Unique Scientist: Manisit Das

Time to meet Manisit Das (He/his)! Manisit is a cancer researcher and pharmaceutical scientist originally from India, but currently working towards his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy in the USA!

What kind of scientist are you?
I am a cancer researcher and pharmaceutical scientist. I study how to improve our immune system to fight against pancreatic cancer, which remains a formidable beast with limited therapeutic success. I am also passionate about communicating cancer research. I co-founded a website called Oncobites.blog, which features writing by early career cancer researchers, medical trainees, science communicators, and patient advocates, sharing the latest in cancer research with a non-expert audience.

What made you want to become a scientist?
I was always intrigued by the fascinating order of the world around us and the laws of nature. I was trained in engineering and physical sciences during my undergraduate studies, and I wanted to leverage my knowledge to solve some of the pressing problems in healthcare. This motivated me to pursue biomedical research.

“I was always intrigued by the fascinating order of the world around us and the laws of nature.”

Manisit Das

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
When I came to North Carolina to pursue my Ph.D., I did not see many international students in my Ph.D. program, or the leadership of the several professional initiatives on the campus. I took the initiative and put myself in an uncomfortable position, to represent and give a voice to minority international students in the campus community and beyond, under changing sentiments and open hostilities towards immigrants in America. I have participated in numerous science outreach events with students ranging from elementary to high school level, in rural and urban areas of North Carolina, California, and Canada, and shared my cultural and academic values with the community. I had advocated for international researchers- their challenges under the changing political climate in the US before Congressmen and highlighted the importance of the diversity that international researchers bring to the US scientific community.

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I have hiked 40/41 State Parks in North Carolina. I enjoy hiking and nature photography, and it helps me to relax from work. My photography had been featured by North Carolina State Parks, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Nature Conservancy, and Triangle Land Conservancy of North Carolina.

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
Accessibility and inequality. I have seen first hand the struggles of doing science under limited infrastructure and funding in a non-western nation. I had seen my science significantly slowed down when I had to synthesize my own reagents as they were unaffordable for our research group in India. Science is expensive, and this limits access and opportunities to researchers in developing countries to advance their scientific programs.

“I have seen first hand the struggles of doing science under limited infrastructure and funding in a non-western nation.”

Manisit Das

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
Teachers in my middle school in India have highly influenced me. I went to a tiny school during my elementary years, and I was scared when I shifted to a much bigger school. My teachers were extremely patient with me, coached me selflessly – sometimes tutoring me beyond their work hours in their home, helped me with my professional development, and gave me the confidence to fly!

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I recently gave a science talk in a bar. This was really fun, and at one point I was interrupted by a puppy trying to run towards me. This was a fun way to engage with my science with the community, to talk about the nuances of medical research, how current drug development is shaped by historical context and how medical science affects marginalized communities, and I absolutely enjoyed it.


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