(Photo credit: Mr. Haridasan)
Pooja Singla is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics. She joined IISc in 2012. Her area of research is mathematics. She did her PhD at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, India and postdoc at Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), Israel.
When did you first realise that you wanted to be a scientist?
I liked mathematics since I was in school and the idea of learning more kept pushing me to the next stage. Initially, the goal was to be a college teacher, but then, during my post-graduation, one of the professors at Punjabi University motivated me to do PhD in mathematics as well as to consider research as a career option.
Why did you choose this area of research?
My broad research area is algebra, and it involves understanding abstract algebraic structures. I like it because it is very logical and analytical in approach.
“Be strong-willed and be thick-skinned to do research. This advice helps me to find the necessary courage to tackle the uncertainties of life and also be not bothered by any unfair criticism.”
What are the big unresolved questions in your field?
In mathematics, one way to study various objects and sets is by understanding their symmetries. The set of all these symmetries has an algebraic structure called a group. My current research area is the representation theory of groups. Our primary focus is on understanding groups through their action on linear spaces. The questions of determining the representations of various groups are still open and constitute the major unresolved questions of the area. Many times, the goal is to also unify different problems depending on the properties of the groups or actions. The corresponding questions many times lead to relating different branches of mathematics.
What is the most important advice you got that you think has helped you in your Career?
Be strong-willed and be thick-skinned to do research. This advice helps me to find the necessary courage to tackle the uncertainties of life and also be not bothered by any unfair criticism. This mindset has been especially helpful during the last few years while bringing up my young daughter.
If you had any women mentors or role models in science, who were they and what do you think you’ve learned most from them?
I did not have any women mentors directly during my academic career so far. However, I got very much inspired by many academicians such as Prof. Sujatha Ramdorai, Prof. Meena Mahajan, Prof. Amritanshu Prasad and Prof. Uri Onn. All of these people directly or indirectly taught me that life in research does not always mean sacrificing personal goals; it is all about finding the right balance in your priorities.
What is the most fulfilling thing about life in science?
The opportunity to learn new stuff on a daily basis and the joy of discovering
What do you like most about working in IISc?
Independence in doing our research, bright students and the great colleagues to interact and work with.
If there is one thing you’d like to change about IISc, what would it be?
I think a better, fully digitalised and automated system for all administrative work will be beneficial.
What would be your advice for aspiring women scientists?
I would say keep trusting your capabilities, be persistent and be thick-skinned.