Postdoctoral Trainee in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Rashmi Raj is a postdoctoral trainee in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering. Her research focuses on changing the response in bacteria to lessen the stress experienced during chemical compound production and improve yields. Rashmi serves on the executive committee of the Northwestern University Postdoctoral Association (NUPA), a trainee-run organization that develops and supports the postdoctoral community by fostering professional and social interactions.
What have been some of the most memorable twists and turns of your career?
My graduate studies were focused on enzyme engineering in bioremediation, and although I initially focused on the molecular level, the focus has now shifted to strain engineering, which was unexpected but exciting. I particularly enjoyed working with high-throughput machinery to further develop screening methods for enzyme engineering, and although it was challenging to work out the kinks, it was fulfilling when ultimately successful.
I also never expected to embrace scientific communication but have come to realize that I enjoy sharing my research, particularly to demystify the impressions some may have about biological engineering.
What do you find both rewarding and challenging about your research and/or work?
I find the mental aspect of research to be the most challenging as it can be incredibly frustrating to face setbacks. However, when you have achieved something, it’s greatly rewarding to know that you have personally contributed to furthering knowledge in a particular area.
What is the biggest potential impact or implication of your work?
Bacteria are often used to produce many interesting chemicals, such as perfumes, medicine, and food products, but this requires a large number of changes within the bacteria, which causes bacterial stress and results in lower than desired yields. I hope that my work will help drive more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives to current industrial compound production.
Whom do you admire in your field and otherwise, and why?
I admire the people I’ve had the fortune to work with during my career as they’ve all played a part in shaping me and the person I’ve become.
I enjoy being in the Midwest and have come to appreciate the immense variety of programs and opportunities available to members of the Northwestern community.
What books are on your bedside table?
The Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. It’s a great way to lose myself in a whole new world, and although I’ve read it countless times, I never tire of the level of detail and attention devoted to creating these fictional landscapes and histories.
How would your closest friends describe you?
My friends would probably describe me as an incredibly strong person who cares for them and tries to help in whatever way I can.
What advice would you give your younger self or someone considering a similar path?
I would recommend not worrying too much about life not going according to plan and focusing only on what is within their control.
Tell us about a current achievement or something you're working on that excites you.
This year, I was elected to the executive committee of the Northwestern University Postdoctoral Association (NUPA) and am excited to be working with a group of incredibly accomplished individuals and to be learning from them. I am fortunate to have benefited from the amazing programs organized by past members and hope I too can contribute and help others in the future.
What are you most proud of in your career to date?
Winning awards for my research work was incredibly rewarding as it served as a validation that my efforts are being recognized and encouraged me to strive for greater success.
Published: June 14, 2021
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