The July 26 route to NASA
Mumbai's Manisha Ganeshan on a career as a climate researcher at the premiere space institute
WITH a team of two women at its core, ISRO launched its lunar mission Chandrayan 2 on July 22, making India stand tall on the global space exploration map. And, it doesn't stop there. Indian women are now out for global domination as well. From Hollywood to NASA, our women are working everywhere and showing the world the best of us. One such woman is Manisha Ganeshan, a research scientist for Universities Space Research Association (USRA) at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Ganeshan, now 32-years-old, is involved in the study of the atmosphere in polar regions using satellite and field observations. She also works with a global climate model to study methods to improve the prediction of tropical cyclones.
Ganeshan, who grew up in Mumbai studying at St. Anthony's Girls High School in Chembur, moved to Kolhapur in 2004, at the age of 18 to pursue environmental engineering, which is a branch of science which works for development of solutions to improve the environment. Around the same time, that is 2005, Maharashtra was hit by severe floods and high rainfall. Within 24 hours, Mumbai received 944 mm of rainfall. Over a thousand deaths were reported across Maharashtra. This event, says Ganeshan, moved her to study weather events and studies. "When Mumbai and other parts of the state witnessed the devastating floods of July 2005 with record high rainfall, I got curious about the extreme weather events which ultimately led me to pursue a Ph.D. in atmospheric and oceanic science at the University of Maryland in the US. My doctoral research was focused on better understanding and predicting of thunderstorms, and the role of urban environment in modifying them. The fluidity in atmospheric science means that you're not confined to studying just one geographic region." After her graduation, she started as a postdoc, which is the next step on one's academic career path after attaining a Phd, at NASA, studying the changing atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean "which has seen dramatic rise in air temperatures and decline in sea ice in recent years".
Ganeshan says the initial years of conducting research were tough because of her inexperience. "With more experience under my belt, the hurdles became smaller and I started enjoying the process of identifying and solving scientific problems. Even though my research has been fulfilling for the most part, it took me a long time to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Staying separated from my family and close friends remains my biggest challenge, but I'm working to overcome it," she says.
Working for NASA has been her dream and Ganeshan loves every bit of it. The field that she is working —climate change—is a crucial global issue and one of the major concerns of countries across. Ganeshan believes that education about climate change is extremely important. "I usually recommend subscribing to the American Geophysical Union's weekly newsletter (EOS Buzz) to friends and family who are interested."
To women who want to pursue science, she emphasises on self-belief and dedication, "Having a curious mind, and the patience to find answers to the most fundamental questions, is a valuable trait for anyone aspiring to be a scientist."
Ganeshan's family resides in Mumbai and she grew up amid cousins and big extended family. While growing up she has been trained in Bharatnatayam. She visits home for about a month every year, "Life in Mumbai is a big contrast. I am surrounded by people, quite literally, and I socialize a lot. I call it my chaotic peace."
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