Dreams come true

It so happens that for Professor Pratibha Gai, accomplishments are result of the achievements of her dreams. The progress she was able to initiate under her microscope got her closer to finding new medicines and energy sources. But beware, she is not a dreamer, and her accomplishment as a scientist is the result of a great amount of hard work.

DiscovHER - What stimulated your interest in science?

Pratibha Gai - As a young girl I was fascinated by the logic behind science and how everyday things could be explained on a rational basis. My parents and school teachers in India encouraged me to excel in my studies. When my older brothers chose engineering I was inspired to take up science. As a girl in a male-oriented culture, the route to high quality scientific education for me was through scholarships. In my teens, I was selected as a National Science Talent Search scholar in the physical sciences in prestigious India-wide scientific tests organised by a branch of Science Ministry (National Council for Education, Research and Training) in the federal Government and my interest in science started in earnest.

D/H - Is there a specific person that motivated you to become a scientist?

PG - Reading about Marie Curie when I was in school, the first woman in space and the man on the moon, all inspired me tremendously to become a scientist so that I could understand the world around me. The courage of these people was truly inspirational. They also showed that anything is possible with enough imagination, courage and effort!

D/H - Like these people, you worked hard to succeed in your scientific career…

PG - Indeed, experimental physical science demands dedication and hard work. But it reveals the wonderful world of the fundamental building blocks of matter. I wanted to do Physical science after reading about leading scientists who discovered many elements and explained scientific processes we know today. I wanted to do experimental science that no one has been able to do before and thought it to be impossible to do; by watching atoms work in living chemical reactions! The work has opened up a whole new area of research, observing working materials in reaction environments at the atomic scale. This is unveiling many secrets of chemical processes for new medicines for healthcare, green energy to reduce global warming, efficient fuel cells for power and much more. A very exciting time.

D/H - You talk about the excitement you get from your research, so can you tell us more about your work?

PG - My own research includes the development of novel nanomaterials and processes for pollution control, new medicines for public health and clean energy sources. In the area of pollution control, many countries have environmental legislations to reduce toxic gases, and nanoscale (a billionth of a metre scale) materials are at the forefront of addressing these issues. Nanomaterials are also important in developing new medicines for healthcare. I feel that most problems can be managed through better science more imaginatively applied. After all, modern society would not exist without science. Better public engagement is necessary to allay any scientifically unfounded fears in the general public about some technologies.

D/H - Outside of your own field of study, what aspirations do you have for science in general?

PG - My personal scientific dream is to reach the highest echelons of scientific research and use my developments to find effective new medicines for human healthcare and energy sources. I would like science to find sustainable energy security, water and food security for all on the planet; convert all waste into energy efficiently and provide environmental protection. I would like to use my scientific developments to contribute to these endeavours, and maybe make the world a better place.

More about Professor Pratibha Gai:

For Women in Science

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