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26-year-old from Delhi bags fully funded PhD in France; research to aid diabetics

“Through our research, we are trying to eliminate type 1 diabetes and in the long run, help people with type 2 diabetes,” says Rishabh Kapoor



An alumnus of School of Biosciences, Apeejay Stya University (ASU), Rishabh Kapoor is embarking on a new journey. After working briefly as an R&D professional in a few organisations, he has now secured a PhD opportunity with a full scholarship at the Institute of Genetics, Molecular Biology and Cellular Biology, Strasbourg University, France. He tells us more about his PhD topic in an interview. Read on:

What is your PhD on?

My PhD is in regenerative medicine. To narrow it down, we are trying to make external pancreas to transplant them into the body to help treat diabetes. There has been some success but there is still a lot to be done.

How will it benefit human society?

After cancer, diabetes is the biggest chronic ailment in the world. It impacts one out of five people who are obese or above the age of 40, be it type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Most of them are either on medicines or insulin replacement therapy. What happens in diabetes is either the pancreas does not produce sufficient insulin, or the body fails to react to the insulin that the pancreas makes. What we are attempting through our research is to reduce the need for external monitoring or insulin injections. We are trying to eliminate type 1 diabetes and in the long run, help people with type 2 diabetes.

Is there existing research on this?

Yes, there are quite a few. Researchers have been working on this. Pancreatic cells have been made but they are not acting as an adult human pancreatic cell does. We are trying to find how to perfect it and standardise the process.

What is it that got you interested in this subject?

After completing my course at ASU, I joined National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) as a Research Associate. I left the job in April last year and joined as the R&D head at Garden Valley Agrotech. Meanwhile, the paper I wrote at NBRC got published in September 2021. I was always keen on getting to do hardcore research so thought about taking that chance. I started applying in December and the interviews began around the end of February. I got to the final rounds of two universities, which agreed to fund my scholarship. For the scholarship, I cleared the IMCBio exam. The scholarship funds only three people every year. I got the second rank. I will be leaving for Strasbourg University in September this year.

You began your applications while working at Garden Valley. Was it difficult to balance your professional and academic tasks?

There is a lot that goes into the application process, from CV to SOPs. You have to spend two-three days arranging all the necessary documents. Once the documentation is done, you also have to convince the concerned university as to why you should be chosen. You have to email the professor you want to work under and convince them why you are interested in their research. You have to prepare personalised answers and edit them every time you are applying to a university. But it is not unmanageable; you just have to devote one or two hours of the day.

How did you develop interest in research?

My interest can perhaps be traced back to my love for documentaries. I have been interested in research since I was a teenager. And that is exactly why I went on to pursue Biotechnology. I did internships at various institutes throughout my time in college. I also had a year of experience in hardcore primary research at NBRC, which helped me a lot in securing the PhD scholarship.

PhD can be mentally taxing because of the amount of work involved in it. Have you thought about how you will cope with the challenges?

I have been working with PhD scholars since the time I started internships back when I was at ASU. I have seen some of them break down.  But through my experience of working alongside them, I am also aware of what would be expected of me. So, research in itself does not worry me. What I am worried about more is the language barrier in a foreign country, the difference in professional culture if any, and how well I would be able to adapt to that.  

How supportive has your family been throughout your journey?

My family has been with me through thick and thin. My parents have provided financial and emotional support. That their only child would stay far away from home is too overwhelming for them. Yet, they continue to encourage me to achieve my goals and live my dream. I am really grateful to them. 

Disha Roy Choudhury is a Senior Correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. She has worked as a journalist at different media organisations. She is also passionate about music and has participated in reality shows.