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Interview: Dr Aravind Rengan, a medical graduate who went into research and won awards

Dr Aravind Kumar Rengan is a medical graduate who went into pure research and won the Department of Biotechnology’s ‘Innovative Young Biotechnologist Award’ (IYBA-DBT), 2015; the Department of Science & Technology’s INSPIRE Faculty Award (Biomedical) 2015; the IIT Bombay Institute Award for ‘Excellence In PhD’, 2014-2016; the Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Award, 2015.

Dr Aravind Kumar Rengan
Dr Aravind Kumar Rengan

After completing his MBBS, Dr Rengan chose to do M Tech in nanomedicine at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and later did his PhD in Biomedical Engineering from IIT Bombay. He is currently serving as an assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), Hyderabad.

In an email interview with India Medical Times, Dr Aravind Rengan talks about his interests in science and research; how he was made to opt for MBBS which later helped him choose his career in biomedical research.

Please tell us a few words about yourself. How’s Dr Aravind Kumar Rengan as a person?

I am an easily approachable jovial person. I love exploring new things.

You’re a doctor who turned out to be a researcher, which is not that common. Tell us about your career.

Though entering the pure research domain after MBBS is not very common in India, still there are many clinicians who are doing good research either in tertiary hospitals or in institutes of national importance. I was more interested in engineering stream than medicine. After my MBBS, I did Masters in Nanomedical Sciences at Amrita Centre for Nanosciences and Molecular Medicine and then did PhD in the same field at IIT Bombay. After my PhD, I became an assistant professor at IIT Hyderabad.

When you wanted to decide on which path to go, to practise medicine or to pursue research, how did you choose your path? Was it difficult?

It was not a tough decision. I didn’t want to pursue medicine. I wanted to be an engineer and (thought that I) was good at it. So, from the very beginning I was on the look out for opportunities to take up a career in engineering. Research in nanomedicine seemed (to me) the right blend of both engineering and medicine. Hence, I chose it.

This is quite a question to be asked to most doctors of our country, did you join MBBS out of your own interest?

No. I was convinced by my parents and teachers to take up MBBS, as there were no doctors in my family and it was a government seat. But today when I look back, I am happy about joining medicine. If I had taken engineering, I wouldn’t have got an opportunity to enter nanomedical research and would have missed this interview as well… 🙂

Were you interested in science and research since the beginning or did medicine direct you into it?

Yes, I was and am interested in science and research from the beginning… But medicine did direct me to take up research in nanomedical sciences.

Who was your inspiration? What are all the hardships that you faced in life?

I get inspired by many scientists every now and then. It was not at all hard, as I enjoy doing research… the hardest part, so far, has been completing MBBS 🙂

What are your areas of interest? What are your goals in the long run? Can we expect a Nobel Prize some day?

Ha ha… Nobel Prize cannot be a target… Doing good research is my short term and long term goal. My areas of interest include cancer, nanomedicine, photothermal therapy, theranostics and nanotoxicology.

Many medical students these days are not aware of what to do after MBBS; there seems to be options other than the obvious one (post graduation). Could you please enlighten them?

There are a number of options after MBBS. In this age of internet, everyone is smart enough to find those options by themselves. To name a few, after MBBS, one can go to do M Tech in Medical Biotechnology, Nanomedicine; Masters in Medical Sciences and Technology, Biomedical Engineering, Public Health, MBA etc. Civil service is also a good option.

Prof Sandhya S Visweswariah, chairperson of the department of molecular reproduction, development and genetics at the Indian Institute of Science, during her talk in a UG Medical Conference at CMC, Vellore, spoke about the possibility of medical students entering basic science research. She was even talking about making an MD-PhD programme for such interested candidates. What’s your opinion on this?

Yes, MD-PhD is a welcome change to boost medical research in India.

What is the scope of CT/MRI kind of scanning modalities in future? Will there be better new technologies?

Of course, Yes. The CT/MRI modalities in future will have improved features with more sensitivity/specificity. In nanomedicine, there are many on going research on nano-contrast CT/MRI imaging agents.

What is the state of research and development in India? What’s your opinion in developing it further?

Indian R&D is doing well in the international arena. There are many opportunities for further improvement of the current status. The mindset of Indian diaspora is also changing. I see a bright future ahead for those entering R&D in India.

For the medical students who are interested in research but are hesitant to go into it, please give some words of wisdom.

Some risk will have to be taken to venture into research. But if you are totally interested in it then you yourself will be able to pave a roadmap for your career. I would like to repeat the lines from the movie ‘3 Idiots’ — “Follow your heart and do what interests you. Success will follow you.” All the Best!

by Usha Nandini

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