By: Dharshini Subbiah
Assistant Manager, Communications

My name is Dharshini but I’ve been called Dini since I was born. I’ve lived in five countries. I speak three languages – really I only speak one properly but use three different accents. I have 658 Facebook friends but only have about 10 close friends (who live in five different countries).  I have six hobbies and in a day I do what feels like a million things. 

I was born in Malaysia and moved to the United States when I was nine years old. It was an exciting experience for a kid, who was raised on American action movies (I have two older brothers). What I realized when I got to school, that first day at Old Greenwich Elementary, was that I was different. I looked different, I sounded different and all the words I thought meant something, really meant something else.

For example, I learned very quickly that eraser was a more acceptable word for that particular stationery and that a crush is a feeling you have for someone, and not a painful way to die on Game of Thrones.

So what did I do? I changed the way I communicated; I learned the “correct” words for everything and I practiced the way I spoke until someone remarked, “If I close my eyes, I would think you’re American!”

Toured Pennsylvania, US with Dad in 1997

Visited the NBC Studios in New York, US with Mom 

Family portrait: Dini’s family at the wedding ceremony of her brother at Sri Sakthi Easwari Temple, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

That ability to adapt to my surroundings has stuck with me, because I understood very early on that if you want people to understand your intentions, you must be able to relate to them on their level.

This is something that I do in my work every day. I translate the valuable research that we do at Duke-NUS into articles and press releases that the lay public can understand. A researcher may know that a particular protein is novel but if we don’t explain why, break down the process and explain how it affects the public, not only will they not understand, they won’t care. At the end of the day, the research we do at Duke-NUS can help shape policies and affect the way people make decisions. 

That is why I sit with the Duke-NUS’ Principal investigators and have them explain their research to me until I understand. I work with them till we have a story that does justice to their work and is simple enough for the public. 

Actually, this is the favourite part of my job because I’ve always had a strong desire to connect and communicate with people. I believe that sharing enables me to understand the other person’s history (consequently, my undergrad major), learn from their experience and apply the knowledge in my own life.

Speaking of my personal life, one of the six hobbies that keep me busy is food blogging. Writing has become such a big part of my life that I even do it outside work! Honestly, blogging has been a revelation. What started as a hobby of convenience (a girl’s got to eat, right?), has become a opportunity to hone my cooking and writing skills and also venture into photography, something I have no experience with. 

(L) The foodie in action (R) Cooking up a storm!

Blogging also allows me to do what I like best-to connect and communicate with people all over the world. This move to online communication marks the latest way I have adapted, and is increasingly necessary as the border between the physical and digital world blurs.