January 2011

Interest, not salary, should determine your career

Prof Venkataraman Nobel laureate Venkataraman Ramakrishnan took a 40 per cent cut in his pay when he joined Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory, Cambridge. But, then, it is his work on "structure and function of ribosome" that he did here that earned him the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

"Go for the best opportunity, even if it means it will not be the highest paid," says Prof Venkataraman, who is more popular as "Venki".

Prof Venkataraman was here in India recently (2010-2011) where he spoke at a number of functions and interacted with students.

Is there any magic formula for success? Prof Venkataraman says the only magic formula for success is that there is no magic formula.

"Just do what you are interested in doing without expectations of any reward," he says. "The choice of your career," says Prof Venkataraman, "should be determined by your interest in it rather than extraneous considerations like status or salary".

Prof Venkataraman is an ardent advocate of a multi-disciplinary approach to education. It is important that education should be broad-based with physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology to be taught at the initial levels to be followed by the subject of specialization,he says. "It is bad that biologists should not be learning basic mathematics or physics," he says.

Incidentally, Prof Venkataraman himself graduated in physics, then moved on to biology and won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. He earned his B.Sc in Physics (1971) from Baroda University in Gujarat and later migrated to the US to continue his studies where he later got settled and attained US citizenship. He earned his Ph.D in Physics from Ohio University in the US and was later a graduate student (biology) at the University of California from 1976-78. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemistry, Yale University, from 1978 to 1982.

Prof Venkataramanion informed his young audience that he had appeared for the entrance examination to the Indian Institutes of Technology but had failed to make it. "This should motivate you into thinking that if despite failing to make it to the IITs, this guy could be successful, we too can do it," he said.

Prof Venkataraman shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Thomas A Steitz and Ada E Yonath. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2010.

Prof Venkataraman, Steitz and Yonath were jointly awarded the 2009 Nobel prize in chemistry for their studies of the structure and function of the ribosome. An understanding of the structure and function of the ribosome is necessary for the development of new antibiotics for the treatment of diseases.

Some useful links for
your career:

  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
  • IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu

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