Harshavardhan Reddy Pinninty, Master of Science (5-yr Integrated) in Physics 2009-14 batch of the Center for Integrated Studies and School of Physics at University of Hyderabad shares his life experiences and memories of being at university for UoH Herald. He is currently working on Random Lasers at Nano-Optics and Mesoscopic Optics Laboratory, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research – Mumbai.
I hail from a small village namely Ramula Banda, which is located in Nalgonda district, Telangana state where I was able to live very close to nature. Since childhood, I have tried to understand natural surroundings in my own way. In fact, nature has been the main motivation for me taking up research as a career. I strongly believe that for every research problem, nature holds a solution, but often we ignore it. This is why I feel it is worth studying the fundamentals of natural sciences in greater depth. I consider nature as my first Guru in making me think of myself, while my parents (only visible Gods in my world) taught me the fundamentals of life. In school, my education progressed with the help of many teachers, but it was learning the fundamentals of science after entering university which really formed the basis for my scientific career.
I began my education at Govt. Primary School in our village. Later, to continue my secondary high school education, I stepped towards nearest town Nalgonda from our village as a day scholar. Despite several difficulties, I have successfully finished my X standard with 93% in Telugu medium. Though I initially resisted, to achieve my goal of becoming scientist, I have decided to change my medium to English as most of the research in sciences is expressed and communicated through English language which is common platform for all global scientists.
Along with my academics, I had participated and won almost all literature activities such as essay writing and quiz competitions at school and district level. These helped me a lot at university level especially in winning science quiz competitions and during write-ups to research internships and PhD applications.
I completed my Intermediate (XI-XII standard) Education (M.P.C) in English medium with the help of several English to Telugu translation dictionaries and Telugu medium academic books for understanding the concepts. Though it is difficult, my desire to become a scientist made me to do anything and everything to overcome these language difficulties.
After Intermediate, I have decided to join in a research oriented interdisciplinary program in Basic Sciences when all my friends were joining in Applied Sciences (Engineering) as I realized that Basic Science is the backbone of Applied Science and its knowledge at early stage helps me to understand the surrounding nature in a more fundamental way leading to daily life applications oriented interdisciplinary research in future.
I got admitted to Integrated MSc in Physics program at University of Hyderabad through IIT-JEE rank in 2009 with DST – INSPIRE Scholarship for 5 years during 2009-14. This is one of the best things happened in my life. These five years were the most exciting time of my life. The interdisciplinary approach to the Integrated Program at UoH has helped me a lot. It is the place where I got an opportunity to study different streams in science and decide on which field to specialize. The course was planned in such a way that with basic training in all disciplines and further proper specialization in a particular discipline in later years, a student could get proper foundation and training to contribute effectively as a researcher in future. During initial days, it is quite common to be confused and I was no exception. But slowly I learnt and understood what my interested area is and what I want to be. Whatever I have learnt during those five years had its own contribution to what I am today.
My journey was not so easy starting from Day 1 at university level. I was the only student in our class who finished entire schooling in Telugu medium. But I was not disappointed as I strongly decided to do anything and everything to overcome language difficulties in order to achieve my goal of becoming good scientist. During this process, the help I received from my friends, teachers and IT lab at CIS to improve my language skills is unforgettable.
Like many rural students, I also had to undergo cultural clash due to my village background and an entirely different cosmopolitan environment at university. But, with each day passing by, every element of this campus taught me something new. I have slowly learnt to adjust and be part of vast diversity at UoH.
During my academic journey at UoH, I got a very rare opportunity to represent India at 62nd Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting 2012, Germany with DST-DFG-Lindau Fellowship. Later, out of 592 young researchers from 80 different countries (18 from India) attending Nobel Laureates Meeting, the organizers chosen 6 young researchers as a video diarists based on write-up on a given topic. I was one among the 6 luckiest video diarists and the youngest video diarist ever since its introduction in Nobel Laureates Meetings at Lindau. I got this opportunity when I was just in 3rd year of my undergraduate education. Remaining 5 students from Egypt, Germany, Kenya, South Africa and USA were either senior PhD’s, Postdocs or Assistant Professors. My topic was what science and research are achieving in developing countries. Three short videos were published as part of it. My first video on Establishing friendships at Lindau will be very important was published in the opening ceremony of 62nd Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting in the presence of 27 Nobel Laureates, Presidents, Prime Ministers, VIP’s from several countries; and 592 young researchers from 80 different countries. Later, Easy Journaling magazine placed me at 9th in ten of the Most Creative Journal Keepers and Nature Blog published my article titled Science Mentoring: A Lindau Attendee’s Experience.
I have also participated in Vigyan Jyoti Shibir Camp (organized by JNCASR & KVPY at IISc Bangalore) and Second Science Conclave (organized by IIIT Allahabad) in 2009; Asian Science Camp (organized by HBCSE-TIFR Mumbai) and Radio Astronomy Winter School (organized by NCRA-TIFR & IUCAA Pune) in 2010; and School for Accelerator Science and Technology (jointly organized by KEK (Japan), CERN (Europe), IIT-Bombay, TIFR, VECC, IUAC and SAMEER) in 2012.
During my research journey at UoH, I have worked on series of different projects related to light matter interaction at different time scales (nano, pcio and femto second regimes) under the guidance of Prof. D. Narayana Rao at Laser Lab along with regular academics, during summer and winter vacations. During my project, the help I received from Dr. H. Sekhar and other PhD students of DNR Lab is simply unforgettable.
Additionally, I also got an opportunity to work on a research internship at Femtosecond Laser Spectroscopy Lab at Department of Physics and Graphene Research Center of Faculty of Science in National University of Singapore during May – July, 2013 with full fellowship under the guidance of Prof. Ji Wei.
Till now, I was credited with two research papers in reputed scientific research journals and four in conference proceedings.
Throughout my university education, I have been a keen participant in extra-curricular activities. I thoroughly enjoy the challenges that these activities have and this has helped me in developing my interpersonal and organizational skills with an increased sense of self-confidence. I undertook various leadership roles at the university like class representative, convener, placement coordinator and volunteer for several organizations that gave me ample exposure to understand many real life situation in a practical way.
Along with academics, I worked as a convener of Junior Science Club (affiliated to Indian Physics Association) for first 3 years promoting and developing scientific temper among university community by organizing several activities related to science that includes scientific talks by students and professors, documentaries, debates, quizzes, brain teasers and science fests like Vigyanotsav. I have also actively participated in social service as I believe the ultimate aim of science is to serve the society. In 2013, I have started Vivekananda Youth Forum along with two M.Tech friends and worked for next 2 years promoting selfless service within the university community by organizing several activities.
It is always refreshing to remember Junior Science Club and Vivekananda Youth Forum organizations that got immense love and support from all sections of the UoH community and people did find it as a voluntary forum where they can join irrespective of their all other backgrounds, get exposed to and contribute their bit towards promoting scientific temper and selfless service within the university community and national at large scale. Of course, I learnt a lot in the process.
I have also participated in sports and science quiz competitions. Our team won a university level Science Quiz competition in 2011 and in the same year went to finals in Mimamsa 2011, a national level Science Quiz organized by IISER Pune.
Though all professors at UoH are expert in their chosen areas of specialization and significantly contributed to my growth as a young researcher, the four pillars to my success – Prof. D. Narayana Rao, Prof. K.P.N. Murthy, Prof. V. Kannan and Prof. R. Ramaswamy who inspired me and motivated me towards scientific research especially during the initial days of my IMSc course at university is unforgettable.
Before finishing my course at UoH in 2014, I received selection offers from 23 universities (applied 25) from 8 different countries (Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, UK and USA) for PhD in Nanomaterials related fields with full fellowship. But I decided to decline them and go for more specialized research areas like random lasers instead of already well developed research areas like nanomaterials. I feel no regret as the scientific world is always full opportunities for young researchers and open for new ideas.
In my university life, I got several opportunities to meet so many new friends from more than 80 different countries worldwide and from almost all states within India at different national and internal platforms. I established good contacts with them and made lot of friends as I believe the friendship I get at this level is going to be the basic platform for interdisciplinary and collaborative research in future in the process of finding the hidden secrets of nature.
Below picture is group photo of my Integrated MSc-mates. We studied, played and did everything altogether for five golden years of my life.
UoH is rightly called ‘Mini India’ with vast diversity in culture, tradition, ideologies, and is perfect example of coexistence of altogether. It is so full of learning. We can see green everywhere and the campus is full of life. On the university campus we could see students from all over India learning together about each other’s culture, lifestyle and festivals etc. I must admit that UoH has one of the best culture of close and healthy interaction with faculty and administration and openness to support various initiatives to nurture other forms of learning for students. Everyone falls in love with natural beauty of the campus and I was no exception.
Finally, UoH gave me an excellent platform to interact with many students from all over India and explore my inner strengths, to do lots of experiments with real life situations, to learn, unlearn and relearn many things. I have got amazing lifetime friends and teachers during my stay at the UoH and feel very privileged about it. I consider the purpose of my life is fulfilled, once I achieve my goal of becoming a good scientist, taking science to remote villages and developing people’s awareness of what can be achieved through science.
I was educated, inspired and connected at University of Hyderabad. So, my past, present and future success is undoubtedly dedicated to University of Hyderabad!
Harshavardhan can be reached via his website or email: firstname.lastname@example.org