The Mehta Family Centre for Engineering in Medicine

Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur

Mohit Kumar Jolly
[BTech-2010, MTech-2012, BSBE IIT Kanpur]

Assistant Professor
Centre for BioSystems Science and Engineering,
Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore

MFCEM: Being part of the Academia—was it a natural career path having done your BTech from IIT Kanpur?

MKJ: At IIT Kanpur, thanks to diverse courses in computational/mathematical biology and biomechanics,

I got interested in applying tools from physics and mathematics to understanding the dynamics of biological systems but was not very sure how exactly to proceed to pursue research in that direction. During my M Tech with Prof. Pradip Sinha, I started developing mathematical models for planar cell polarity with Suhail and Amit, and came across dynamical systems approaches being applied to cancer progression, which I got very excited about. I pursued my PhD at Rice University with two leading theoretical biophysicists, where I worked on mathematical models for cancer metastasis and initiated experimental and clinical collaborations to test our model predictions. Experiencing those instances of synergy was my ‘point of no return’ to be in academia.

In my current role, that synergy continues - I get most energized by the lab members around. Our team is quite dynamic and interdisciplinary, with undergraduate students (Bachelors, Masters), PhD students and postdoctoral fellows from diverse backgrounds (cancer biology, physics, engineering, mathematics, bioinformatics), all enriching one another and collectively thinking about cancer as a complex adaptive dynamic system.

MFCEM: Industry, Academia or Entrepreneurship—how should a graduating student make a choice, if at all; have these distinctions blurred over time?

MKJ: Absolutely; these distinctions are getting increasingly blurred with time. Many academicians are now turning entrepreneurs or moving to top industry positions. Also, within academia, the rate at which disciplinary boundaries are getting smudged now is unprecedented. Thus, my suggestion would be to keep one’s eyes, ears and mind open to opportunities that come one’s way and stay in the ‘growth mode’ as much as possible.

MFCEM: In today’s digital age, with unrestricted resource availability, can graduates equip themselves better, be better skilled?

MKJ: Yes, I completely agree. Over the past two years of the pandemic, our lab had many bachelors/masters students across disciplines and institutes, who all picked up various skills working remotely and attending various online conferences/workshops. Many top universities now have ‘flipped classroom’ strategies where students go through the content available before the class and then discuss concepts/questions during the class. Thus, in today’s age, I don’t see a dearth of opportunities to self-learn/update.

MFCEM: You have a keen interest in Science Communication. How viable a career option is it in India?

MKJ: Over the past 2-3 years, I have seen on social media a surge of science communication initiatives based in India; for instance, BioPatrika founded by BSBE alumnus Dr. Virender Singh. I am very optimistic towards it becoming a viable career option in times to come, given the encouragement by funding agencies too such as AWSAR competition organized by Department of Science and Technology (DST). Under a broader gamut of activities, science policy making/ science illustration are also careers where many transferrable skills that we have been learning can be applied effectively.

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The Bhupat & Jyoti Mehta Family Foundation

MFCEM at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur is generously supported by the Mehta Family Foundation.

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