Published on 07 Nov 2023

Anecdotes and Science: Musings on My Career Path by Prof Vidya Madhavan

IAS STEM Graduate Colloquium Jointly Organised with the Graduate Students' Clubs

The IAS and the Graduate Students’ Clubs of EEE and SPMS jointly organised the STEM Graduate Colloquium Webinar featuring Prof Vidya Madhavan from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on 7 November 2023.

The webinar commenced with Prof Madhavan's detailed explanation of the Kondo Effect, emphasising the significance of Dilute Magnetic Impurities and the resulting Kondo Resonance. Her expertise illuminated the audience on the profound impact of these interactions, unveiling the unusual properties of dilute magnetic alloys.

However, Prof Madhavan's discourse transcended scientific intricacies. The seminar pivoted towards valuable career insights, resonating deeply with the attending students and researchers. Drawing from her extensive experience, she shared key advice, urging attendees to be intentional in choosing post-doctoral positions. "Pick your post-doc position with intention," she emphasised, stressing the importance of complementary skills and group productivity.

In a striking reminder of the challenges faced by scientists, Prof Madhavan addressed issues such as isolation, bias, and rejection. She advocated for building a supportive network, both personally and professionally, to combat stressors and foster resilience. Encouraging a holistic approach to life, she stressed the importance of setting aside time for physical and social activities and prioritising mental and physical health.

Prof Madhavan's insights extended to the application process for jobs in academia. She advised crafting research plans meticulously, seeking feedback, and preparing and practicing presentations. Emphasising the significance of fit with department priorities, she highlighted that securing a job goes beyond one's academic record.

During the engaging Q&A session, attendees probed further into work-life balance, seeking more advice on navigating the challenges of a career in science. Prof Madhavan's responses underscored the importance of aligning one's work with fundamental questions, being open to serendipity, and fearlessly changing directions when necessary.

The seminar left an indelible mark on the audience, not only deepening their understanding of complex physics concepts but also offering invaluable guidance on crafting a fulfilling and sustainable scientific career. Prof Vidya Madhavan's wisdom continues to inspire the next generation of scientists, reminding them that the pursuit of knowledge is not just about discoveries in the lab but also about personal growth, resilience, and meaningful connections within the scientific community.

"A professor giving advices to Phd students and post-docs. It is very useful. Hope to have more of this kind of experience sharing from world known professors." - Ferdinandus (PhD Student, CCEB)

"It gives a refreshing and holistic point of view of the academia world, starting from graduate student level to professorship." - Choong Li Yan Anthony (PhD Student, MSE)

"Useful to hear the perspectives on hiring and managing one's research work from an experienced researcher." - Lock Wen Hao Daniel (PhD Student, MSE)

Written by Lu Xinpei | EEE Graduate Students' Club