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Spotlight on Manish Kumar: Postdoctoral Researcher in Neurobiology

Created: July 2, 2018
Manish Kumar

Manish Kumar is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Neurobiology with a PhD in physics who is developing a class of microscopes that can study neurons in action. He is proud that his current work can advance medical research, particularly in neuroscience, by making advanced microscopes faster and more affordable.

How would you describe your research?
I apply my knowledge of optics to make advanced microscopes for the biological research community. In particular, I develop a class of microscopes called light-sheet microscopes, which are able to image faster in a scattering tissue of a biological sample. This allows my colleagues to study neurons in the brain of a living specimen.

What have been some of the most memorable twists and turns of your career?
Joining the Department of Neurobiology at Northwestern University is definitely the most memorable twist in my career. I am a physicist by training and had never thought that I would ever work in a field related to neuroscience and develop some cool microscopes.

Tell us what inspired your research and/or work.
My previous training during my PhD program had mostly been centered around learning the core ideas and principles of how light can be manipulated to do some cool stuff. But I always wanted to do something more applied that would directly benefit the scientific community. So here I am doing some microscopy development specially targeted towards giving an edge to various neuroscience-related experiments and studies.

Whom do you admire in your field and otherwise, and why?
Although not in my field, I have huge regard for Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. He was one of the most prolific scientists of India who went on to become the favorite president of India. I got to see and listen to him during every important stage of my life. In addition to his scientific achievements, I have always felt inspired by his simplicity, humility, and stress on a values-based education.

What do you find both rewarding and challenging about your research and/or work?
The most rewarding thing about my research is knowing that my work will enable more and more labs to afford an advanced microscope and provide a push to the kind of studies they will be able to conduct. At the same time, knowing that there are so many great researchers and scientists working towards a similar goal provides both encouragement and challenge.

How do you unwind after a long day?
I most enjoy biking around while looking for some cool birds through my binoculars. If stuck too long in the lab, then going home and cooking food with some nice music is always cherish-able.

Tell us about a current achievement or something you're working on that excites you.
I have been working on developing a special microscope for more than a year, and I am happy that this work was just published in Optics Express journal. The microscope employs a special technique called light-sheet microscopy, and I am happy to see the positive response from peers in the microscopy community regarding this work. I'm also happy to get a provisional patent (first one for me) filed regarding this work.

What inspires you?
Knowing that each one of us has the power to bring the change and make the future brighter for everyone is a true inspiration for me.

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