Manisha Panta, a Ph.D. student at the University of New Orleans, advocates self-belief, optimism, and curiosity. Her interests lie in Applied Data Science, especially in computational biology and environmental informatics problem domains. Moreover, as an educator, she loves sharing her passion for technology and problem solving with her young students at the University of New Orleans. She’s also an incoming Data Scientist Intern at Intuit for summer 2021.
Raised in a joint family, Manisha imbibes the best qualities from all the amazing people around her. She describes herself as joyful, curious, and proactive as a kid.
“I wanted to try everything and made sure there was nothing left unexplored- from dancing, singing, playing instruments, football, table tennis to taking part in debates and what not! “
The story of how she was drawn to Computer Science and engineering is interesting. While she was going through a lesson in her Computer class in her 4th grade, she got intrigued by the story of the first-ever programmer, Lady Augusta Ada Lovelace. Influenced by her strong and powerful portrayal, Manisha had a deep conviction at the moment that one day she would work in the field of Computing. When one of her cousin sisters opted for Engineering back then, it further fueled her will to pursue Computer Engineering.
After completing her high school at St. Xaviers College, she ventured out for her long-awaited dream to work in the realm of Computing. She enrolled in the Computer Engineering Program at Kathmandu Engineering College and explored new things along with her passionate group of friends. She participated in lots of events, hackathons, and workshops.
“Back then, I wanted to get my hands dirty on everything out there. Be it website development, mobile application development, UI/UX design, research — everything, I learned and worked on it.”
Manisha attended Gracehopper Celebration 2015 in her senior year at college. She took this opportunity to network with women from different countries and learn more about graduate schools in the US. After completing college, she moved to the US for her graduate studies.
“I come from a place where there were hardly 2 to 3 girls in a tech event of 100, and there I was, among the best of the best women in tech from around the world.”
Manisha got a Masters’ in Computer Science from the University of New Orleans. Following her passion for research, she’s currently doing a Ph.D. in Computer Science with a concentration in Machine Learning, Deep Learning for Computer Vision, and Bioinformatics.
“As a graduate student, I used to create deadlines for myself, working on breaking down a problem statement and creating step by step solutions to it, constantly visualizing myself as an independent researcher working on my lab in the future. Naturally, I decided to start my Ph.D. right after my masters.”
During her graduate days, Manisha was weakened to her knees by the thought of whether she could make it to a job after her Master’s. “I knew I was capable enough to go after it, but I was in a dilemma if I should go after a job or continue pursuing my field of interest — research, doing a Ph.D.” She realized that everybody has their own sets of limitations, and the key is not to let your self-doubt overpower you in the decision-making process.” I finally decided to go after what I wanted and live without any regrets, and that’s all that matters in the end.”
Manisha believes that environmental biases play a vital role in shaping a mindset — it either drives you to do more or makes you feel less. She gives credit to her family, especially her sisters, who helped her instill a belief — that she can achieve anything.
“I am an intuition-driven person, I had a strong conviction that I shall be working in the field of Computer Science from the fourth grade, and here I am today, a Ph.D. student, living my dream!”
Manisha emphasizes the idea of having a strong learning attitude. As a Java instructor in her University, she recalls one student who, in the 1st year of college, had asked how to create a folder being a CS student. “The same student became the best performing student throughout the year. All this because she was never hesitant to ask. As an educator, I always make sure that nobody feels judged when they ask questions. This is very important as the teacher plays a significant role in shaping students’ way of life.”
A passionate educator by heart, inspired by her students’ commitment to growth, Manisha believes in the power of sharing knowledge. “Say, you’re organizing a workshop. Even if five people show up, the passion you show as an educator to help them learn helps ignite a spark in one person at least, and it’s a ripple effect at the end of the day. The same person goes out to share it with others.”
Manisha also highlights the importance of getting involved in communities, networking, and surrounding oneself with an enthusiastic group of friends, teachers, and communities. “The initial phase of getting into tech matters a lot. You should be around people who can inspire you to move forward. It is important to get involved in communities to help boost your morale, as it might seem easy at the beginning because of all the hype and the availability of online resources. However, it is equally difficult to retain a presence and interest in this field.”
“There are pain points in life where we’ve to push ourselves out of the rabbit hole of misery and confusion. Whenever I feel low, feel like quitting, self-doubt kicks in, I remind myself of the reasons why I chose this path, all the hard work I have done and all the sacrifices and contributions my family and friends have made to get me in the position where I am today.”
“Thinking in terms of the solutions of problems which common people encounter, and working on them and being able to witness its visible impact on people’s lives is the best thing about being in tech!”
“At the end of the day, whatever it may be and however tough it is, you have to decide for yourself. And that’s where the thrill lies in self-decision making.”
As a big supporter of the idea of learning, sharing and growing together, Manisha herself is involved in different communities. She believes a community can help bring out the role models, spread the word on what they have accomplished and how they did it, which inspires people to move forward. Honing this idea, she and her friends, as an ambassador of the global community Women in Data Science, are planning to organize a conference “Women in Data Science Nepal” very soon.
Cheerful, optimist, and intuition-driven, Manisha’s life story portrays the importance of believing in oneself. “No matter where you are, who you are, and what you’re going through, you are your rescue. Just see things as they are without judgment. Honor your struggles as they uniquely and completely belong to you.”
The Instagram singer Manisha encourages having a positive attitude. “Whatever is there in your heart is meant to be revealed eventually, be it through your work, your voice, or your attitude towards life. People will not have enough energy to hide for a long time. Hence having the right attitude and optimism toward life matters a lot.”
“Stay driven, keep your physical, mental, and emotional health on top priority and enjoy the process as you move ahead!”
This story is written by Dipti Gyawali, a member of Nepali Women in Computing.
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