Hi! I’m Jacob Verghese and welcome to my official website.
I arrived into this world on Tuesday, the 288th day of the year 1980. I was born in Trivandrum, Kerala but I grew up in Madras, Tamil Nadu. (Madras was re-named to its original form, Chennai in 1996). Madraspatnam was the name given to the town by the British East India Company in 1639.
Origin of my name
One might say that I don’t have a typical Indian name. That’s because I am part of the 2.5% of India’s population that are Christians. The origin of my last name has proved somewhat elusive. However, I am inclined to go with the theory that “Verghese” is descendant from Portuguese. They were the first European country to arrive in South India in 1498 and were the most successful in converting the locals to Christianity. (pic: dad, mom and me)
From kindergarden until grade 4, I attended Harrington House School (HHS). At the time, this was an international school that also catered to the expats that lived in Madras. The school started at 7:30am, which obviously made me habitually get up early in the morning. I still do to this day. There were two things that I loved as a kid while at HHS: (1) acting and (2) sports. It was a wonderful experience with many memories. I am fortunate to still know some of the kids from that time. We keep in touch through social media 🙂 (pic: (1) in school uniform, (2) dressed as a clown for a school play)
I changed to Union Christian Matriculation (UCM) Higher Secondary School from grade 5 until I finished high school. It was a very disciplined school following its principal, Dr. P. Varghese (no relation!). Punctuality, proper attire and studies were the top priorities. Actually, studying was the only priority. Biology was my favorite subject. I was given my first leadership responsibility as class ‘monitor’ in grade 6. I was later assigned as school ‘prefect’ in high school. Some of the best friends I made are from UCM. When our class was about to graduate from high school, 3 of us decided to start a ‘yahoo group’ for our batch of ’98. We called it ACES-Association of Commerce, Economics and Sciences. It allowed us to keep abreast with each others’ progress over the years. We now use watsapp! (pic: Mom wanted to take a picture just before I left for school and I was not a happy camper)
My love for natural sciences and biology got me admission to undertake a B.Sc. in Zoology in Loyola College, affiliated to University of Madras. My interests in Cell Biology and Biochemistry started during this time. The Departments of Zoology and Botany were starting to expand into more biotechnology-focussed departments and I was one of 15 students selected (after a test) to take the new, extra course curriculum in addition to the Zoology-centric subjects. I always wanted to pursue my postgraduate studies in the U.S., but since the requirement was to complete 4 years of University education, I decided to continue with a M.Sc. degree in Zoology. Although this was predominantly didactic, we were given the chance to do a research project as part of the requirements. I took this opportunity to do a summer project that the National Center for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore, Karnataka. This was where I learnt the basic techniques in molecular biology under the aegis of a Ph.D. student, Ashwini Godbole in the lab of Dr. M.K.Mathew. In late Spring 2003, I got accepted to The University of Houston, Houston, Texas, U.S.A. This was the beginning of another chapter in my journey to discovery. (pic: Receiving the “Star of Loyola” award)