After my unsuccessful attempt at a medical profession In India, my journey started in the United States in 2003. At that time, I was looking for a job by applying for 10-15 positions a day and still nothing happened for almost a year. I had a master’s degree in Entomology (Insect Science) from Guwahati University, India but couldn’t find a job here even after I reduced my qualifications to a Bachelor’s degree.
One day, I decided to start volunteering to get to know the people around me. At that time, my husband was working in Downtown Phoenix so I decided to volunteer at St Luke’s Medical Hospital. That is when I learnt a lot about the working of a hospital from the surgical waiting room to the Emergency unit to working on the Console in the front office.
During those days, I would always be my cheerful self, always wishing “good morning” to everyone I see. I kept track of some familiar faces that I used to see every day. One day, around three months into volunteering, one of the acquaintances I said “hi” to every day came up to me and asked me, “Do you want a job?”. I thought I had heard her wrong and told her, “but I did not apply for any job” and in a matter of three weeks, I was cleaning cafeteria tables and the floor as a cashier in the St. Luke’s Medical Center cafeteria. I loved this job, as I got to learn about the packing of lunches for patients and also got to work as a cashier. The next few months was smooth sailing, during the cafeteria hours that I had a break, I worked as a volunteer all around the hospital, then in 2004, July, I got hired as an Adjunct Faculty at the Mesa Community College. Since that day, until 2013, I continued to teach at different community colleges from Phoenix College, Estrella mountain community College to finally Chandler Gilbert Community College in Arizona.
Life was finally settling down. In 2012, I got an offer to work at USDA as a laboratory technician and ended up working with Dr. Colin Brent on Lygus bugs. It was extremely fun to find myself in a research setting once again after 2001. I always wanted to pursue my PhD and I still remember the day when Dr. Brent took me to ASU on a tour of the Social Insect Research Group (SIRG). That was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.
I started to volunteer at the Honey Bee Lab at ASU Polytechnique under Dr. Osman Kaftanoglu. I worked tirelessly at the Honeybee lab for almost a year and then finally got accepted into a PhD program in 2014 August. I was extremely happy that I came back to school 13 years after my first Master’s. But after two years of the program, my professor decided to move out of ASU. I remember that day when I could see my dreams of becoming a Doctorate come crashing down. I was devastated. I went into a depression, and at the same time my father- in- law passed away and I had to pick up my pieces of my heart with a smile on my face for my kids and my family.
Finally, I joined ACP-Erie in 2017 and something in me changed. One day, I happened to visit ACP-Erie for a science fair and met a dear friend, who is a science teacher at the same school. She told me of a job opening and in a matter of 6 months, I was working as a high school science teacher at ACP-Erie. Since July of 2017 to this day, I continue to flourish with these exceptionally talented high schoolers and I work towards making their dream come true in the field of research.
This road has had many ups and downs…my biggest struggle till date is to accept that my dream of getting a PhD was shattered when my PI decided to leave ASU. It took me great courage and over four years to complete my second masters but finally I did complete my Master’s degree and graduated in December 2018. I will go back one day, I am sure of it …just waiting for the right moment.
I specialize in science instruction and am also a researcher, grant writer, entrepreneur and an innovator. As a honey bee scientist, I love encouraging students to enter the research field. I call this DRIPBL (Dream Research Innovate Project Based Learning), through which my students push the boundaries of concrete thinking into a more abstract and innovative mindset. As a NASA ambassador, I reach out to students for opportunities.
I think the one thing that sets me apart from others is that I am a very research based teacher and I want the students to not only participate in science fairs, but also to take up a project and look at it from the real-world problem perspective and try to come up with an innovative solution to the problem. What I’ve learnt from my career journey is that opportunities don’t just come knocking at your door, you have to go find them like the volunteer opportunities that got me connected to the network I wanted to connect to. Another lesson that I’ve learnt is to never make enemies. You never know who you will connect with in the future..so separate amicably with people you don’t get along with, know that you will never make everyone happy, and that’s ok.
I have been extremely blessed the last few years for the following reasons. I’ve received the Governor’s Celebration of Innovation Award-2020, got two MIT excite Awards, was awarded the honorable mention for Presidential Innovation Award for environmental educators in 2019, and was awarded the Global Innovation Award by Turnitin for authentic learning and teaching practices ( only one from North America) and I am also proud of the four provisional and two patent pendings that 9th and 10th-grade students have filed for their innovative ideas. But the best gift I have is my students with their curious minds and my kids who always keeps me on my toes.
Rachna Nath is an internationally recognized innovator, entrepreneur, grant writer, STEM enthusiast and a passionate educator. She has two masters, first one in Entomology (Insect Science) from Cotton College, India and the second one in Biology (Developmental Genetics) from Arizona State University working with honey bee Exocrine gland ontology. She has won the Global Innovation Award from TURNITIN 2019, received the Honorable Mention for the Presidential Innovation Award for Environment Educators in the United States and also two Excite Awards from Lemelson-MIT foundation. Rachna is an Indiaspora Patron.