Student Essay Contest

A Woman to Lead the Way

2012 AWM Essay Contest: Middle School Honorable Mention

by Nary Touch

As I entered Swati DebRoy’s small office and settled down we spoke a little about ourselves. I learned in that short period of time that she was a hardworking woman, wife, and professor. She has an enormous vocabulary and much to say. At first I thought she was the quiet type, but as we began our interview she began to reveal her true self.
We started off with the basic facts. As I sat and asked about her family background she responded in a way that helped me create a mental image. She began by explaining she was raised in a city called Kolkata, which is located in India. Her father is a full time banker and, on the side, an unknown artist. Swati described her mother as being very talented. Her mother used to translate historical documents from Russian to English. Swati also described her mother as “A walking encyclopedia.” Her parents always told her that she should do what she was most passionate about and stick to it.
Swati’s educational background is what interested me the most about her. When she was back in her hometown she attended school from Kindergarten until she got her master’s degree. She needed to get both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees to be able to come and continue her education in the United States. At the time of the interview, she was finishing up her Ph.D. in Mathematics (which she completed in December 2011).
Swati always had a passion for math: what caused her to become more interested was her first cousin, who was seven years older than she was. He would challenge Swati with math problems and logic games. She thought of him as the one that caused her to push herself to accomplish her goals in the mathematical field.
Swati not only teaches college students but she also is a researcher. She descried it as “one of her passions.” She makes models of biological systems. She researches the spread of infectious diseases, like the virus Hepatitis C. This type of disease lives in the liver of a person’s body.
Swati is not just a professor and a researcher, but behind closed doors she is something more. When I asked her what some of her hobbies are, she responded with, “I lost most of my hobbies in grad school.” However, she did admit she was hanging on to a few. Swati is most fascinated with cooking, traveling, and reading. She also enjoys researching cooking methods. She likes to read books in her free time, although she is currently only reading math books and papers. She has done a lot of traveling internationally and within the United States.
Finally, before the end of a fascinating interview I asked her one last question: “What is your advice for me and others in the world?” She said there is one thing that she had found to be most important to her. Swati said that it is important that you find that one thing that you love the most and stick to it. Giving up is the worst thing to do. Swati had many experiences where she could have given up right then and there. When she was back in India she would take a trip back and forth from her house to an Internet cafe to work every weekend. This was exhausting because she would work all day and had to sleep on a train traveling home that night. She did this to apply for educational benefits in America so she could study here.
Swati may have a passion for many things in the world but math is on the top of her list. She never gave up at times when she struggled. Her cousin challenged her every day with math problems that led to her career in mathematics. Many people, especially woman, do not end up choosing a career in math. For Swati to achieve her goal she had to overcome many obstacles. Her accomplishments challenge other women to do the same. She is paving the way as a successful mathematician.
About the Student:
My name is Nary Touch and I am a seventh grade student attending Southwest Early College Campus. I am interested in math because I want to become a doctor one day and help people. My hobbies include volleyball and video games.