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About us.

My story

Hi, I am Roosheel Patel. Below you can find my story. I have found that my professional story is deeply intertwined with my personal one. I hope these words will inspire other immigrant children trying to find their way in an ever changing world.

A parents' journeys

Like most immigrant children, my story begins with my parents, Sandeep and Nauka Patel. Born into humble families in Gujarat, India, my dad, on November 19th, 1958, and my mom, on December 15th, 1959, entered this world with a shared destiny. Surprisingly, destiny seemed to play a whimsical trick as both sets of their parents bore the same names, Sarojben and Navinchandra Patel. It was an enchanting coincidence that would shape their lives in unimaginable ways.

In their idyllic townships and villages, my parents were raised amidst the warmth of their families. Love abounded, and the tight-knit community fostered an unbreakable bond. The essence of life was simple yet resolute—an unwavering commitment to each other. If a neighbor had a leak, volunteers would flock to fix it, exemplifying an unparalleled level of empathy. Looking back, life seemed hard but carried a certain simplicity that would forever leave an indelible mark.

Now, my dad was an ardent cricket enthusiast. His love for the sport coursed through his veins, and the entire village bore witness to his exceptional skills. Often, his buddies would clandestinely invade his backyard, luring him into playing with them. His mother, a respected school teacher and the principal of the local school, would chase them away, vehemently reminding them that her son needed to focus on his studies. However, my dad possessed an uncanny ability to melt her heart. He would plead, "Mom, I promise to finish my reading, but please let me play. They need me!" Unable to resist his passionate appeal, she would invariably relent, granting him the freedom to showcase his prowess. He emerged as the town's finest batsman, bowler, and fielder, and in his eyes, the best umpire as well. It wasn't just his village that recognized his brilliance; his exceptional talent became the stuff of legends. They still talk about him today. Every day, he returned home from school, his shirt drenched in sweat, a testament to his tireless dedication. When my grandmother wrung his shirt, his perspiration would flood an appreciable area of their modest 600 sq.foot flat.

While not always a priority, his scholarly aptitude came effortlessly, as if the universe had blessed him with an innate gift. He sailed through his studies without breaking a sweat, yet he held deep reverence for education—a value instilled by his family. In the grand tapestry of Indian society, school held a sacred position, and for many children, it became a spiritual pursuit, second only to God. While never too devout a follower, my dad respected both God and his books, understanding their significance in shaping his future.

The affection bestowed upon my dad was unparalleled. He occupied a special place in the hearts of his extended family, with uncles favoring him over their own children. Such favoritism, though a testament to his remarkable qualities, sometimes ignited familial quarrels among his cousins. Nevertheless, love remained the binding force, and even now, as our large family gathers, they fondly recollect the shared experiences and navigate the challenges that life presents. The knowledge of having a loving familial network has bestowed upon my dad a sense of joy and stability, serving as the bedrock for his happiness.

On the other hand, my mom's journey began in a rustic village called Herni, situated in the dry state of Gujarat. Curiously, despite the town's reliance on moonshine, a trade my mom vehemently abhorred, she was drawn to the realm of books. She was a bookworm in every sense of the word and reveled in the enchantment that knowledge brought. Fully cognizant of her family's expectations and the importance of excelling in school, she yearned to surpass all predetermined benchmarks. Just like my dad, she held a special place in her family's heart, showered with love and adoration.  <<Add more>>

Now, it is a common notion (though evolving nowadays) that as an Indian child, one's career options are limited to either becoming a doctor or an engineer. Since my dad couldn't fathom the sight of blood, he naturally gravitated toward engineering, a path he believed would be his calling.

The college admission process in India is a crucible, fraught with challenges and immense pressure. Every high school senior must undergo a national test called the JEE, a fiercely competitive examination that determines admission to engineering schools. Known for its difficulty, the JEE selects only the crème de la crème from an extraordinarily talented pool of students, vying for admission to the most prestigious institutions worldwide. However, the most distressing aspect of this ordeal was the publication of results in the local newspaper. There was no hiding from a poor performance, no chance for redemption. And so, my dad's fortunes took a turn for the worse on that fateful day. A section of the test caught him off guard, a consequence, he believes, of his unyielding passion for cricket. As he failed to secure admission into his desired school, he returned home that evening, bracing himself for the scathing reprimand he anticipated from his father. He expected to be berated for his lackluster performance and blamed for prioritizing cricket over academics. However, to his surprise, my gentle giant of a granddad, with a demeanor that commanded respect, greeted him calmly and uttered these words: "It's okay. You can choose the bat or you can choose the book. You can't choose both." Tears welled up in my dad's eyes, overwhelmed by a wave of emotions. He felt lost, unsure of his next step, and little did he know that the worst was yet to come.

As any mother's love is boundless, my grandmother adored my dad more than life itself. She refused to accept defeat, taking it upon herself to beseech admission counselors and beg for her son's chance at redemption. Witnessing her struggle tore at my dad's heart, and to this day, those haunting images remain etched in his memory. When his cousins and uncles visited, the inevitable topic of his status would surface, and he would be asked, "Beta [a term of endearment], what are you doing now?" He didn't know how to answer, or rather, he didn't want to answer that question. All he knew was that he never wanted to experience that feeling of helplessness again.

Hope flickered on the horizon when another test emerged the following spring. After high school seniors who had secured admission made their choices, a few coveted seats became available nationwide. This second chance was the lifeline my dad had been desperately seeking. Initially reluctant, he finally yielded to his mother's persuasive pleas and decided to sit for the test.

Recalling that day, he remembers feeling a mix of confidence and uncertainty as he tackled the questions. Upon completing the exam, his cousins inquired about his performance, and with a heavy heart, he replied, "I don't know, let's wait and see." The results were slated to arrive three months later, delivered by a mailed letter. Like a pilgrim on a sacred quest, my dad faithfully visited the post office, repeatedly asking the attendant, "Did I get a letter?" His determination was so unyielding that the attendant didn't even require the question; a simple nod conveyed the answer. "Nothing for you today." But one day, as fate would have it, he overheard a classmate who had also taken the test receiving news of their results. Bolting toward the post office, his heart in his throat, he fervently prayed for a stroke of good fortune. Breathless, he stood before the attendant.

His heart sank as she nodded in response to his query. "No, nothing for you today." Crestfallen, he started to retreat, but a familiar uncle spotted him and informed him that his sister, Shilpa, had collected the mail that day. Igniting a surge of hope, he sprinted home, bursting into the living room, his urgency palpable. "Did I get a letter?! Do you have it?!" My mischievous aunt, sensing the opportunity for a playful moment, initially denied having any letter. She slyly withheld the truth, but my dad's intuition was keen. "Where is it?!" he demanded. After a few teasing moments, she relented, handing him the envelope, her eyes fixed on its contents as he tore it open.

As his eyes scanned the page, his heart nearly stopped.

 

All he remembers seeing were the words "Congratulations...". He couldn't believe his eyes. He had done it. Against all odds, he was going to become an engineer.

 

In his mind, he attributed his success to sheer luck. Even though he didn't know it yet, that moment was the beginning of our lives.

 

My Story

I was born into a perfect world, imperfect.

 

My journey began with a unique challenge—I was born with a rare congenital birth defect known as genu recurvatum, which caused a deformity in my knee joint. When I was born, my leg actually bent backwards. It was an unsightly sight. Through the bloodly mess was my birth, the doctors and my dad knew something was wrong. However, thanks to America's advancements in medical research and innovation, I received an immediate diagnosis and treatment that allowed me to walk and run like any other child. This early experience instilled in me a profound appreciation for the culture of innovation and scientific exploration that has shaped both my life and career.

With a background in biochemistry and a research-focused education, I have excelled academically and made significant contributions to scientific advancements. During my undergraduate studies at Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University, I delved into scientific research under the guidance of Paul Straight, where I discovered the invisible world of scientific inquiry. This experience ignited a passion within me to explore the unknown and challenge established theories. Through dedicated effort and an empirical mindset, I excelled academically, published a thesis, and earned recognition as an Undergraduate Research Scholar.

 

However, my journey took an unexpected turn after graduation. Driven by a strong sense of obligation and a desire to help my family, I became involved in my father's structural engineering start-up business. Despite lacking formal engineering training, I leveraged my analytical mindset and interdisciplinary skills to propose innovative construction methods. One of my groundbreaking ideas involved utilizing 3D steel printing to revolutionize traditional building practices, resulting in substantial financial savings and environmental benefits. Overcoming initial skepticism, I successfully convinced my father of the transformative potential of these innovative approaches.

Inspired by my experiences in the construction industry, I made the decision to return to my true passion—scientific research. Joining the lab of Peter Christie in the Texas Medical Center, I immersed myself in a vibrant research community that constantly challenges the status quo. Here, I developed novel tools and techniques in molecular biology and high-resolution microscopy, contributing to published manuscripts and delivering well-received presentations. The opportunity to engage in cutting-edge research and expand my knowledge further solidified my commitment to scientific inquiry.

When the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, I made the choice to remain at our institution and actively contribute to scientific efforts. Drawing upon my scientific training, I worked on projects directly related to the development of preventive measures for COVID-19. This period was both challenging and inspiring, as I had the opportunity to give back to the American people and contribute to the global fight against the pandemic. The results of my work have been published in prestigious, high-impact journals, including Science, Cell, PNAS, and Nature Communications.

Throughout my journey, I have held onto my cultural heritage, which has instilled in me a deep sense of loyalty and obligation to my family and my country. I am profoundly grateful for the privileges and opportunities that America has provided me, and I carry these thoughts closely as I continue to pursue my American dream. Through my work in genomics and drug development, I aim to make meaningful contributions, embodying the spirit of innovation, excellence, and gratitude that defines this great nation.

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