to the visitors centre to orient ourselves and had a little chat with one of the park rangers who asked, ‘Have you seen it yet?’. We nodded our heads and he told us to walk towards the rim from the visitors centre.

My jaw dropped in astonishment at the first sight of the Grand Canyon. Behind us was a fairly flat land where the national park service made roads and constructed buildings to run the Grand Canyon National Park and in front of us was a marvel of nature- gorges and canyons, high and low, staring at us and spread as far as my eyes could see.

We took a shuttle bus to various view points and thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. To connect with the nature around us and to escape a big part of the crowd, we decided to hike the ‘Bright Angel Trail’ the next day. As we headed down the trail, the bright, sunny skies were overtaken by dark clouds with heavy rain. To save ourselves from being hit by thunder, we had to take shelter for over two hours which meant we couldn’t make it to the ‘Indian Gardens’ part of the hike.  As we made our way to the 3-mile rest house and back, we encountered just a handful of hikers. We were all by ourselves, surrounded by the grandest of canyons, a few birds and wild deers at times.





What’s better than than watch the sun go down the canyons. We went to the ‘Desert view’ point for sunset which also has a watch tower.


You can get a glimpse of the ‘Colorado river’ in this picture taken after sunset.

Coming up next in the travel series is ‘Bryce Canyon’. Stay tuned!

Have you been to the ‘Grand canyon’?  Which activities did you do? To share your experience or to know more information if you are planning a trip, leave a comment. 

Children of Men

I’ve often wondered what it is that actually motivated me to pursue a research career.

As an 8 year old, I remember putting together a magazine for kids living in my neighborhood. Every week, I would write a story or two, compile science or math puzzles with the help of my mom, include news about competitions kids could take part in as well as congratulating those who did well in studies or at sports to make it an interesting read. My mom would then put these individual pages together and get a few photocopies for me, so I could circulate the magazine around (sweet memories).

A couple of years later, I would be singing at a competition but unlike those around me (who were definitely wiser), I wrote and composed the tune for the song myself (of course, I made a fool of myself :D)

At 13, I participated in a science fair organised by ‘Intel’ at that time (way back in 1999 folks!) and realised that my mind works best in finding solutions to problems whose answers were not to be found in books.

At 27, I’m trying to understand why the human heart works the way it works and when things go wrong, as they do in certain life threatening cardiac diseases, i hope to unravel the cause and contribute to finding a fix.

I’m lucky that my Grandparents, Parents, Teachers and those around me encouraged the inquisitive and creative side in me as a child. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have discovered something that I’m very passionate about.




Thanks for reading 🙂


My first post :)

A scientist by day (and night), I turn to blogging to express myself- Hey, now thats my opinion 😉  If its Einstein you are imagining, typing away these words on his mac book air, STOP right there! 😀

I’m 27, have a thing for looking pretty and being fashionable. While I eat, pray and love science, I like to travel every now and then to ease my hectic lifestyle. That should pretty much sum up my blog ‘Formidabulous’- I’ll write (well, i’ll at least try) about beauty, fashion, travel and of course science.