Rajkumar Nandakumar

Rajkumar, from New Zealand, graduated with an MSc in Food Science, Safety and Health in 2012, He is now pursuing his PhD at the University of Otago in New Zealand, studying the production of secondary metabolites in onion tissue cultures.

Can you tell us about your PhD?

Earning a PhD is a licence to do independent research. My dream is to become a scientist, and I am a step closer to achieving my goal. I feel working in the department of food science is interesting because it is an art rather than just science. 

How is the work you do influencing tomorrow's world?

I am currently working on the secondary metabolite production in onion tissue cultures. Secondary metabolites are proven to have health benefiits and therapeutic properties. Different plants have different properties and we have chosen onions as a model system. I am studying the methods to induce the production of secondary metabolites with non-thermal technologies. 

What was your experience of doing a postgraduate degree at Heriot-Watt University?

My masters degree was an eye opener. Heriot-Watt has introduced me to a new dimension of the scientific community. The right opportunity, given at the right time, creates an enormous impact and one such opportunity for me was doing a Masters at Heriot-Watt.

Heriot-Watt moulded me into a scientific person, teaching me to think critically and to ask the right questions. When it comes to science it is not always about answering correctly that matters but asking the correct question. I should especially acknowledge my teachers and supervisors for bringing up this skill in me.

Do you think your Heriot-Watt postgraduate experience gave you an edge in your chosen field and why?

During my course at the University I was introduced to various aspects of food science, from basic chemistry to business management (consumer science). This provided an opportunity to try different combinations, creating a novel skill set. 

My supervisors allowed me to work on two small projects before my actual thesis project, which gave me additional experience in the laboratory and opportunity to learn new techniques. 

What advice would you give to a postgraduate student considering embarking on their journey of a lifetime at Heriot-Watt?

Studying in a well renowned and reputed university such as Heriot-Watt University is always a challenge, especially for international students who have to overcome cultural shocks and adapt themselves to the student lifestyle at the University.

However, life at Heriot-Watt is, and will be, much easier compared to any other university. I am saying this because people at Heriot-Watt are so very helpful, that you will not feel that you are alone. 

Students from diverse cultural backgrounds give you an opportunity to learn something new every day and acquire friends all over the world. Programmes at Heriot-Watt are definitely structured having the job market and skills set in mind. Support services provided by the University are very helpful, especially careers advice. 

My advice to postgraduates would be to decide carefully on the course that you want to do and how the particular course would fit a job requirement. Whatever you decide, believe in yourself, because the world is waiting for you.