Debashree is a PhD student at Riddet Institute, Massey University. She is researching how our body digests milk from animals like goats, sheep, deer and buffalo in comparison to cow's milk.
What do you do on an average work day?
Most of my time in a day goes into brainstorming, reading, planning, executing, analysing and compiling the practical trial results related to my PhD.
The goal of my research is to investigate the digestive behaviours of milks from animals like goats, sheep, deer and buffalo and comparing these with how we digest cow's milk.
There's an increasing interest in milk from these animals as some people are allergic or intolerant to cow's milk, and it's thought that there are certain characteristics that non–cow milks share in common with human milk.
Until now there hasn't been much research in this area and there is a need for more exploration in this field, which is where my work comes in.
I am also sometimes a lab technical assistant or student volunteer for different projects, which provides me an additional opportunity to learn.
At the end of the day, I like spending time with friends and family or on my own watching Bollywood movies. After all, I have learnt that doing a PhD is a marathon and that it’s much more than just the thesis.
What did you study at school? And after high school?
I was a science student at high school, and biology and chemistry were my favourite subjects (and still are!). I did a BSc (Hons) in Agriculture and then an MSc in Food Technology in India.
Was your study directly related to what you do now?
Yes. I was a science student then and now as well. However, my specialisation in India was Grain Science Technology and currently my PhD focus is in the field of Dairy, Food Structures, Digestion & Health.
Switching to a different field is a major personal challenge for me, but I'm passionate about learning something new, so this motivated me to choose this new field. I think it’s actually the right attitude that matters, after all, so I've learned to be flexible and resourceful and this helps a lot in my PhD.
What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
Do what you love! You will always be able to excel and find numerous opportunities in the field you are most interested in, as it will always keep the passion alive in you.
Also, it does happen that sometimes we need to choose a different career option, but remember you always need a kick-start in your life or career to achieve something bigger; so, grab the opportunity that you get.
You can always switch to a different route and field as per your capabilities and interests and, who knows, in this journey you may come across something entirely new and unexpectedly interesting that is waiting to be explored.
So, be optimistic and try to find out the best of what you have.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
I've really enjoyed being able to have several in both my education and my work experience, but there are two big ones that stand out for me.
The first is that I was a gold medallist during my Masters in 2013 and my Bachelors in 2011.
The second is that I was the only student in my batch to crack an international placement as a first job, I was also a first female employee to work in a flour mill of a renowned Middle-East based company (IFFCO, Dubai). While working in Dubai, I successfully led the launch of cost-effective wheat flour base formulas for many different products like flat breads, loaf breads, cakes, pizza, doughnuts, croissants, pasta/noodles, biscuits/cookies and so on.
I believe my biggest career achievements are yet to come, so I'm really looking forward to making a small difference in this world through my future work.
Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?
New Zealand is considered to be unique worldwide in terms of its beautiful landscapes, amazing food, culture and very friendly people. It’s a hub of natural resources and it’s no less than a healthy paradise on Earth.
To me, New Zealand is a representation of a natural adventurous beauty with brains. So I believe it’s very important for New Zealanders to be involved in STEM, as it’s our responsibility to explore ways to sustain our stature of being a healthy and natural country worldwide, generation after generation.
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?
I think this famous proverb says it all! “Educating a man means educating an individual, educating a woman means educating an entire generation and a whole nation”.
This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.View all profiles