Unwavering Perseverance: The Inspiring Journey of Professor Anwesha Sarkar in STEM

Welcome to our interview with Professor Anwesha Sarkar, an esteemed physicist whose journey in STEM was ignited by a powerful influence – her mother, a math teacher, and an inspiring figure who dedicated herself to helping struggling students. Growing up in India, Anwesha’s fascination with physics never waned, leading her to pursue a bachelor’s in Physics at St. Xavier’s College, Master’s in Physics at IIT Madras, M.Phil. in Physics at the Institute of Physics in India, and PhD in Physics at Wayne State University. With a passion for STEM and a deep love for physics, Anwesha’s journey exemplifies the power of dedication and the importance of strong female role models in the world of science. 

Throughout her academic journey, Anwesha remained steadfast in her pursuit of physics, thriving in institutions where the male-to-female student ratio was heavily skewed. Undeterred, she embraced the challenge and excelled in her studies, showcasing her natural aptitude for the subject. Her decision to focus on physics was further solidified as she ventured into bioengineering and biophysics collaborations, exploring exciting intersections between physics and biology.

Anwesha’s passion for physics extends beyond her research and academic achievements. As an enthusiastic mentor, she takes joy in nurturing young minds and fostering a love for science among her students. Her commitment to uplifting others echoes the impact her mother had on her own journey, emphasizing the profound influence that supportive and encouraging role models can have on aspiring scientists.

Professor Anwesha Sarkar’s journey in STEM has been both inspiring and challenging, navigating through different universities and fields from physics to bioengineering. As an Asian woman in a predominantly male-dominated field, she encountered various perceptions and biases. While she was fortunate to have supportive colleagues and friends, she also witnessed instances of gender-based discrimination and biased treatment. Throughout her experiences, Anwesha emphasizes the importance of surrounding oneself with people who uplift and value diversity, irrespective of gender or background.

In this enlightening interview, Professor Anwesha Sarkar shared her remarkable journey from being captivated by physics in India to becoming a distinguished researcher in the field of biophysics and bioengineering. Through her groundbreaking work using atomic force microscopy, she delves into live cell imaging and protein-protein interactions, paving the way for improved drug delivery carriers and novel therapeutic approaches in targeting diseases like cancer and fibrosis. Anwesha’s dedication and expertise have been recognized with prestigious grants and awards, including Exploratory Research grant (ERP) in 2020 and 2021, SVPP term faculty professional development grant in 2020 and 2021, Translational AI Center SEED grant 2023 and an NSF (CMMI) grant in 2022. Moreover, her commitment to mentoring underrepresented minority students in STEM, evident through her active involvement with WISE and INSPIRE, showcases her passion for fostering inclusive and diverse research environments.

“I actively mentor underrepresented minority undergrad students through WISE and INSPIRE. They are not just struggling with passing courses; they have a ton of problems going on in their life. So helping them in any way I can should be our motto.”

Professor Sarkar

In her inspiring advice to new Asian female students entering STEM, Professor Anwesha Sarkar emphasizes the power of perseverance and unique qualities that they possess. She encourages them to push through challenges, starting anew each day and utilizing their strengths to forge ahead. Recognizing the importance of happiness in one’s work, she highlights the significance of surrounding oneself with confident and supportive individuals, whether mentors, friends, or family. Anwesha’s message underscores the value of a strong support system that believes in one’s aspirations and fosters an environment of growth and empowerment.

As she describes in her own words, “As Asian women in STEM, you have already shown extreme perseverance. Keep building, build on those experiences, and push through. Start where you are and surround yourself with happy and confident people who will never drag you down but only add value to your life.”

Recognizing the significance of a strong support system, Anwesha highlights the role of mentors, friends, and family in providing encouragement and guidance. As an Asian woman in STEM herself, she emphasizes the need to be part of a community that understands the unique struggles and triumphs that come with the journey. Anwesha’s empowering message resonates with the idea that progress is not solely about gender but about fostering an environment of growth and empowerment for all aspiring women in STEM.

“Our support system chooses us. Make sure you have those kind of people, confident and happy in their own life. They will believe in you and what you want to do.”

Professor Sarkar

Professor Anwesha Sarkar’s remarkable journey serves as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring scientists, especially Asian women, in the world of STEM. Her unwavering dedication to physics and her passion for nurturing young minds showcase the transformative impact of supportive role models. Through her pioneering research, mentorship, and advocacy, Professor Sarkar’s impact on the academic community resonates far beyond her own accomplishments, inspiring a new era of aspiring researchers to embrace their passion and create positive change in the world of science.

For a more comprehensive insight into Professor Anwesha Sarkar’s inspiring journey in STEM, we invite you to watch the full interview in the video provided above. Through this interview, you will gain a deeper understanding of her experiences, challenges, and triumphs as she navigated through different fields and universities, from physics to bioengineering.