Twenty Minutes with Dr. Balasubramanian: A Faculty Spotlight

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Her enthusiasm for chemistry is unparalleled. Dr. Balasubramanian, a chemistry professor at NJIT, lived half of her life in India. As just a young girl, her interest in chemistry stemmed from her father who was a Chemist, and her love for research came from her uncle who worked as a molecular biologist. She grew up always wanting a career in science, but knew that clinical practice was not meant for her. At an early age, she decided she wanted to become a PhD doctor, and she attained her goal. After graduating from Stella Maris College in Chennai, she attended the Indian Institute of Technology, before coming to the United States to complete her doctorate at Johns Hopkins University. One of her best memories from college was at a club fair. Being the President of the chemistry club, she knew that she had to do something cool to attract new members. Along with the rest of the club, she set up a distillation apparatus to distill the extract from roses and package it into small perfume bottles. She handed them out at the fair, and Balasubramanian “still has very vivid memories of the smell wafting through the class[room]”.

More than just her academic achievements, Balasubramanian excelled in sports as well. Along with playing both badminton and volleyball in India, she represented her all-girls college in cricket too. Balasubramanian brought her passion for sports with her to America when she co-founded an intramural cricket team at JHU, saying “It was so much fun”. Currently, as a mother of three, she spends her free time gardening and teaching her kids how to play badminton in the backyard. Balasubramanian also raves about the original Jungle Book movie, finding it to be funny, and loves how she can watch it with her kids.

Having worked in industry for a long time researching the effects of radiation on cells, Balasubramanian realized that she loved teaching more. She was an adjunct professor at Cooper Union before she started to work at Stanford University in 2007. At that time, Stanford was one of the first universities to develop a virtual classroom where students from all over the world could sign on at the same time. Balasubramanian said “it was amazing…[but] I enjoy the physical connection with people, and I missed that”. She has been working at NJIT since 2009, teaching mostly Chemistry 1 and 2 as well as Biochemistry. Although she misses research, she wants to focus on teaching for now. She feels most proud of her students when they exemplify not only mastery of the material but also enthusiasm and hard work.

Dr. Balasubramanian has taught at many different schools, but she explains that she came to NJIT because of the university’s commitment to the success of each and every student. She abides by the belief that if a student and professor each do their part in the relationship, then they will both be able to succeed.

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