Dr. Karishma Kaushik is a physician, scientist, clinical microbiologist, educator, and mom. She was born, raised and educated in India, which includes her medical education and residency. After almost 6 years of medical school, Dr. Kaushik completed a three-year residency in Clinical Microbiology at a premier institute that served the Indian Armed Forces. There she explored the entire spectrum of infectious diseases including drug-resistant tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, fungal infections, and even rare parasitic infestations. In addition to clinical work, Dr. Kaushik developed a research project during her residency that was the first study to characterize clinical varicella-zoster strains in India. Her work, bridged the bedside and the bench, starting with vesicle fluid specimens from patients with chicken pox, and leading to advanced molecular typing. For this work, Dr. Kaushik recollects having to reach out of her comfort zone of clinical medicine into the realm of basic science, while learning advanced experimental techniques and analysis. Dr. Kaushik defines these as critical years in her professional journey as she discovered her passion for translational research, which eventually lead her to a Ph.D. program.
Moving to the United States after marriage, Dr. Kaushik completed her Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at the University of Texas at Austin, where she worked in a biophysics laboratory with physicists, chemical engineers, and mathematicians. There she worked on interdisciplinary approaches to overcome antibiotic resistance in bacteria, using approaches beyond her core expertise such as mathematical models and animal systems. Dr. Kaushik also became a mother in the second year of the Ph.D., a role that she says further expanded her time and people management skills! Dr. Kaushik says she is privileged to have had very strong women as mentors and role models. Starting with her mother, a physician educated at a time when not many women in India attended medical school, to her residency mentor – an accomplished doctor in the Indian Army Medical Corps, and her Ph.D. advisor – a woman physicist and interdisciplinary researcher. She in turn has enjoyed mentoring undergraduates with their research and teaching a microbiology laboratory course to 250 students!
Dr. Kaushik has received funding from the Government of India to return to India and continue her diagnostic and research work. Like a true microbiologist, she says she looks forward to ‘re-inoculating’ her education and expertise back in the Indian setting.
Dr. Kaushik’s words of encouragement for young women in STEM can be summed up in one line, ‘Who say’s you can’t have it all?’