IndiaBioscience is a non-profit science outreach initiative created to fulfill the niche gap within the Life Science sector in India. It promotes the Life Sciences in India, by enabling networking, being an information hub, promoting skills, and communicating science.
The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) invites applications for the position of Development Officer. The Development Officer will play a key role in the fundraising and alumni activities within the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs (ODAA). Apart from assisting the Chief Development Officer, the Development Officer is also expected to perform the following responsibilities:
Assist in developing a vibrant Philanthropist-IISc ecosystem
Assist in developing strategies to increase engagement and outreach to alumni, philanthropists and corporates
Develop and maintain systems to manage alumni and donors, to conduct donor background research and cultivate the donors, to process gifts and enable donor recognition
Coordinate visits and meetings with top-level executives, philanthropists and alumni
Coordinate the preparation of brochures, proposals and publicity material on projects
Coordinate high-level correspondence and communications with donors and corporates
Carry out day-to-day activities such as contacting donors, maintaining daily accounts and mailing lists, sending out emails to potential donors, sending thank-you notes, etc.
Prepare and submit timely reports and documents for internal and external stakeholders
Coordinate with a variety of Institute offices to manage disbursal and tracking of funds and projects
The position is full-time, temporary and contractual. Since this is a contractual appointment, benefits available to permanent employees of the Institute will not be applicable.
The salary will be fixed between Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 1,00,000/- per month depending on the qualifications, experience, and suitability of the candidate.
BE/BTech or MS/MSc or MBA. The candidate should have excellent communication, organization, management and administrative skills. Experience in fund-raising, networking and related activities. Some experience in marketing/outreach or related fields.
Experience in communications, working in an academic or university environment, experience in interacting with industry leaders/high net worth individuals, knowledge of different softwares and data mining methods.
Interested candidates may send a detailed resume by July 5, 2019 to the Office of the Divisional Chairs, Indian Institute of Science by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), with the subject line “Development Officer”. Short-listed candidates will be called for an interview at IISc Bangalore. Travel expenses will not be reimbursed.
G.V. Ramanjaneyulu is the executive director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), Hyderabad. CSA attempts to understand farmers’ crises, design remedies and make agriculture productive and ecologically sustainable. Fifteen years since its establishment, CSA has rescued several crisis-stricken villages by introducing organic and sustainable farming, organising farmers into producer organisations and engaging with policy changes.
In the second instalment in this two-part interview, Ramanjaneyulu talks about CSA’s history and the the various initiatives that it undertakes.
What motivated you to set up the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA)?
I used to volunteer with farmers’ organisations while working as a scientist in the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), at Directorate of Oilseeds Research in Hyderabad. Here, I saw a deep contrast between what was happening in agricultural institutions and what was happening at the level of farmers. The technological developments, extension services or policy measures were often not directly related to the crises in farmer communities. Also, the innovations that farmers were making themselves never reached other farmers and remained as islands of successes.
Around the same time, farmer suicides were increasing. Debates on the ecological crisis due to the green revolution model of agriculture and climate change were beginning. That’s when a few of us decided to build an institution which takes a scientific approach to alternative models of agriculture for ecological and economic sustainability. That is how the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) was born in 2004.
Across the country, farmers were making agricultural innovations. We tried to understand the usefulness of these methods in different contexts, looked at their scientific validity and rationality, tested them in various growing conditions and replicated them.
We started in 2004 in Andhra-Telangana region with 20 people in the organisation, and today we are a workforce of 150. We now work in six states- Telangana, AP, Maharashtra, Punjab, Sikkim and Tripura. We are also going to be in UP, Orissa and Bihar with whom we partner and implement government programs. We support more than 250 farmer co-operatives across the country. We have scaled up many successful models in partnership with various state governments.
What are farmers’ field schools?
As an organisation, we looked at farmers’ most and immediate pressing problems, as a strategy to gain their interest and trust. Pests and diseases were significant problems, and pesticide use was very high. Pesticide poisoning cases were on the rise with thousands of farmers being hospitalised every year.
We found problem diagnosis to be the main issue. Farmers were unable to identify the pests, the stage of the pests’ life cycle or whether it is a pest infestation or a disease. Therefore, we introduced farmer training programs adopting a farmer field school approach.
The idea was to transform farmers from passive learners to active participants in the learning process. In these schools, farmers are taught to understand their ecosystem. They learn to identify pests and intervene early during the pests’ lifecycle so that they do not reach damaging levels. Most of the preventive measures are not chemical based. We devised and started the ‘non-pesticidal management program’ where we use locally available material like pheromone traps, neem, vitex-kind of local botanicals, etc., to treat infestations.
Learned and experienced farmers become resource people to train other farmers. By 2010 we had spread across the state and reached out to about 20% of the state’s farmers. Pesticide use was brought down by 50% in Andhra Pradesh and pest incidences came down significantly. The only major incidence since 2010 was in 2018 when we observed a predominant pest incidence of Brown planthopper in rice, specifically in the areas where non-pesticide management was not followed.
Farmers speak in local languages and communicate in a particular way, whereas scientists understand and communicate differently. There is always a mismatch between the two, and never had an attempt been made to synchronise them. This program closed the gap between farmers and scientists and showed us that the confidence-building mechanisms for farmers are essential.
A decade ago, agricultural universities were the only source of knowledge, but now farmers are also recognised as sources of knowledge and innovations. I see great potential in knowledge-based extension programs, where farmers are trained to understand their ecosystem, manage it and become resource people for other farmers.
Could you tell us about some other initiatives undertaken by CSA?
We are setting up an incubation centre in farmer cooperatives called Grameen Academy, where youth from villages can learn, innovate and become entrepreneurs themselves. They can also organise and participate in the marketing of their produce. We started a helpline for farmers called Kisan Mitra, which runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Along with the hotline, we also started farmer service centres in villages for addressing their problems and for accessing government support services. We partner with governments in implementing services. We work with district administrators to help farmers obtain credit, insurance and the right prices. We also take farmers’ issues to the government.
We are also trying to bring consumers, farmers and the government on a single platform. At our consumer cooperatives, consumers come together, engage and directly buy from the farmers. We also educate consumers about making the right choices about their food by nutritional counselling. We help consumers grow their vegetables and manage their home wastes. We are also working to bring the consumers and farmers together on public policy issues. All these work falls under the Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO) called ‘Sahaja Aharam’.
Another initiative we just began is to map the ecological footprint of food before it reaches the consumers’ plate. Many a time as consumers, we only think about what food does to us but not what it does to our environment. We call this the ‘ecological footprints’ of food, in terms of carbon, water and energy and ecology. We are using action research to educate consumers. Each packet sold at Sahaja Aharam can be traced back to the farmer who produced it, its ecological footprint, and its economic footprint (which indicates the share of each player in the supply chain).
CSA, in partnership with various farmer breeders and farmer cooperatives, has built an open source seed network called ‘ApnaBeej’. ApnaBeej is an institutional system for open access to seeds and attempts to establish a benefit-sharing model. This is in contrast to the current proprietary seed models, which have led to an extensive monoculture of crops and varieties and monopoly of the industry.
Finally, CSA is also working on a cloud-based IT platform ‘eKrishi’ which supports farmers and farmers’ institutions from production to consumption across the supply chain.
In the first part of this interview, Ramanjaneyulu spoke about the agricultural crisis in our country and the pressing need for sustainable agriculture.
Madhya Pradesh, India
Immunological characterization of recombinant Galectin of human lymphatic filariid Brugia malayi as novel Vaccine candidate and evaluation of immune response elicited by chitosan and liposomes as adjuvants
The eligible candidates are requested to apply for one position of either Junior Research Fellow (JRF) or Project Assistant (01 post only) to work in a project sponsored by Department of Science and Technology-SERB, Government of India.
36 Months or Project Completion Date whichever is earlier
Stipend: Rs.31000 + HRA p.m. for 1st two years and Rs. 35,000+ HRA pm for the 3rd year.
Age limit: 28 years
For Project Assistant:
Stipend: Rs. 16,000+ HRA pm
Age limit: 28 years
For JRF: M. Sc (Biotechnology/ Microbiology/ Biochemistry/ Zoology, life Science or equivalent) with 55% marks/ CGPA ≥6.0 and NET / NET (LS) / GATE (Life Sciences) qualified.
For Project Assistant: M. Sc (Biotechnology/ Microbiology/ Biochemistry/ Zoology, life Science or equivalent) with 55% marks// CGPA ≥6.0.
Eligible interested candidates meeting above requirements may submit application by email to PI along with CV (max 2 pages) in the format attached below.
Shortlisted eligible candidates will be intimated by email only regarding the date and venue of the interview. No separate intimation will be sent.
1. Age limit and relaxation: As per DST rules (however relaxation in case of SC/ST/OBC/Women/PWD candidate will be given as per rules.
2. The date for determining age/qualification and experience shall be the closing date of the application.
3. The above positions are purely temporary and co-terminus with the aforementioned projects.
5. No TA/DA will be paid to the candidates for attending the interview.
Central University of Kerala
Molecular Diversity and Bioprospecting of Carotenoids Producing Haloarchaea in Search of Novel Anti-Cancer agents.
Applications are invited from the eligible candidates (Indian nationals only) for the following temporary position in the research project entitled “Molecular Diversity and Bioprospecting of Carotenoids Producing Haloarchaea in Search of Novel Anti-Cancer agents” sponsored by Science & Engineering Research Board (SERB) Govt. of India.
3 years - Depending upon the suitability of the candidate, the appointment to be made is purely temporary for one year, but extendible after review the work progress each year until the duration of the project.
As per SERB, Govt. of India norms.
M.Sc. in Genomic Science/ Biochemistry/ Biotechnology/Microbiology/Life Sciences with at least 55% aggregate marks and with valid NET/GATE score card.
M.Sc., Final Year results awaited candidates also eligible to apply.
Candidates having lab experience in Molecular Microbiology, Biochemistry, Hands on experience in Cell culture will be preferred.
Interested candidate should send the HARDCOPY of their detailed curriculum vitae by Speed post/ Courier to the following address: Dr. Ranjith Kumavath, Principal Investigator, Dept. of Genomic Science, Central University of Kerala, Krishna Building, Periya (P.O), Tejaswini Hills, Kasaragod-671316, Kerala.
The CV should include name, date of birth, contact details, educational qualifications, any national level exam qualified, Brief note on work experience if having. Name of at least two referees, and self-attested copies of supporting certificates/ Documents.
IBSE offers Post-baccalaureate Fellowships to exceptional graduates, who are desirous of pursuing a 1-2 year research internship at the interface of biology and engineering at IBSE, IIT Madras.
IBSE is an interdisciplinary group dedicated to pioneering innovative
approaches and algorithms that integrate multi-dimensional data across
scales, to understand, predict and manipulate complex biological
systems. IBSE comprises faculty, post-docs, graduate and undergraduate
students from many departments across IIT Madras. IBSE is also an
integral part of Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (RBCDSAI).
The interdisciplinary research at IBSE spans four main domains –
Machine Learning, Network Biology, Metabolic Modelling, and Systems
Theory with active partnerships with following:
Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI, Faridabad)
ICMR-National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis (NIRT, Chennai)
National Center for Biological Sciences (NCBS, Bangalore)
inStem Center for Chemical Biology and Therapeutics (inStem CCBT, Bangalore)
National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG, Kolkata)
Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai
University of Sydney (through Innovations in Biomedical Engineering and Medicine Research Alliance)
University of Heidelberg (through Big Data Cotutelle programme)
Work in a highly interdisciplinary environment, with eminent faculty in Systems Biology and Data Science
Monthly fellowship of ₹40,000 (consolidated)
Access to state-of-the-art high-performance CPU/GPU computing infrastructure
Funds to attend a national conference every year
Regular colloquia by international experts and workshops
Candidates must have completed their Bachelor’s degree within the last two years
Candidates must have demonstrated academic excellence throughout their undergraduate
Dr G.V. Ramanjaneyulu is the executive director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), Hyderabad. Following his PhD, he gave up a well-paying job to establish CSA, a non-profit organisation which aims to find solutions to the crisis that Indian agriculture is in today.
He is recognised for his efforts in pioneering non-pesticidal management in agriculture. In this first instalment in a two-part interview, Ramanjaneyulu explains the causes of the agricultural crisis and the need for sustainable agriculture in our country.
How did the agricultural crisis start in India?
If I go to a doctor and tell him that I have a headache, the doctor diagnoses the cause and treats it. But unfortunately, in the past, whenever farmers reported agricultural problems, the scientific community blamed the farmers for their illiteracy and not following the instructions they were given, rather than understanding the problems.
When water levels started getting depleted, pests developed resistance, fertiliser use efficiency decreased and factor productivity went down, mainstream agriculture never responded to the crisis. We became more technology and product-driven. We dismissed taking a scientific approach for problem diagnosis in agriculture creating the crisis.
I can give you several examples. Today, in Telangana, cotton is grown in more than 50% of the crop area, while not even 15% of the land is suitable for cotton. Crop failure is inevitable when a crop that usually grows in black soil with irrigation comes into rainfed areas with shallow red or chalka soils. As a result of farmers growing water-intensive crops, groundwater depleted.
Often, hybrids were turned to as solutions for falling yields or failing crops. But hybrids can only perform in specific growth conditions unlike local varieties, which can withstand the existing conditions and survive better. Glyphosate (herbicide) use in India is increasing significantly even though the World Health Organisation has declared Glyphosate as a known carcinogen. Though recommended only for few crops, it is sold and used all over the country all year round.
I believe mainstream agricultural institutions entered a monoculture of ideas and failed to innovate. They copied solutions from the West and never entered a dialogue to discuss the farmers’ crises. The world has now recognised and moved on to agroecological approaches. But in India, not a single institution talks about it. We don’t innovate; we don’t learn from contemporary innovations.
How have government policies contributed to this crisis?
The government’s functions can be understood from its two roles – (1) investing and incentivising activities or products required for the greater good; and (2) regulating activities which may have negative impacts. However, presently, it has failed in both.
There are no long-term policies on use of natural resources like land/water or biodiversity in our country (these three being primary resources for agriculture). Not many private companies or new technologies were in play when the 1966 Seed Act was passed. Since then, there have been no new regulations for seeds. Much later, the PVPFR (Plant Variety Protection and Farmers Rights Act), the Biodiversity Act etc., came into existence giving new rights to farmers and more responsibilities to the government, but these are not accommodated in the regulations. The new seed bill has been pending in the parliament for the last 14 years.
The current crisis in farming is also about farmers’ incomes. 85% of farmers have low incomes (about 5000 Rs/month/family), which have not increased for many decades. There have been talks about moving people out of agriculture in the last 20 years but no sector has provided any gainful employment to people.
As a result of all of these factors - the collapse of public institutions and the failure of the government in meeting the changing needs of farmers and establishing necessary support systems - farmers are caught in crisis.
What changes are necessary within the scientific community and science policy in India to combat the agricultural crisis?
Fixing accountability at various levels and taking an integrated approach towards agriculture, livelihoods and environment is the key. Course curriculums and research priorities have to change. We looked at agriculture-focused projects taken up during the last 20 years, the crop varieties released, and the recommendations made. Among the top 100 projects in terms of financial investment in agricultural institutions, very few stand to succeed and meet the needs of the farmers.
Knowledge about the Intellectual Property law (IPR) and biosafety implications of their work is sorely lacking in the scientific community. Innovations have become technology-oriented rather than designed to solve existing problems of the farmer community. Regulatory failures, illegal cultivation of GM crops and unlawful sale of herbicides/agrochemicals is rampant. All of these have to be mended.
We need to plan and conserve natural resources for agriculture as a long-term plan. We need a land use policy in this country. We need efficiency in our ways of resource use, not just economic but also ecological efficiency.
Coming to economic policies, for a long time, we have been asking for income security for farmers. When I say income security, it’s not guaranteed income or direct income support. It is about ensuring farmers get what is due to them. The government artificially lowers the prices in the market for consumers, to make food cheaper, but does not compensate the farmers. Costs of cultivation and costs of living are high. Regulatory failures further significantly increase tenancy costs and inputs costs for the farmers. To make matters worse farmers do not have access to productive resources and support services. Policy changes should address these issues.
To sum up, policy changes should ensure that we adopt new parameters to assess agricultural productivity and build a new agro-ecological framework and farmer’s income security framework. These two are critical.
What is sustainable agriculture and can you comment on the current scenario of organic farming in India?
Agriculture impacts the environment and the environment impacts agriculture. The more we damage the environment, the more environment damages agriculture. A balance is necessary to be able to sustain agriculture longer. Sustainable agriculture is about renewability of resources, be it water, land or nutrients. Gains of the green revolution were realised only because of the organic matter in the soil built over the preceding years. In 20 years, we exhausted that, and from the 1980s the yields declined and crop failures increased. But we continue to use the same old model of agriculture. It is now essential to restore the organic nutrients of the soil and adopt organic farming.
Organic farming encompasses various strategies like abolishing or reducing the use of synthetic chemicals, growing multiple crops, using cover crops for ground recovery, etc. The organic farming sector is multiplying rapidly in India, registering about 19% growth rate. A massive shift is happening towards organic farming, both in production and consumption.
Across the country now, more than ten states have an organic farming policy in place with clear programs for implementation. States like Sikkim have become entirely organic, and Nagaland is moving in a similar direction. Andhra Pradesh is on a mission to grow completely organic by 2027. Odissa has come up with a policy on organic farming.
However, just like the growth rate of green revolution benefitted only a small section of people- many of who were not the producers, the same is happening with organic agriculture. The growth is not helping the producers, hence not solving the crisis.
So, first, we need to look at how farmers can engage with markets and get a better share of the consumers’ price. Second, the regulatory systems for organic farming were terrible in this country until recently. While improvisations have started, more restrictions now exist for organic farming compared to conventional chemicals-based methods. With larger vested interests entering into the organic sector, problems are cropping up. We are looking at how to resolve these issues with a farmer-centric approach.
Nevertheless, I would say that in ten years, there will be a gradual shift to organic farming. But that shift can be sustained only if supported by proper research, extension and markets. If the public institutions do not wake up to the reality and continue to look at agriculture in the conventional yield and technology-centric way, the crisis will continue. How the agricultural research system gears itself to meet these challenges and adopt an agroecological approach is an important issue.
A common misconception is that organic farming gives lesser yields compared to conventional agriculture. Can you comment on this?
Instead of crop yield as the only factor, we need to look at two parameters - long term sustainability of natural resources and the net income that farmers get. No production system in this world works at maximum production capacity. They are optimised so that the net incomes are met. We have proven, again and again, that just improving yields will not solve farmers’ problems.
Even the calculations of yields are wrong; we don’t add the resulting by-products or the externalities caused or factor-in agroecological effects in the yields. Today, productivity has increased, but it is not gainful. We always compare our yields with American yields, which are different because of their climatic conditions and their soil types. The Swaminathan commission has already concluded that agricultural growth should be measured based on the increase in the income of farmers rather than yields.
Do you have any message for the young research community?
First, India has great potential to become agroecological-approach centric. There is vast scope to expand research in this area rather simply copying something that has been tested and failed. Second, being accountable is essential. As consumers, we are all connected, and we need to connect with those who produce food for us. Like we care for our mother, we should care for our farmers.
In the second part of the interview (coming soon), Ramanjaneyulu speaks about CSA’s efforts to understand farmers’ crises and make agriculture productive and ecologically sustainable.
Chennai, Tamil Nadu
IBSE offers post-doctoral fellowships to exceptional doctorates, who are desirous of pursuing a 1-2 year research to initiate long-term research goals at the interface of biology and engineering at IBSE, IIT Madras.
Monthly emoluments of ₹45,000 (plus HRA)
Candidates must have completed their Ph.D. within the last two years
Candidates must have demonstrated academic excellence
We are happy to launch IndiaBiostreams - webinars by IndiaBioscience, as an interactive medium for science outreach, education and community building. Please join us for our inaugural webinar on “What is IndiaBioscience?” on Thu, Jun 20th, 2019 from 3 -4 PM IST
About this Webinar A one-stop resource that cuts across the life science ecosystem in India, IndiaBioscience fosters online and offline networking between researchers, educators and students, increases the visibility of Indian science and scientists in society, promotes skill-building for scientific careers, acts as a hub for resources, data and policy, and much more. Join this webinar to find out more on who we are, what we do, and how you can become a part of our community.
Target Audience: Researchers, Students, Educators, all science professionals
Smita Jain, Executive Director of IndiaBioscience, speaks about the current research scenario in India and some of the most pressing challenges Indian researchers face today. She also throws in some unique but very useful career navigation advice for researchers, while revealing why she chose a career outside academia. This interview was first published on Editage Insights.
Could you tell us more about IndiaBioscience?
IndiaBioscience (IBS) is a program that was created by the Indian scientific community to realize two main goals: to fill a unique niche in the ecosystem of life sciences research in India, and to be a catalyst to promote changes that affect the culture and practice of the field, through engagement with academia, government, and industry at various levels.
IBS aims to increase the visibility of science in society by being a hub for policy discussions and science communication, and as an aggregator of information relevant to the biological science community. IBS has been nurtured within the campus of the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, from its inception.
The program sustained its existence with the help of the community over the initial period of its existence. Over the past 5 years, IBS has been majorly funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. We also have a grant from the Indian Government’s Ministry of Human Resource Development.
What activities does IBS undertake to foster a community of scientists, administrators and policy makers?
Our broad mandate is to serve the life science community across India. Some of our activities over the past few years have included mentorship and recruitment programs for exceptional faculty through Young Investigators’ Meetings (YIMs), the creation of useful content in the form of column articles, news pieces, interviews, opinion pieces, etc. on our website, the provision of career resources in the form of a booklet featuring career opportunities in science as well as general career related advice, our podcast titled IndiaBiospeaks, upcoming webinars for students and young professionals (IndiaBiostreams), and facilitation of research collaboration through specific programs.
We have recently begun preliminary efforts towards addressing undergraduate science education in India where we are trying to build a network of educators and connect them with aspiring researchers. We also have a page dedicated to the efforts of educators on our website. We foster a world-class Indian community of scientists, educators, and policy makers through active networking and by making the IBS website a one-stop resource that has some of the best content for the community, not just from India but also abroad.
IBS aims to serve as a bridge between educators and life science researchers. What are their expectations from each other? And how do you aim to bridge this gap?
A cross talk between researchers and educators is necessary for both the communities and that is what we are trying to address by bridging the gap between the two vastly isolated groups. Educators are the ones who teach and have the ability to influence future generations. Therefore, it is very important for them to stay up to date with what is happening in the world of research.
Also, if the educators are aware of the latest research-based methodologies and can teach those concepts to their students at an early stage, this will stimulate the students to become more curious and become true problem solvers rather than simply being rote-learners.
Such cross talks also help educators to grow their network as well as give them access to research instrumentation facilities for their own research as well as their students. Researchers in turn, get to communicate their science to the younger minds and stand to gain from their interactions with curious aspiring researchers early on.
With these aims in mind, we have set up a dedicated discussion forum for educators on the IBS website. The discussion forum is accessible to researchers as well. We invite active educators to our regional YIMs to actively interact with researchers, thus fostering the collaborative spirit. We also want to initiate mentoring and networking meetings for educators, similar to our YIMs.
How do you think the research culture in India has evolved?
The research culture in India is definitely becoming more global. It has become more collaborative in nature as well as more interdisciplinary. People have begun to appreciate the value of sharing, networking, and collaborating. I also see that more and more members of the Indian scientific and research community are in favor of bringing in a more transparent and open culture in science education, communication, and research. There is positivity amongst the next generation of researchers. Younger researchers have also started to realize the importance of outreach and their role towards society.
India has witnessed a major exodus of talent over the years, commonly referred to as the “brain drain.” What are your thoughts on this?
You may have heard of the proverb, “The grass is greener on the other side” So by nature, we are always looking for greener pastures, for better opportunities in life. However, many times we forget that no place on this earth is without issues and challenges.
I feel that one should work in his/her own country trying to address the issues that are pertinent to our country. This will have a larger impact especially because while working in our homeland, we have intimate knowledge of the problems we are trying to address. Of course, exposure to international work culture is very important and the impact this has on shaping researchers’ personalities and skills cannot be negated. But working in one’s own country has its own charm, is exciting and fun, and it provides opportunities to have a bigger and more meaningful impact.
In order to retain the best brains in the country, we urgently need to create an atmosphere where bright young investigators and educators can flourish within the country and mature into independent world-class academics.
India is an important contributor to global research. How can the global visibility of Indian scientists be improved?
To enhance the global visibility of Indian scientists, good quality and impactful science needs to be showcased in a manner that is appreciated not just by domain experts but also a wider audience. We need to be more confident of our own science and we need to take pride in what we are doing. Also, I feel that India has a lot of potential in that it offers a lot of hitherto unexplored research problems, and if Indian researchers start picking up indigenous stories, more buzz can be created around these. What we need is to have confidence and pride in our own assets, be it research problems, home-grown researchers, or Indian journals.
In your experience, what are some of the unique challenges faced by Indian researchers today? Also, what are the areas that they need a lot of support and guidance in?
Through my interactions with a large number of young investigators, I feel that the major challenges faced by Indian researchers are related to funding opportunities, lack of conversations and information exchange between groups working in the same domain, and access to good quality, professionally managed infrastructural facilities.
Bureaucracy is another challenge faced by Indian researchers. Many a times, unavailability of appropriate mentors and adequate and support and encouragement from colleagues also make navigation through the unchartered territories of academia difficult for young investigators.
A robust mentoring program where young researchers get pertinent advice from their mentors would go a long way in equipping them with knowledge of different ways to navigate their paths more effectively and smoothly. For example, when you are starting up your lab you do not know how to move forward, which issue to tackle first and how, what aspects to prioritize, how to deal with students, how to manage grants, where to publish, and so on. Access to a good mentor could go a long way in teaching you how you can find answers to such questions. One of the major objectives of our YIMs is to provide such mentoring to young investigators.
A lot of our readers are early-career researchers who are quite anxious about making the right career choices. It’d be great if you could share some advice for them.
My very first piece of advice would be to follow your heart, and not get influenced by someone else’s dreams and aspirations. For that, you need to understand yourself well, know your skills, values, and interests. Based on this you should research your career options. This will help you stay aligned with your career options.
Also, talk to professionals in different roles – in the roles you are considering – to know and better understand the nuances of each of those career paths. This will help you make an informed career choice and will go a long way in keeping you content and happy. Also, it is very important to build and nurture your own professional network from an early stage.
One comment that I would like to make here is that academia is not the only career path you can explore after your PhD, there are multiple avenues that have opened up where one can flourish and enjoy a happy career. So take the time to, know yourself and your aspirations well and follow your heart. Each career choice should be made after a lot of thought has gone into it. It is important to do this since what matters at the end of everything is your happiness with the career choice you have made.
You completed a PhD, took up an industry career and went on to explore scientific management. What prompted you to change paths?
My interest in biology and need to improve my knowledge and understanding of it nudged me towards pursuing a PhD degree. Towards the end of my program, however, it was clear to me that I would not continue in academia because that was not what I wanted from life. Inner satisfaction from what I do and the resulting happiness have been very important for me from the beginning. Thus, I did not pursue a post-doctoral program, which was (and still is) the norm for most of my peers who obtained a PhD degree.
While I did not know what I would do next, I was clear that I certainly did not want to pursue further research. So I started to explore – I worked in industry for three years and learned a lot from corporate culture. However again, I realized that this was not for me. I needed creative freedom to work. During further exploration, I landed at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) as their Business Development Manager.
It was in this role that I realized where my true interests and passion lie – administration, management, working with different kinds of people, and working in an environment where I know each day would be different. I really enjoyed my stint at C-CAMP. It was new and we had loads to do! I was involved in setting up the facilities and processes, taking the Centre’s mandate to the scientific community across India, and a lot more.
After working for five years at C-CAMP, I moved to a leadership role at IBS, a program that has really fascinated me and I knew that I could contribute in different ways to the life sciences community. This program has given me the independence to work in my own style as well as the opportunity to think and create newer activities as per the needs of our community.
I truly believe that if you are passionate about the work you are doing, it becomes one of the biggest sources of happiness and satisfaction, and I am happy to have found that niche. As I said earlier, what is important is to know yourself well, keep your confidence levels high, and be honest to yourself and your surroundings; you will find your true calling.