Meenakshi Prabhune morphed from a microbiologist into a biochemist and biophysicist and finally into a freelance science writer. As someone who has always been curious of the biological world, microbiology was a natural choice for study as she entered college. The first time she isolated bacterial colonies on an agar plate and observed bacteria swimming under the microscope sparked even more curiosity. “It felt like a whole new invisible world had opened its doors to me,” she recalled. Soon after, she began to suspect that her irritated eyes from using contact lenses were caused by microbes and sought to prove this hypothesis. She sampled her contact lenses and when she saw an agar plate full of pink colonies, she was shocked. Did this scare her away from wearing contacts? Nope. She still uses contact lenses but the incident inspired a more thorough cleaning regiment.
Name: Dr. Meenakshi Prabhune
Job title: Freelance science writer
Location: San Jose, CA, USA
Website: Backpack Full of Questions
After spending time in microbiology, Meenakshi pursued a master’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Bremen and a Ph.D. in biophysics at the University of Göttingen to learn how microbes can be utilized for biological applications. Nearing the end of graduate school, she found her true calling. She realized she enjoyed learning and talking about a diverse set of topics rather than digging deep into one topic for years. And unlike the doom and gloom many graduate students anticipate while writing a dissertation, Meenakshi actually enjoyed this process. “The rewarding feeling of writing and compiling my thesis gave me the final push and courage to transition from the lab into a science writing-based career,” she says. As per tradition at the University of Göttingen doctoral graduation, Meenakshi climbed the Gänseliesel fountain to kiss the statue of the goose girl.
As a freelance writer now, Meenakshi spends the day creating pitches for articles, interviewing people, writing and editing. Much of what she writes is geared towards engaging and educating the public. “I believe that bridging the gap between scientists and the public will improve the place of science in society,” Meenakshi says.
Meenakshi also volunteers at the Exploratorium, a science museum in San Francisco and at the Bay Area Science Festival. She enjoys judging local science fairs, leading science demonstrations for school kids and distributing science equipment to underfunded schools. Science writing and outreach go hand in hand by bringing science to diverse audiences.
In her spare time, Meenakshi enjoys reading a good book, hiking and traveling. Her blog, Backpack Full of Questions, is all about science, travel and the intersection of science and travel.
Meenakshi’s microbial doppelgänger: Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli is the go-to bacterium in the lab, whether to study bacterial physiology or to produce proteins to study non-microbiological questions. Meenakshi likens herself to E. coli since they are both dedicated to public service in science.
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