Skip to Content Skip to College of Pharmacy Menu Skip to Mercer Menu

Alumni Profile: Dr. Ashana Puri (PhD '18)

Dr Ashana Puri, PhD '18, Mercer College of PharmacyDr. Puri is currently an Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutics at East Tennessee State University’s Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy.

Why did you choose Mercer University for your PhD?

Dr. Ajay Banga has always been a well-renowned scientist in topical and transdermal drug delivery. His work aligned very well with my Master’s research project and long-term research interests. Hence, I applied for a position in his lab and was fortunate to have received the opportunity. Atlanta has good weather with not much snow, which was a bonus as I am not a winter person!

How did you manage your stress during PhD?

When I first started, I would get very upset and stressed out if an experiment went wrong. Slowly, I realized that the experiments that don’t work out as expected either due to our mistakes or if they aren’t meant to work anyway, contribute to our actual learning. I have made mistakes and have learned from them so much that I quote the same examples to my students. If we get negative results from an experiment, those results also mean a lot. That is why it is called RE-SEARCH. If we understand this part of PhD, we will enjoy our research. Negative results can be very interesting!

In situations of stress during PhD, I would take short breaks from work to introspect, understand the cause of stress, and try ways to de-stress. I would watch something fun, hang out, or chat with friends and family who would cheer me up, go shopping, etc.

What was your favorite food place in Atlanta?

There were many- Little Bangkok, Halal Guys, Grub Burger, to name a few! I love SPICY food!

What are the tools you would suggest for finding job opportunities?

Networking during conferences, LinkedIn, Indeed, HigherEd Jobs.

What does a profession in academia look like?

A tenure-track appointment in academics can be quite busy and involve responsibilities for teaching, research, and service. Like with any other profession, the passion for the job drives and motivates you to do well in academic settings, irrespective of the rigor. The best part of academics is the freedom to creativity and innovation in teaching and research and the boundless opportunities to collaborate to accomplish those endeavors.

How does your PhD experience help you with your current profession?

My PhD experience at Dr. Banga’s lab shaped me into an independent researcher. Getting to understand the minute scientific and technical details of research by involvement in various industry and collaborative projects under Dr. Banga’s guidance and mentorship taught me a lot that I was able to put into starting my independent lab and applying for intra- and extramural funding. In addition to this, the Pharmacy Teaching Certificate Program that I completed at Mercer University as part of the PhD program was extremely helpful in learning basic teaching skills and writing an impactful teaching philosophy that is part of any academic position application.

How do you balance work and personal life?

I’d say I am still working on this. With writing grants and publications, or trying to be available for students whenever they need me or finding the time to work in the lab myself, this can be challenging sometimes. However, I have considerably reduced the time I work over the weekends and have managed to enhance my productivity during the work hours in the week. I guess this happens with experience and now that I feel more comfortable with teaching, I can devote more time on other responsibilities during the weekdays. Also, planning my activities well ahead of time and prioritizing the important ones, have made things relatively easier for me to be able balance work and personal life. Having an understanding partner is important and I am certainly blessed with that.

What’s some advice for current PhD students?

There is light at the end of the tunnel. You may feel saturated and stressed during your PhD with so many things to do, but prioritize and plan your work. Give in your best in whatever you do and you will surely attain the success you desire in life. Take one day at a time!

Thank you to the Mercer University student chapter of AAPS- MUSCA Pharmabeat Magazine for this interview!