With parents who had MD’s and Ph.D.’s to their name, Vidita grew up admiring scientists. At 13, she attended a talk about animal behaviour, “I was amazed that people can study animal behaviour for a living,” she says. She knew then she wanted to get into research.
At St. Xavier’s, Vidita studied life-sciences and biochemistry, which were unconventional streams in the ’90s. Facing questions like, ‘Is there even a viable career in that?’ was routine for her. She’d brush them off knowing she had a bright future.
When she went to Yale for her Ph.D., she experienced a culture shock – “There were only a handful of Indian women on campus.” She’d write letters to her family, detailing her lab work.
She’d been working with mice brains for years, when she developed a condition wherein a spur began to grow on her arm; the one she cut tissue samples with. “There’s a lot of labour in science; it demands hard work.”
In the final year of her Ph.D., Vidita got married to her college sweetheart, who had finished his MBA in the US, and took up a position in management consulting in Mumbai. She prioritized her career and lived apart from her husband for 6 years, “It was a big sacrifice we made,” she recollects.
Her final move to India happened a few years later – she joined TIFR as an Asst. Professor in the Dept. of Biological Sciences and set up her own lab.
Unfortunately, in 2018 Vidita and her daughter faced a great personal loss, as her husband passed away unexpectedly. Despite the loss, she remained closely involved in mentoring trainees at her lab and continued touching their lives in a meaningful way.
At 50, Vidita is an award-winning neuroscientist researching circuits in the brain that regulate emotion. She’s an editor for The European Journal of Neuroscience and an avid science communicator. She hopes women don't have to hunt for female role models in STEM – “It should be natural for girls to contemplate a career in sciences like astrophysics or organic chemistry! No dream should be a far-fetched dream for a woman in science.”
#Mahindra salutes the contribution of Vidita and other women in the field of science, who inspire young girls to dream big.