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Murthy Gudipati

Murthy Gudipati has 4 articles published.

Mid-Career Transitions Across the Oceans

in That Makes Sense by

Recently I had a discussion with a friend regarding mid-career transitions across the continents. I thought these discussions may be useful for this forum, hence this posting.

Freedom is intoxicating and dangerous. It is like spicy food. Once you get the taste, you do not like blunt foods. Same is true with freedom. Once you get the taste of freedom, you do not want to go back. Same is also true with working at places that see your value and provide an opportunity for you to grow. At times, those who spent a few years at a top-rated institution in the USA,  go back to their country either because of idealism, or family reasons, or got an opportunity that they misjudge as equivalent to what they have been used to in the USA. Some of them adjust, some resign and say “well, I can’t do much”, and very few turn the odds around to an opportunity. The first person that comes to my mind of the third category is “Satish Dhavan” and the second person is “Roddam Narasimha”. Interestingly both have worked in Aerospace and Space Sciences. There may be many more examples like Dhavan and Roddam – I’m sure.

If you do not have the tenacity that these brilliant people have and if you think you should have stayed back to have a better career future and if you have already spent close to a decade after your PhD in your career, here are some hard facts and challenges that you need to keep in mind, when you try to make a mid-career transition across the oceans.

Keep in mind that these words here are not hypothetical and each word has heavy experience of going through toughest times since I left India to USA for postdoc and USA to Germany for mid-career life – where I did Habilitation (tenure track) and started my family life with my German girlfriend (now life partner), but then left Germany at the age of 40 back to the USA to take a deep dive into the US career culture, but now with three daughters and little savings.

Number one: Healthy financial situation is critical and of utmost importance. If finances are good, many problems can be solved. If the finances are bad, many healthy relationships are screwed-up and destroyed.

Number two: Whether academia or industry that you are trying to make a transition. You need to have someone who is your advocate, who really thinks you have the “spark” that is outstanding, and who buys into your abilities to succeed and contribute. If you do not have such a colleague (not a friend, who is not in your area of expertise), you need to start from the bottom again where you left a decade ago.

Number three: If you are ambitious to establish in academia – DO NOT take up a “research faculty” position, this kills your opportunity to get into tenure-track faculty career. Research faculty is in most places a “glorified postdoc” on soft-money, though there are exceptions.

Number four: If you have a partner and children, it is a must that your partner works as well and that one of you should NOT be career oriented, as the children would have very difficult time adjusting to new culture and one of the parents must have time to cushion their fears and comfort them with confidence. But two pay-checks is critical, because if one of you loses your job, you have a temporary financial crisis that can be mitigated through the second pay-check. Keep in mind that you cannot expect friends and relatives to support you in such situations, because many work hard with “thin margins of savings”. Lending a few dollars may be easy, but taking the burden of a family is out of question. You need to start saving the day you start your first job for the college of your children, which based on where they go may cost anywhere between $100 K to $200 K (per child to complete undergraduate studies).

Number five: Irrespective of whether you start at mid-career or back to the beginning (postdoc), you are expected to deliver the worth of $10, if you are paid $1. So, only way to succeed in the US is to deliver – period.

Bottom line is – if you have the courage, health, spirit of not giving up, you are likely to succeed. But, you should be ready to take a failure as gracefully as you would enjoy the success and always have “Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, and Plan E” in the priority list – if Plan A goes South!

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About the Author: Murthy S. Gudipati (aka G. S. Murthy at IISc) is a Principal Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. His research focuses on the evolution of organic matter and ice in the Universe, particularly the outer solar system, comets, and the potential origin(s) of life on Earth. He worked at the University of Texas at Austin, at the University of Cologne, Germany, University of Maryland, College Park, and at NASA Ames before joining JPL/Caltech in 2007. Murthy obtained M.Sc. at the Central University of Hyderabad (1981), Ph.D. from the Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Science (1987), and Habilitation (similar to tenure) at the University of Cologne (1998). He stayed in almost all the Men’s Hostel Blocks, dined at all the three A-C Messes, ran a half-marathon, and developed life-long friendships during his 1981-1986 stay at one of the most beautiful campuses in the world – the IISc. His PhD research was recognized with “Guha Medal – Best Thesis Award”. Murthy is one of the founding members of the IIScAANA.

Born and raised in in Southern India, Murthy lived in interior villages to mega cities in three continents. He at times walked over four miles each way to attend upper primary schools from his village. This experience bonded him with nature and animals immensely. Murthy likes Nature and National Parks and he has organized several hiking and camping trips for IIScAANA. Murthy’s passion is to bring knowledge, information, and education to the next generation humans to enable the future civilizations to treat themselves and the Nature with respect. Murthy’s pursuit of Science is balanced by his interest in World Music, Nature, Vegetarian Cooking, and Philosophy.

Cooking in my Life

in Sci-Pourri/That Makes Sense by

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The earliest childhood memory I have about cooking is from when my mother would sit aside in the kitchen and pass on the responsibility to me. As per the customs in India at that time, she could not cook when she had her period, and being the eldest child in the family, I was the chosen one to bear this responsibility. This is how my cooking started. My mother would tell me what to do and I followed her direction. Light the fire (yes, we cooked on coal, firewood, and at times on kerosene stove in those days), clean the rice, cut vegetables, cook the rice, curry, and soup, etc. Before I could realize, my childhood was soon over and I proceeded to high-school, college, and university – loosing touch with cooking. I spent very little time at home and was away for long periods of time. I was busy acquiring knowledge through fire-hose, while food was provided at the hostels of the Central University of Hyderabad (we had a very good mess), and Indian Institute of Science, where the mess and food was par excellence, outstanding. No wonder that many IISc graduates do not know how to cook (no offence!).

Then came the time to venture into the brave new world of explorers and wanderers and I became a part of it in the October of 1986. I left my mother and sisters, my place of birth and education and stepping into adulthood, I took a flight to Austin, TX at the age of 26. University of Texas at Austin was my life for the next three years. My arrival was exciting and so was the warm welcome from labmates and some relatives and friends from India. But very soon, I was by myself, in my studio apartment (at a monthly rent of $125!) and the work load was pretty heavy. I worked until midnight almost every night. Understandably, my diet basically became restricted to peanut butter and jelly (PBJ) sandwich, baked potato with broccoli, pizza and Chinese veggie bowl. By the way, I was raised as a vegetarian, and chose to remain a vegetarian – a decision that I am very proud of, even today. Though the latter three compensated for my growing apathy towards PBJ, after the first 6 months I could neither see, smell, nor eat PBJ. It took me a decade to buy peanut butter again. This was the crisis that motivated me to start cooking.

I was recipe-poor, and all I had were the memories of helping my mother during my childhood. So, I conjured each of those memories and started experimenting. I didn’t have a car and used to share a ride with a friend in his old Volkswagen Bus to shop for groceries. My experiments with cooking in the early days were pretty much a disaster every single time. But I didn’t have any other choice. I couldn’t even look at pizza. The only outside food that I cherished was the Chinese veggie rice bowl from a very small Chinese fast food place across Guadalupe St. at the University. In fact, this was the only reason that I took a liking to Chinese cuisine. So, over the next two years or so, I slowly improved my cooking of Indian and Chinese vegetarian dishes.

One thing I realized fairly quickly was that cooking was not just about food, it brought a sense of freedom for me that, for the first time, I was not dependent on anyone for my basic need. I was also happy and proud to have broken the stereotype that cooking is a woman’s job and men are present to just eat and critique the food. Notable so, some of the best cooks in Indian history are men (and they are also the best critics) – Nalabheemapakam is supposed to be the best. Bhima, one of the five brothers of Pandavas is known as the best cook. Above and beyond all those, when cooking becomes a passion and a hobby that you look forward to and experiment with, it provides excellent compensation to your mind and body that engage in other intellectual/scientific/physical activities. This is how cooking became an integral part of my life.

I still remember how my grandmother used to make “guttivankai kura” (full eggplant curry). She made it so it was the best and so, I started trying. I remember avial, sweet banana chutney/curd served with fruit rice at the A-mess at IISc., and I started experimenting, sometimes more successful than others.

It was the time I met a student from Germany (total meat eater) and we started dating. We used to invite many friends and colleagues to our apartment and cooked for them. Thus,  my cooking skills began to expand.

In 1990 we moved to Germany and started our family in 1992. One of my conditions to get into serious relationship with my German girlfriend was: No meat or seafood at home – storage, eating, cooking, or bringing in. She was infatuated and agreed – a decision we hold even today. My wife eats meat outside, but we maintain veg*an lifestyle at home. This has survived the test for over 15 years in Germany as well as in the US. Since then, I am the cook at home most of the times, except for vegetarian German dishes that my wife makes. During the time in Germany and subsequent move to the US in 2000, my cooking slowly expanded from Indian, German, Italian and Chinese to Thai, Mexican and Mediterranean. I enjoy inviting friends over and cooking for them.

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One very important value that I try to uphold during cooking or eating food is to not waste food. I know how farmers work hard to produce the food we eat. I know how many humans and animals are deprived of food across the world. So, if I see someone serving food in excess and leaving their plate only half eaten, I would like to have “nothing to do with that person”. If you are a meat eater, this is even more important, because, an animal was killed for you to live. Above and beyond all these, conscious eating is critical. Be conscious about the source of your food, where it is coming from and how? Because, if you eat, it becomes a part of your body and mind. If you abuse your source of food, you abuse your body as well and your mind follows that abuse. You become physically and mentally a sick person. So, be conscious of the source of your food, respect the life that was sacrificed (plant or animal) and try to do minimal harm/damage to life for you to exist. Within this framework, you can still be an excellent cook and delight yourself and your friends and family with good food.

Murthy Gudipati

La Canada Flintridge, CA

 

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About the Author: Murthy S. Gudipati (aka G. S. Murthy at IISc) is a Principal Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. His research focuses on the evolution of organic matter and ice in the Universe, particularly the outer solar system, comets, and the potential origin(s) of life on Earth. He worked at the University of Texas at Austin, at the University of Cologne, Germany, University of Maryland, College Park, and at NASA Ames before joining JPL/Caltech in 2007. Murthy obtained M.Sc. at the Central University of Hyderabad (1981), Ph.D. from the Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Science (1987), and Habilitation (similar to tenure) at the University of Cologne (1998). He stayed in almost all the Men’s Hostel Blocks, dined at all the three A-C Messes, ran a half-marathon, and developed life-long friendships during his 1981-1986 stay at one of the most beautiful campuses in the world – the IISc. His PhD research was recognized with “Guha Medal – Best Thesis Award”. Murthy is one of the founding members of the IIScAANA.

Born and raised in in Southern India, Murthy lived in interior villages to mega cities in three continents. He at times walked over four miles each way to attend upper primary schools from his village. This experience bonded him with nature and animals immensely. Murthy likes Nature and National Parks and he has organized several hiking and camping trips for IIScAANA. Murthy’s passion is to bring knowledge, information, and education to the next generation humans to enable the future civilizations to treat themselves and the Nature with respect. Murthy’s pursuit of Science is balanced by his interest in World Music, Nature, Vegetarian Cooking, and Philosophy.

 

Edited by: Anshu Malhotra

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Presenting Myself and Representing Myself

in Sci-Pourri/That Makes Sense by

How “addressing” has profound impact on presenting yourself to others.

Many of us have lived in multicultural, multinational, and multilingual societies. Each of these societies have their norms of behavior and norm of how to address others. I was fortunate to live in three continents and learned their cultures, took good things from each of these cultures to implement in my own life. One of these is “addressing”.

Wherever there is hierarchy “defined” by the culture, there is also an official way of addressing. However, these societies are also undergoing transformation. Let me compare India and Germany, both have (had) hierarchy. In India every subordinate in any establishment (whether public or private) address his/her superior as “Sir/Madam”. The subordinates are called with their names, surname or given name. In Germany this effects only if you have a higher academic standing “Herr Professor Doktor” or “Frau Professor Doktor”. In the rest of the society it is Herr “Surname” or Frau “Surname” irrespective of the hierarchy. This is similar to calling Mr. Sharma or Ms. Modak. This simple example, clearly shows that while hierarchy is written in the system, other countries have learned to address superiors and subordinates with similar “addressing”, but in India, superiors still enjoy/demand the privilege of being addressed with obedience, while not reciprocating the same.

When it comes to academic set-up, the country that was built on “Gurukulas”, even present day generation addresses the “teachers” whom they revere and respect as “sir or madam”. A true teacher also reveres and respects his/her pupil and showers care and affection – may call most of the times with first name (given name). Unfortunately, over the time the rigor of Gurukula is gone, but the addressing system remained.

I’m trying to get my recollection dating back to 1980s onwards where I had more conscious interaction with my teachers. I don’t remember to have addressed them as “sir/madam”, but mostly as Professor Mehta or Professor Balu etc. But I addressed my Ph.D. advisor always “sir”. He was really like a guru to me. We had more non-science philosophical conversations that he enjoyed. But I used to address all the other faculty as Professor.

Now let me compare that with the system in the USA. I get many requests often. Students start with addressing me Dr. Gudipati, but after a few conversations and acquaintance either by e-mail or in person, the addressing quickly comes down to say “Hi Murthy”. Similar pattern at a University or at a Company. This does not mean that the students are not respecting you. Respect comes from their mannerisms – how they respond to your communication.

In the western countries, thanking many times or saying “yes sir” or “yes madam” in whatever the language – trying to show your subordinate status to the other person is not positively taken. In fact, it is bad manners to be too polite. Same is true when you write a letter, a cover letter, or a letter asking for a position. Show respect in “limits”. Start with Dear Dr. (or Professor) or Mr. or Ms. (by the way many women do not like to be addressed with Mrs because that is discriminatory as men do not have that status change when married). If you are speaking over phone or skype, say the same and say thank you Mr. Ms. Dr. Professor (whatever is pertinent) once, perhaps twice, but never thrice.

Now let’s come to life outside the hierarchy, whether at a University, a Company, or on the Street. I know one faculty at IISc, whom I revere so much – always addressed me (his junior) as “sir”. I reciprocated with great pleasure. We do the same even today. In the USA it is an obligation to address the customers as “sir or madam”. Typical addressing is “how are you doing sir today?”. Long ago one of our daughters when she was hardly 4 years old was greeted at a store “good morning Miss – how are you today” – she was so happy for someone recognized her to be with her father and they said good morning. It made her day! When I take a taxi I typically pick up a small conversation if possible and at the end give them more than a reasonable tip as they get my luggage out of the taxi and say “thank you sir or madam”. Their eyes become big and they smile with a pleasure that they are recognized as humans, not just a taxi driver. I practice consequently this with those who work hard and make their living – whenever I have something to do with them, from security/watchmen to street workers. They all deserve to be treated as humans, irrespective of their profession.

Another story I vividly remember in Hyderabad, India. I was there for a conference and met with old classmates whom I had not seen for decades. We went out for dinner to a “high-end” restaurant that was close to my hotel. As we were completing our dinner, my old classmate looked at the person who was attending our table and said, “hi go and get fingerbowls” – with such a tone and authority as if the attender were a slave. First instinct feeling I had was to cover my face with shame and then I was disgusted by my classmate’s behavior so much that the rest of the evening was a formality. Unfortunately, majority of men and women behave like this even today in India. Subordinates, low-wage workers, lower-caste, poor (irrespective of their religion or caste) are addressed with such a disrespect, authority, that even many at the places like IISc., with higher learning credentials or intellect – do not realize their own behavior to be disgraceful and disrespectful.

A few general words that may sound peculiar, but when you think deeply you understand why I say this. Keep in mind, even a beggar needs to be treated with respect. You may not give her/him money or food, but you have no right to treat them with disrespect. You will get back the same treatment that you give others. You respect them, you address them with respect, they respect you. They respect you more. It is wise to keep away from those who are disrespectable in their words and their behavior. If you can think – think about this – if you respect others, you are respecting yourself. If the respect comes from your heart, the appropriate addressing will follow.

 

 

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About the Author: Murthy S. Gudipati (aka G. S. Murthy at IISc) is a Principal Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. His research focuses on the evolution of organic matter and ice in the Universe, particularly the outer solar system, comets, and the potential origin(s) of life on Earth. He worked at the University of Texas at Austin, at the University of Cologne, Germany, University of Maryland, College Park, and at NASA Ames before joining JPL/Caltech in 2007. Murthy obtained M.Sc. at the Central University of Hyderabad (1981), Ph.D. from the Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Science (1987), and Habilitation (similar to tenure) at the University of Cologne (1998). He stayed in almost all the Men’s Hostel Blocks, dined at all the three A-C Messes, ran a half-marathon, and developed life-long friendships during his 1981-1986 stay at one of the most beautiful campuses in the world – the IISc. His PhD research was recognized with “Guha Medal – Best Thesis Award”. Murthy is one of the founding members of the IIScAANA.

Born and raised in in Southern India, Murthy lived in interior villages to mega cities in three continents. He at times walked over four miles each way to attend upper primary schools from his village. This experience bonded him with nature and animals immensely. Murthy likes Nature and National Parks and he has organized several hiking and camping trips for IIScAANA. Murthy’s passion is to bring knowledge, information, and education to the next generation humans to enable the future civilizations to treat themselves and the Nature with respect. Murthy’s pursuit of Science is balanced by his interest in World Music, Nature, Vegetarian Cooking, and Philosophy.

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This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Nurture the Schools that Nurtured You

in Sci-Pourri by

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The Mission:  Infuse information and resources directly into the schools in order to
enable, encourage, and inspire students, in particular those with weaker social and/or economic background, without any discrimination of their social, religious, or cultural backgrounds.

 

Motivation: Societies around the world are far better today than a century ago. However, even today there is corruption, violence, greed, fanaticism, environmental pollution, etc., which are driving many cultures and societies into sub-animal behaviors. Dr. Murthy S. Gudipati has been thinking about this aspect for the several decades, seen half the world, and lived in three continents. He is convinced that a permanent transformation of future humanity to lead “higher quality” life – in harmony among each other and with other life on Earth – and leave a better Earth for the next generations is only through “Education”. More children in their formative years get formal education on mathematics, science, geology, geography, astronomy, music, and sociology, more future citizens have the knowledge, information, and the ability to “think before acting”. This is the hope for social and cultural transformations in the future. Unfortunately, many parts of the world, including India do not have effective educational programs at the “roots” of the society – those places where children have no access to information, inspiration, and mentoring to be educated. Many of these children end up in the cycle of suppression and violence. The Idea of NSNY is to bring inspiration, information, and mentoring to these underserved children through personal involvement of students/scholars/teachers/entrepreneurs at their hometowns/villages – hence Nurture the Schools that Nurtured You (NSNY).

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History: La Canada, California, March 2013: The NSNY project is an outgrowth of the vision of Dr. Murthy S. Gudipati that resources need to be brought to every tiny root of the society, in particular those with weaker social and/or economic background to enable, encourage, educate, and empower future citizens of the world. This was developed over a few months through discussions with Dr. Gaj Birur, his colleague at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a fellow IISc alumnus who successfully implemented educational programs in Rural India through the Birur Educational Foundation for Children (BEFC). The concept is that if each of us does small bits of voluntary work within our ability in a coordinated way – similar to passing the stones to build a monument – the achievements would be significant and far reaching. The NSNY concept also takes into account “motivation” behind each individual to see that every schoolchild gets opportunities to learn and thrive just like the donor or the volunteer herself/himself. Student/Scholar Volunteers are the heart and engine of this project.

Model: Inspire, Inform, Educate, and Enable (I2E2) “underserved children at schools” through personal example, involvement, information, and motivation. Form a chain of people, each contributing a small part in a coherent way to bring the resources to the roots of the society. The key players are the volunteers who mentor schools in their hometowns or other places.

A donor is motivated by her/his grateful indebtedness to her/his school where she/he was nurtured as a child. A volunteer is motivated to see that her/his work enables, encourages, educates, and empowers students, particularly those with weaker social and/or economic background, who otherwise would have dropped out of school and followed the footsteps of their parents. The volunteers could use the time when they visit their family during vacation time, so that they do not compromise their academic pursuits. The bridge would be the Indian Institute of Science Alumni Association of North America (IIScAANA) or other such organizations on one side (the donor organization), and Indian Institute of Science and its infrastructure such as the Alumni Association (IIScAA), the NoteBook Drive, etc., or similar educational or voluntary non-profit organization on the other side.

This NSNY movement can only be successful if there are dedicated volunteers, who explicitly avoid propagating their personal beliefs, political and religious affiliations, and other biases to the children. Give them the education and empower them to be better-informed citizens of the future civilization.

Operations: IIScAANA has dedicated volunteers who are providing and willing to provide financial and to some extent human resources. IISc Note Book Drive (a student organization at IISc) has excellent student body. Some of these students are presently exploring the NSNY program at their hometown local schools. Presently Sridhar Pichaimuthu, Sushant Kumar, and Angshuman Modak are leading NSNY efforts from IISc (NBD). We need dedicated volunteers from every corner of India.

Once we are successful in India, we should use this model to other countries in the world.

 

Murthy

About the Author: Murthy S. Gudipati (aka G. S. Murthy at IISc) is a Principal Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. His research focuses on the evolution of organic matter and ice in the Universe, particularly the outer solar system, comets, and the potential origin(s) of life on Earth. He worked at the University of Texas at Austin, at the University of Cologne, Germany, University of Maryland, College Park, and at NASA Ames before joining JPL/Caltech in 2007. Murthy obtained M.Sc. at the Central University of Hyderabad (1981), Ph.D. from the Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Science (1987), and Habilitation (similar to tenure) at the University of Cologne (1998). He stayed in almost all the Men’s Hostel Blocks, dined at all the three A-C Messes, ran a half-marathon, and developed life-long friendships during his 1981-1986 stay at one of the most beautiful campuses in the world – the IISc. His PhD research was recognized with “Guha Medal – Best Thesis Award”. Murthy is one of the founding members of the IIScAANA.

Born and raised in in Southern India, Murthy lived in interior villages to mega cities in three continents. He at times walked over four miles each way to attend upper primary schools from his village. This experience bonded him with nature and animals immensely. Murthy likes Nature and National Parks and he has organized several hiking and camping trips for IIScAANA. Murthy’s passion is to bring knowledge, information, and education to the next generation humans to enable the future civilizations to treat themselves and the Nature with respect. Murthy’s pursuit of Science is balanced by his interest in World Music, Nature, Vegetarian Cooking, and Philosophy.

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This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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