Zentangled in Creativity

Faces: Vaishnavi Padaki cover

Vaishnavi Padaki | Pune, India

Class of 2020 | Ph.D. Canidate Microbiology | @entangle_zentangle

Provost Fellowship 2020-2021 | Pernot Art-Science Fellowship 2022-2023

My Driving Force

I am most passionate about understanding the fundamentals of science, and it is a driving force for me to develop creative ideas. I am from India and moved to the US three years ago with my partner. I am an artist-scientist who loves integrating art and science and communicating with a broader audience. My Ph.D. research focuses on volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and their circulation between phytoplankton and bacterioplankton in marine systems. Volatile organic compounds are small gaseous molecules that are important for climate regulation. I am interested to learn the underlying mechanisms of VOC circulation by studying the genetics of algae and bacteria. My discoveries will expand our understanding of the environment and climate change questions.

Intertwining Art and Science

I have a sophisticated understanding of art as well. I use zentangles as a form of art to represent my works. I transcribe different forms of art into zentangles. Initially, my science was inspired by art. After working on the Art-Sci project, I have understood that it is an iterative process of continuous improvement.

My other hobbies are experimenting with food, creating new spice mixes in different types of cuisines, and solving complicated jigsaw puzzles in my leisure time.

The Hands-on Approach

My entire research project is hands-on! It starts with growing microbes. Next, I measure the gasses they produce and their physiology. Then, I analyze the concentrations of those gases and relate them to properties that are meaningful to the marine scientists. Being able to do hands-on science in the department of Microbiology in the Halsey Lab was my main goal in pursuing a Ph.D.

Collaboration of Scientists

My Ph.D. project is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is in collaboration with Dr. Mayali at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL). I had the opportunity to visit LLNL in California. There, I learned Nano Secondary Ionization Mass Spectroscopy (NanoSIMS). This amazing opportunity resulted in an understanding of VOC circulation at a higher resolution. A valuable part of my visit was communicating with a group of scientists who are working on a similar biological system. I came to an appreciation that our collective efforts are creating a full and detailed understanding of an important process.

From Medical to Microbiology

There have been multiple moments in my life that caused changes in my perspective for the better. One of the major shifts was my decision to become a microbiologist. In high school, I wanted to become a medical doctor. After barely falling short of securing admission to medical school, I still wanted to enter academics. I started to read the works of great scientists like Dr. Lynn Margulis, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, and Dr. Bonnie Bassler. I began to appreciate microbes and microbiological research. After this, I decided to change my professional goals and pursue an academic career in Microbiology.

Check It off the List

I was fortunate enough in my personal life that my parents and in-laws have always been supportive about my choices in education and professional development. My mother graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in India. In India, as the competition is very high, there was always the stress of being in the top ranks to have a continuous source of funding and scholarships to complete your degrees. I tried to stay positive and motivated during those times. I have always addressed them one step at a time and being organized helps me resolve issues or problems in life. No matter what the task is, I turn it into a checklist that I complete systematically.

Engage in Diversity

My advice to the incoming students is to communicate and participate in every activity you can to get engaged with your department and college. Meeting new people and a diverse group of scientists at OSU has improved my perspective on science. Interdisciplinary growth in my scientific approach is because of the communication and several seminars and meeting events CAS gives us during the terms.