"Humans of Medsci" aims to bring the SAMS community closer its MEDSCI Teaching and Research Community. This week we are bringing you an interview with respected Senior Lecturer and occasional Comedian Dr Rohit Ramchandra.
What is your background? Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Bombay, India. I was born in a conservative family and being South Indian, maths and science came naturally to me; at the expense of any social skills. This lack of social skills probably drew me to academia at University. I somehow managed to maintain my curiosity about things through school and early University and now remain excited about asking questions.
What are your interests outside of university life?
I have two young kids which leaves little time for “outside interests”. I enjoy reading fiction (Salman Rushdie is tops), graphic novels, the occasional game of cricket, art (looking at and pretending to do it). I try and listen to the old Missy Elliott when my kids (and probably more importantly my wife) are away.
What was your education pathway?
I did all of my schooling in India. I mastered rote-learning at a young age and consequently did well in school. I moved to NZ from India and started University here. I was initially interested in Medicine but found the cost of doing a Medicine degree prohibitive. I aimlessly roamed around for a while through University dabbling in Biochemistry, Marine Biology (what was I thinking!) and Immunology before settling on Physiology. My reasoning was that if I understood the concepts I did not have to rote-learn.
I almost left University after my Bachelors for a high-flying job casual job at a floppy disk company (remember those?) but thankfully persisted with a Masters. My pathway was BSc, MSc, PhD.
What are you working on right now?
Too many things! I am working on whether a new type of pacemaker can improve heart function in heart failure; I am working on why the carotid chemoreceptors are important in hypertension and how we can target them; I am working on how the output from the left and right sides of the heart varies with each beat and what consequences this has for blood pressure control; I am failing miserably at working on not raising my voice to get my kids to listen to me.
What drew you to your field of interest? Was there a particular moment you knew that this topic would be your focus?
I really enjoy integrative things – trying to put things together. I initially took on a Masters just to get a full year of research to experience it. I was fortunate to be in a lab with a young upcoming lecturer who was on an upward trajectory and really enjoyed my time in the lab. I try not to limit myself to a “topic” although cardiovascular aspects are very interesting and continue to be so. I am unsure there was any moment although the first time I conducted an experiment where I saw the results live and realised that I was the first in the world to see this was pretty exciting (and probably untrue). I still find the first few attempts at any new experiment/hypothesis the most exciting.
What's a paper you have contributed to that makes you the most proud?
Probably this one. Although I am proud of all of my papers, the set of papers investigating the control of cardiac SNA in heart failure is something that I am especially proud of.
Basis for the preferential activation of cardiac sympathetic nerve activity in heart failure. Ramchandra R, Hood SG, Denton DA, Woods RL, McKinley MJ, McAllen RM, May CN. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jan 20;106(3):924-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0811929106.
If you could give your undergraduate self any advice, what would you tell them?
Probably to not sweat the small stuff (and it is all small stuff)! No know knows or cares that I just scraped through Neuroscience or Sports Exercise. Find the things that interest you and just follow them. You are not “bound” by your projects – Hons or PhD. If your interests change, follow your new interests.
A HUGE thank you to Dr Ramchandra for his time and efforts. If you'd like to see more from him, you can find him in Medsci 205, 311, or as your potential postgraduate supervisor :)