The Voice Of PhD : Exploring The Wonders Of Fluid Dynamics As A Physicist


About Our Esteemed Guest

Ms. Priyanka Maity is a Physicist conducting her research in the field of Fluid Dynamics. 

A brief overview of her long career track in science:

  • M.Sc. in Physics from I.I.T. Madras (2005-2007).
  • Ph.D. in Fluid Dynamics from I.I.T. Kharagpur (2008-2016).
  • Worked as an Asst. Prof. in Physics Dept. in N.I.T. Jamshedpur (2016-2017).
  • 1st Post-Doc from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bangalore (2017-2020).
  •     Currently pursuing 2nd Post-Doc from Institute for Fluid and Thermodynamics, Technical    University of Ilmenau, Germany (2020-present).

What’s Your Field Of Research?

I work in the field of fluid dynamics, specifically in turbulent flows and thermal convection. I do simulations to investigate these kinds of flows. 

Why This Research Field Is Significant?

The study of thermal convection which are turbulent in nature is very significant because we often have these kinds of system in our atmosphere. For example, 

  • atmospheric convection which leads to the formation of clouds.
  • Oceanic currents are which are generated due to oceanic convection.  Differential heating creates a temperature difference on the top of the bottom layer of the ocean.
  • Also very important in astrophysical conviction. For example a conviction on the outer layer of the sun and stars. Sometimes we can see spots on Jupiter. 

How Did You Get Into This Field? A Brief Career Journey.

I did both my Masters and Bachelors in Physics. Then I studied various courses related to fluid dynamics and non-linear dynamics. I wanted to do my research in some field in the classical regime, as well as analytics and the field should have an apt scope of simulation. Then I came across this field of Fluid Dynamics while applying for my Ph.D. Here I can study small systems, various instabilities, chaos and can do simulations, experiments, analytical calculations, as well as modeling. Then I found this field has very much application in industry. After that, I started to apply and got an offer from IIT Kharagpur and joined there. 

Which Criteria A Science Student Must Have To Start A Research Career In This Field?

I think the first and foremost criterion in starting a research career in any field is that you should be really interested in the topic that you are about to study. And also you should have a lot of patience and perseverance. Because research is not like you do something and immediately get a result. It might take a long time to get prominent results and sometimes you also have to change your field. So I think you need a lot of patience and interest and you should be actually prepared to work very hard. 

Career Opportunities In This Field.

After pursuing research or Ph.D., there are many scopes where you can diversify your field. If I talk of particularly fluid dynamics then the first and foremost option is that you can join in academia, research institutes as a research scientist or faculty. In India, DRDO, and ISRO deal with fluid dynamics simulation. Various industries, like industries dealing with car manufacturing, rocket propulsion, and thermal engineering, all hire fluid dynamists. So I think there are a lot of opportunities. 

Ph.D. & Two Post-Docs: You Have A Unique Career Track. It Needs Lots Of Patience And Focus. How Are You Managing Your Life And Maintaining Your Energy And Enthusiasm?

Yes. I have a very long career in academia spanning over PhDs and two Post-Docs. It required a lot of patience. But with the love for the subject, it comes automatically within. Also, I would like to state that apart from academics I focus on short-term goals. I believe that these short-term goals really keep you motivated. If you can achieve something it boosts your confidence. Apart from academics I have a life outside academics to keep me busy and to get my creative pursuits, I like to play music, sports and dance which keeps me busy. It really helps me to get a healthy mind and body which help me to concentrate on my work. 

Also, I think it is very nice and important to have mentored in your life. Mentor not only your Ph.D. guide or Post-Doc guide but the mentor who are your friends and seniors who have gone through this phase of life. Then you can talk to them that you are feeling low and get some idea of how to get motivated. Talk to the people having a positive mindset and they will encourage you. To go about this path of Ph.D. and Post-Docs, it is really important to have a good mentor in your life. 

How Is The Research Experience In Post-doc Different From Ph.D.?

For me personally, Post-Doc has been very different from Ph.D. In Ph.D., you are less confident as you are in the learning process. You take quite some time to do your research. But it is a process that helps you to grow. And also you are under the condition that you have to get a degree out of the Ph.D. from the supervision of your guide or the institute. So somewhere there is a boundation that you have to complete it. You have to endure the process and tolerate the stress. 

Post-Docs on the other hand are very relaxing. You already have a degree and have a mindset that if this Post-Doc does not work out, you can leave it and go for some other Post-Docs. You already went through the process of a Ph.D. and know how to do research. You are very confident now and you know the techniques you need to solve a problem. So you are much more confident and mature and don’t have the boundation that I have to get a degree. For me, Post-Docs are much more relaxing and productive. You know how to deal with various people, like your supervisor, and how to give a talk. You are already prepared for it. 

Guide to Ph.D. students: How To Choose A Suitable Post-Doc Position?

I think the first criterion for choosing a Post-Doc position should always be the topic of your interest. The second important thing is choosing a supervisor with whom you are going to apply. You should check how many publications the supervisor has in a year. Does he/she publish well? In your Post-Doc, you are expected to publish a lot of papers. So always go for a supervisor who encourages you to publish well and provides good recommendations when you will apply for the positions. Thirdly the supervisor and as well as the institute you are applying for should be well known. When you will apply for jobs or positions these things matter a lot to influence people. The last thing you have to consider is the social life of the place you are applying for. You should not be bounded by the academic. You should explore the place and have a kind of comfort zone. For example, there are many people who don’t want to leave their motherland to pursue the Post-Doc. 

You should consider all of these before applying for Post-Docs. 

The Life Of A Researcher Is Not So Easy. It Has Many Dimensions And Each Dimension Comes With Its Own Challenges. Can You Please Share Some Of Your Experiences In This Regard?

I agree that the life of a researcher is not easy. It is quite stressful and you need a lot of patience and perseverance as I already told you. I think the most stressful part is to find a good place or permanent position in academia. It is very tough according to me. Post-Doc contracts are for a maximum of 2 or 3 years. Then you keep on moving from one place to another and it needs a lot of courage to start new all over again. This is the worst part about the research.

The best part about the research which I like is: you can visit conferences, and meet like-minded people. 

So the worst part is the movement from one place to another and starting all over again. Finding a position in academia is really very difficult. But I think if you are really hard-working, you will definitely get it. Nowadays, there are many openings in the industry as well. One should always be open to accept new fields and new challenges. Then it will not be that difficult. Most importantly if you love research you will overcome these all. 

Interviewed By : Somedatta Ghosh (Pal), Medical Writer ( Regulatory Affairs & Medico marketing)


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