The story of “I want to be a doctor when I grow up!” † by Nepalese women in computer science | NWiC — CELEBRATE | June 2022

Anjela Manandhar

Anjela Manandhar, a typical geek kid who fantasized about getting a letter from Hogwarts one day, is a strong and bold woman who was raised with love in a decent family. She has always been a kind hearted soul with a soft corner for dogs.

As for her career, Anjela is a postdoctoral researcher at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA. She completed her PhD in Biochemistry from The Graduate Center, City University of New York, NY. Originally from Kathmandu, she flew to the US in 2009 for undergraduate studies. She uses computational tools to investigate the structural and dynamic properties of biomolecules. One of her current projects involves designing a drug against a protein of the Covid-19 virus. Her journey in technology and research has made her realize that exposure and mentorship are indeed crucial to spark interest in a new field.

“I describe myself as a computational chemist – where I use computational tools to answer biochemical phenomena. But this wasn’t something I aspired to, it just happened and I’m glad it happened.”

What Anjela is doing now and what she has become is a very different scene from how her story begins as a studious child. Since childhood, she heard her family and friends say: “Anjela is going to be a doctor!” It turned out to be a manifestation in itself. However, over time she realized that it was not her thing and then went to the US for further studies.

“It was one of the hardest days of my life when I told my parents that I didn’t want to continue with a medical career. It was indeed a low moment for me. But after a certain time everything comes back into balance.”

She also shares that her exposure to the open-mindedness of Western countries regarding women and their careers made her realize that her upcoming arts manifestation was nothing but a face for the stereotypical patriarchal society. From women fired to start careers in the easy sectors to women seeking solace as a result of an inferiority complex, Anjela describes as nothing but a miserable failure on the part of each of us.

“The problem I see is that although women are in work, it changes significantly once they are married. Why are women only the primary caretakers of a home? Why is there no inclusivity in households and likewise no inclusivity at work? Why, even after all these years of women reaching places, are we still unable to get rid of all the traditional mindsets? If there is anything that resists much-needed change, we have to work on an individual level.”

Despite all her struggles, Anjela proudly shares her stories of not only success, but also miserable failures. She celebrates her failures because she believes that is something that keeps her moving and striving for excellence. She also emphasizes the importance of good guidance and mentorship in our most vulnerable life situations.

“I never believed in myself that computational chemistry would become an integral part of me. But here I am, living as an integral part of computational chemistry itself. This would not have been possible without the mentorship I was given. I decided to take this track because my PhD advisor gave me the confidence that I could. I owe my career to her.”

This experience of perfect guidance has not only taken Anjela places, but also given her the strength to stand next to anyone who needs a hand to hold or a high-five.

“When I see someone confused and lacking in confidence, I just say, ‘If I could do it, so can you!’ That’s why I’ve always done my best to provide as much help, resources and motivation as possible to beginners in my field. I know how hard it was for me, but I overcame it and so can anyone.”

Anjela’s story is about exploring the loopholes of Nepalese society that have developed her from a socially naive person to an intellectual explorer. She is a perfect example of a Happy, go Lucky Soul who lives every moment for herself and the people around her without worrying about the future. Her belief in ‘present moment=perfect moment’ inspires us to live freely. NWiC is proud to know a person like Anjela who loves to create only happiness and positivity around her.

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