science | January 22, 2013

You Don't Have To Be One Thing: Nina Tandon On Pursuing Many Interests

What question does tissue engineer Nina Tandon get asked most by her students? In an exclusive interview with Lavin, the science speaker says that when her pupils aren't inquiring about course materials—they're asking her for career advice. What does she tell them? "Don't worry about being that one thing," she explains, "worry about making sure that you keep several lights alive." She believes that there's no one right way to live your life, and pursuing several different interests is the key to successful and rewarding career.

In the past, it may have been seen as a lack of commitment to be involved in several different areas. However, it's become increasingly more common for students to explore multiple possibilities simultaneously. "It creates almost a constellation of our career [and] all those little points of light make us who we are," she says in the interview. Being a jack-of-all-trades, so to speak, can also open you up to new career possibilities and new breakthroughs. This is especially true in the scientific community. Tandon herself found a way to make a unique connection between two different disciplines when she was sitting in a physiology class and discovered a relationship between electrical engineering and the human body. Being open to exploring different interests helped lead her to her current project—
artificially growing hearts and bones.

Tandon wears several hats herslf. She's a TED Fellow, an electrical and biomedical engineer at Columbia University's Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering, and teaches a "Bioelectricity" class at Cooper Union. She's been named one of the most creative people in business by Fast Company and shares her innovative research with eager audiences in her public speeches. By opening herself up to many different disciplines, Tandon has made revolutionary discoveries that may change the medicial field forever.