Harvinder Gill Shares What Drives Him to Research
September 19, 2019 | By: Karen Michael
Gill said he picks hard problems to solve and works on a diverse set of topics because it keeps him energized.
Harvinder Gill, associate professor and Whitacre Endowed Chair of Science and Engineering, is pursuing transformational research that may one day treat peanut and other food allergies, as well as research that could lead to the development of a universal influenza vaccine.
Gill's work keeps him so fascinated, he works late and sometimes forgets to even eat. Occasionally, he even sleeps in his office.
He said he really doesn't know how to answer the question of why he researches.
"I frankly don't know the answer, other than saying, I cannot do anything else. Simple," Gill said. "If you say, go be the president of Texas Tech, I'll say, 'I don't want to be the president of Texas Tech.' It's just not something I can do. This is the only thing that I like to do."
Gill explained that the exhilaration of discovery and rush of excitement from "aha!" moments in research drives him.
"I don't like doing the same thing that other people do," Gill said.
Instead, he wants to do research that is "transformational," which he also encourages his students to pursue. He pushes himself and his students and postdocs in the lab to think creatively so that as a team, they can develop innovative solutions to challenges that plague human health.
He said he picks hard problems to solve and works on a diverse set of topics because it keeps him energized.
Before Gill found his calling in research, he spent several years in industry. Following his graduation with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering, Gill was hired as a commissioning engineer in a large firm in India. On his very first project, he got a chance to work onsite where a new oil refinery was being constructed and commissioned.
Because it was new, he was able to go through all equipment in the refinery. In nine months, anything that he had read about in a textbook, he saw on the job, which he said was tremendously helpful.
But after the learning period, he was also very bored.
"It was very monotonous," Gill said.
He left to start a business, but he found that wasn't something he was truly interested in either.
Whenver Gill visited his parents' hometown, he found himself visiting with his professors at his undergraduate alma mater and going to the university library.
"I used to be at peace surrounded with books and knowledge," Gill said of his undergraduate years.
That is when he decided to pursue his doctorate in bioengineering. Once he started research as part of his PhD studies, there was no looking back.
So what is the answer to the question of why he researches?
"The answer is, there's nothing else I want to do," Gill said.