Seerat Virk Gill


Name: Seerat Virk Gill

Occupation: Doctoral Researcher

Employer: Memorial University

Education: Ph.D. Organic Chemistry

What does your typical workday involve?

My Ph.D. research has to be completed in a 4-5 years time frame. I work with a team of 3 other PhD researchers under the direct supervision of my Professor. My work is indoors in a laboratory setting, where each of us, have our own assigned workspaces. I set up chemical reactions, purify compounds, analyse them using several techniques and then by putting together the data and some thorough  literature review, I figure out what exactly is the outcome of the reaction I have performed. Once we have good amount of novel work in the area, our goal is to publish our work in reputed Scientific journals so that our results are accessible to the greater scientific community as well. Depending on the project and the amount of work involved, it can be assigned solo or as a team, depending on our supervisor. I usually like to start my day early, around 8 am and work till 5 or 6 pm, but this is flexible. Basically, of the 8-9 hours of work, 2-3 hours are spent studying literature and the rest doing experiments.

What do you most love about your profession? Why did you choose this career?

Working In Science keeps me thrilled, a successful chemical reaction, a new technique learnt, learning about new chemical transformations, all this not only makes me happy at what I am doing today but also extremely excited at where I am going to be one day with all this great deal of organic chemistry I know! It is absolutely fantastic to be mastering the art of organic synthesis, the transformation of simple molecules into complex molecules of interest.

I loved Science back as a kid in school. Although I grew fond of High school Physics and Mathematics as well, but Organic Chemistry had me bewitched! I would often dream of organic molecules personified as the people in my life, it was a really strange feeling. Organic Chemistry became a really fascinating part of my life, I could dream it, I could relate it with life in general, I could feel it around me all the time! All this curiosity, laid my strong foundation in the subject and I knew I wanted it to be my vocation and not just an avocation!

When did you realize you wanted to work in STEM?

I think right when I was out of high school, I was pretty confident that I wanted to pursue a Science degree and I guess the love for Organic Chemistry just followed!

What were your favorite subjects in school?

Its funny but I remember I really enjoyed studying all the subjects in school, be it science, math, languages or crafts except Geography, I just didn’t seem to get a knack for it! The maps, soils, rivers and topographies did not interest me at all!

What advice would you give girls, who are still in school, who might be considering a career like yours?

I would like to tell all the young girls out there, that Science is a wonderfully amazing field to pursue! If you really do like your science lessons in school and often wonder about all that Science when you are all by yourself, I would say you got that young scientist in you! You are just a degree away from being a professional. Make well-planned decisions about your future and go get a career of your dreams!

What do you do for fun? What are some of your hobbies/activities?

Other than constructing hypothesized molecules, and actually synthesizing compounds in the lab; I love cooking, I am adept at various styles of embroidery and I do enjoy indulging in arts and crafts. I spare a good amount of time from my busy schedule to make personalized hand-made gifts for my family and friends, there’s a great sense of satisfaction I get from the act! I am also an avid reader, and more than anything else I am obsessed with healthful eating. Coming from a country with very strong roots in traditional medicine, I believe that the medicine for almost all our health issues is in our kitchen! I practice and preach healthy and mindful vegetarian eating, always curious about the nutritional content of the foods we eat! My friends often tell me that had I not been a Chemist, I would have definitely been a Nutritionist and I feel so too! Apart from this I have also been exploring the arena of blogging for a while now, I blog for the School of Graduate studies at MUN too.

What superhero do you relate to most? Why?

I manage to balance a good household along with my PhD studies. At the end of the day, at times when I am not just physically tired but more than that mentally exhausted, I do relate myself to Supergirl!

Anything else you wish to share?

I can affirm that my doctoral education will be one of my best investments I could have ever made in my life! The program and the honor in itself will not just be my gateways into the scientific world, but it has already made me an independent and rational thinker who knows how to execute her plans for the most effective results.

The completion of my PhD will not only give me expertise in my field of research, it will also have bestowed me with life’s most enriching experiences. The wonderful people I have met, the communication skills I have honed, the patience and perseverance I have practiced all throughout; all these and many more aspects have the power to sculpt me into a successful Woman scientist. I aim to serve as a role model for the younger generation of women in Science, contribute to the cause of women empowerment and to the issue of plummeting numbers of women in Organic Chemistry!

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