18 Jan Kalpana stories-Prof. Shobhana Narasimhan
Shobhana Narasimhan is a Professor of Theoretical Sciences at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore, India. She is a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India. Prof. Narasimhan is a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India since 2011. In 2010 she was awarded the prestigious Stree Shakti Samman Science Award of the Indian Academy of Sciences and the Kalpana Chawla Woman Scientist Award of the Government of Karnataka. Prof. Shobhana Narasimhan has been elected as an International Honorary Member to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Narasimhan earned her B.Sc. in Physics from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai in 1983, and her M.Sc. in Physics from IIT Bombay in 1985. She received her Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from Harvard University in 1991. During her entire academic career, she has been a fierce advocate of women in science and has been involved with different organizations worldwide working for the same cause.
It is difficult in being a woman in science. All over the world women face similar problems. It is hard for everyone in one way or another. For me, I have struggled to balance my role as a daughter and as a scientist. Other woman finds it difficult balancing their roles as a scientist, wife, mother, daughter. Whenever I talk to my female students at different levels of career each one of them is overcome difficulties reaching where they are now. I am proudest of the fact I did not give up. Find the strength not to give up within yourself. If needed talk to other people to help you find that strength. Form a network of women who can support each other. We need to support and cheer each other in low times. Never think that you are lacking something, you are not good enough as most of the time these are external factors that make you think so. The biggest realization for me was to understand this, that the system is rigged to make you believe that you are not good enough. Once you realize this you can achieve anything you dream of”, said Prof. Narasimhan.
Women in general tend to put a burden on themselves. We need to stop doing that. Women need to strive so as they are not stuck with imposter syndrome. The same applies to men as well at times. Women need to talk about the difficulties they face not just in science but in life as well. “Identify people whom you can talk to freely and honestly. Create a platform for you to express yourself. Mentors can provide such platforms”, said Prof. Narasimhan.
“ I fell in love with physics and I never looked back. I knew irrespective of any difficulties that I might face I wanted to work in physics. My parents were supportive of me, but I had this one teacher who was not that supportive. He used to tell me I am like his daughter but at the same time also said to me that why did I need to make a living doing physics as I am a girl. It took me some time to understand that he was undermining my potential. This kind of sexism has reduced nowadays but still, you might face such individuals. Develop self-confidence and forge ahead boldly with your passion”, said Prof. Narasimhan.
She thinks that things are changing in India. She truly believes that science offers you the freedom to think and grow. Especially working in academia, she says, “ Academic research offers a lot of freedom and growth potential. It also has other perks such as a flexible work routine and most importantly an opportunity to interact and learn from younger generation students. Each student is unique and working with each one of them teaches you to be a better scientist and a human being”. She also cautions girls that they need to be careful in choosing their life partners. “ A good partner will support you and understand you while also be there to grow and advance in your career”, added Prof. Narasimhan.
She says working with VigyanShaala International as an advisor has been great. She feels programs like Kalpana will help in the upliftment and education of young girls in our society.
Author- Dr. Arti Dumbrepatil, Science Writer/Communicator.
Co-lead and chief communicator for Program Kalpana of VigyanShaala International