Dr. Renuka Rajput-Ghoshal is a senior staff engineer in the Magnet Group of the Experimental Nuclear Physics Division at Jefferson Lab, where she’s been working since 2013. She’s also a Technical Editor and Reviewer for the IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity and a Reviewer for Superconducting Science and Technology for the Institute of Physics in the UK.
Previously, Dr. Rajput-Ghoshal worked at GE-GRC (Global Research Center, Schenectady, NY) on applied superconductivity and cryogenics, and before that she worked in Oxford, UK for Scientific Magnetics (Space Cryomagnetics Ltd) and Oxford Instruments. There she worked on low field and high field NMR magnet and physical sciences magnets. Before moving to the UK she worked at Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT, formerly known as CAT), Department of Atomic Energy of India. She designed India’s first NMR magnet when she started her career at the National Physical Laboratory in New Delhi.
Dr. Rajput-Ghoshal is a Chartered Physicist and a Member of Institute of Physics, UK, a Member of the American Physical Society in the United States, and a Member of Indian Cryogenic Council. Dr. Rajput-Ghoshal has been published in review journals, and holds a patent. She has Bachelor of Science degrees in Physics, Chemistry and Math, and her Master of Science degree in Physics from the Vardhaman College, Bijnor (Rohilkhand University, Bareilly), India. She earned her Ph.D. degree in Physics from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.
What inspired you to work in STEM?
This is a very difficult question to answer for me. I was born in a small village in India and at that time, a girl’s education was not given much preference, especially in rural India. That said, my parents and grandparents were big supporters of educating girls.
My father always inspired me to be curious and ask questions. My village in India is in the Himalayan valley. I could see the big mountains from my house roof and our village was surrounded by rivers. I remember that when my father would take me for walk up to the river and I would pepper him with questions: Why does the river flow in the same direction every day? Why doesn’t the flow of the river change directions? Why are the mountains so high? Why don’t mountains move? Why do some trees bear fruits? Why are some trees different shapes and sizes? How do animals remember their way back home? My father would listen to my questions and try to give me answers to best of his knowledge.
My mom was very good in math and she would make sure that all my siblings knew our numbers, number-tables and quick ways to do arithmetic calculations. Because I was living in a village, there were no library or book shops, so whenever my father would go to the city, he would bring some science magazines and story books for me. I loved to read and we tried so many small experiments in our home reading those books. All of this inspired me to learn more and more. My reading habits and inspiration from my parents encouraged me to learn more in science.
What excites you about your work at the Energy Department?
The best thing I like about working here is that I see many female scientists at relatively senior levels. This inspires and motivates many young women scientists. The other thing I like is that the work we do at Jefferson Lab is pretty challenging. We are given proper resources and facilities to do our best and we are given credit for our success.
How can our country engage more women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM?
We should increase visibility of more female role models in the STEM area. It all starts in the home. Sometimes parents or grandparents may think that girls are not as good performing in the STEM field.
In our schools, we are not taught about the women in science. Even the toys are branded as girls’ toys and boys’ toys. I remember that when I wanted to buy a robot for my daughter when she was 3 or 4 years old, it was branded as a boy’s toy. In order to engage more girls in STEM, we need to change our outlook and we need to teach our kids that girls’ and boys’ abilities are the same.
Some female scientists leave science in their early stages of their careers because there is limited flexibility in the workplace. Making the workplace more flexible will surely encourage more women to come and stay in STEM field.
Do you have tips you'd recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?
I would recommend everyone that enters the STEM field to come with an open mind, ask for help, be honest, do your best and never stop learning.
When you have free time, what are your hobbies?
I like travelling, reading and listening to Indian music. I lived and worked in three different countries in three different continents. I have a long list of places where I want to go, hopefully one day I can go to all those places. I like to read science fiction books and biographies/autobiographies of people from different background. I need my Indian classical/semi-classical music to focus on my work. I like to go on long walks. While walking, I prefer not to listen any music/audio books, so that I can listen to the beautiful sounds of nature.
For more profiles, visit STEM Rising's Women @ Energy profiles at www.energy.gov/womeninSTEM