AbbVie: Scientists Rock! It's Elementary, My Dear Watson

Originally Published by AbbVie.

Scientists Rock! is a monthly Q&A where we pull an AbbVie scientist out of the lab to hear what makes them tick. This month, we chat with Brinda Ravikumar, Ph.D., principal research scientist, Cambridge Research Center, AbbVie. As a child, Brinda’s love of Sherlock Holmes mystery books would foretell her life’s passion for solving complicated whodunits. These days, her detective work involves investigations of a different sort. Let’s chalk this one up to … The Case of the Dedicated Research Scientist.

Tell us the story of how you fell in love with science.

One school summer holiday, while visiting my grandparents, I bought this book at the train station entitled 101 Science Experiments. I started trying the experiments one at a time by secretly borrowing some items from the school chemistry lab: how to coat a coin with copper using copper sulfate; how to cut glass like a paper using scissors, and so on and so forth. Since then, my curiosity and interest in science has never stopped and continues to this day.

What did you want to be when you grew up

I wanted to be a forensic scientist when I grew up. As a child I loved reading mystery books such as Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. I guess figuring out the mysteries of the biology of Alzheimer’s disease is not too far from my childhood passion.

If we were to ask your family what it is that you do, what would they say

My son once said ‘Mama, if you figure out all the medicines, I will have nothing to discover when I grow up.’ I assured him that he will have plenty to work on and I hope by the time he grows up, there will be some breakthroughs in treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

If you could talk to the 10-year-old version of yourself, what would you tell yourself about your career

Thank you for believing in yourself. Dare to dream big and put in the hard work to reach your goals despite the many odds.

What is your advice to kids interested in a career like yours

We are living in super exciting times, where technology tools are deeply integrating with various disciplines of science. This in turn is opening up abundant opportunities and successful career paths for kids interested in the sciences. During your school and college years, strive to build a strong foundation in the sciences cement your learning through safe hands-on projects and summer training programs. Dream big, be open to new challenges and work hard to make a difference in people’s lives through your ideas and innovations.

What keeps you coming to work every day

After I finished my master’s degree, I went to work for a service laboratory. As part of my job, I regularly met with patients and their family members, interviewing them to collect family histories and other such details. I vividly remember meeting one patient in particular who was diagnosed with spinocerebellar ataxia, a degenerative disease that had no cure. Soon after, his kids (then under 10 years old) underwent predictive diagnosis and were both found to carry the mutant gene. This was a crucial turning point in my career. I wanted to understand these debilitating diseases and help people like this patient and his family. This is what keeps me going every day.

In your opinion, why does science rock

In my opinion, science rocks because I get to learn something new every day. And I get to work with brilliant and dedicated scientists within AbbVie and throughout the world to help tackle the hard challenges and discover new medicines for brain diseases.

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