Scientists Simplifying Science

Search result

gaurav

7 result(s) found.

Gaurav Mittal brings technology to deprived

in Entrepreneurship/That Makes Sense by

Gaurav Mittal is an innovator, entrepreneur, hacker and in some ways a social worker determined to impact the lives of millions of visually challenged people. His latest work on a device called EyeD is already creating a measurable impact on almost 5000 users and counting many more with each passing day. The journey from an engineer to innovator is very interesting as well as inspiring and sharing this with CSG community is a pleasure.

He belongs to a small town in UP named Anpara. His father being an electrical engineer realized the importance of technology and obtained a computer with Windows3.0 installed in his office. Gaurav immediately took liking to the concept of computers and it became his passionate interest. However, he got his PC or ‘personal computer’ a desktop computer with Windows 95 after 3 years of persuasion.  Soon, he immersed himself in the world of computers and found a destination for his passion at IIT BHU. While at IIT, he developed and honed the skills of hacking and aspired to be a professional hacker. His dream got fulfilled very soon with an assignment as hacker at CITRIX technology. He thoroughly enjoyed the job of hacking the codes written by software developers and providing insights for securing and strengthening the software.  This experience enabled him to participate and win many innovation competitions while the ‘intrapreneurial’ environment of the organization helped in understanding the process of shaping an idea into a product. He was allowed a sabbatical of 3 months to work on such ideas and feels very fortunate to get that experience while working. These experiences positively sowed the spirit of entrepreneurship in him and the thought process.

A visit to the National Association for Blind (NABD) Bangalore in 2012 marks a turning point in Gaurav’s entrepreneurial journey. There he learnt the blind way of life (literally speaking) through experience for example, he was blindfolded and asked to go to main gate and come back to the room inside. He instantly recognized the fact that seemingly trivial tasks for people with vision translated into big challenges for the visually impaired. What impressed him most was the determined attitude of blind individuals in overcoming these challenges. His interactions with the NABD associates made him realize that some of them were extremely bright and could write software codes as well.  He could appreciate the challenges these students faced and how they could succeed in overcoming those to create something as complex as software codes.

During his visit to the association, there was another incident that set him up on the current journey. A senior official from a reputed company, who had lost his vision at an age of 30 years entered the room and greeted everyone but received no response from the 15 odd people present there. Everyone had an awkward feeling of confusion but patiently, he greeted once again. This time everyone responded and upon hearing the response, he turned himself to the crowd and faced them. During the first greeting, he was facing the audience backwards creating a slight awkward moment which got resolved subsequently. This particular incident left Gaurav pondering on the engineering solutions that could help visually challenged people feel the presence of people they are interacting with or their surroundings.

He turned these thoughts into a hobby project and created seven prototypes for seven different problems, including a glove with a camera and so on.  But he was shocked at the response received during the demonstration of these prototypes at NABD. His target audience rejected his prototypes as they did not address the ‘real’ challenges from a visual impaired perspective. He learnt an important lesson in innovation that day: always understand the needs of the target audience. He shares this piece of wisdom with all the budding entrepreneurs that to arrive at a solution with wide acceptance, it is important to communicate with the target and approach the problem with real world insights rather than embarking upon an intellectual pursuit. He now interacts very frequently with the staff and students at NABD to assess and understand their needs that require a solution and then designs the technology around those needs. He is motivated to come up with technologically superior solutions for the visually impaired life every time he interacts with his audience.  During one such interaction, he was asked a very interesting question on whether he can develop a technology that will enable identification of colors. The person had never seen colors but read about them in books and shared that he is dependent on family and friends to achieve even small tasks such as wearing color coordinated dresses and wishes to make these decisions independently without help. He understood that the most pertinent applications of technology in the visually impaired world are towards creating a self-reliant world where basic life activities can be conducted and enjoyed without help from others.

He decided to quit his job and make the hobby project into a professional goal that he is truly passionate about. He now works with a team of three to develop an app based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for visually challenged that helps them identify objects in their surroundings, colors of these objects, find nearest hospital, store, read printed text on labels  and documents (which is free at this point of time). A blind person walking on Indian roads might not realize they are going to step into a puddle but with this app, they can. They currently support 5000 plus monthly users and their goal is scaling up to a million users in the next 5 years.

App interface

The astounding response from the users who could read the label on aspirin bottle at night without anyone else’s help and could sleep well, add red bell pepper in their food as opposed to a green bell pepper and many other stories of self-reliance keeps them pacing towards the goal and motivated against all technological odds. To keep this communication alive, the users of the app can interact with the developers directly via SMS/call/live chat that is a distinguishing feature and a direct translation of the first lesson in innovation learnt by Gaurav.

Their interest in transforming the visually impaired life does not end with an app but continues with  designing more products and solutions such as an adaptable keypad that can be pasted to the keypad of smart phones and uses audio feedback for typing.This improvised device and app together allow usage of Whats App, Email and SMS by visually impaired. They are hoping to launch this product soon and recognized nationally by Government agencies to win an award called ‘best innovators of 2016’.

Eye-D keypad on a smart phone

We hope that their story encourages some more people to come forward and innovate for challenged sections of society. Gaurav says that there are millions of problems waiting to be solved. You, my reader, pick one and solve one. If not, fail at one?

 

About the Author

Ipsa is a Ph.D. student at IISc. She wants to gather and spread interestingness. She prefers painting and drawing over writing. She posts her work on Facebook as Ipsawonders.

Edited by Dr. Satya Lakshmi

 

 

Tête-à-tête with Gaurav

in Face à Face/That Makes Sense by

Gaurav Goyal shares his educational journey from Kurukshetra to Korea and then to the U.S. He is currently working as a research scientist with a start up in U.S., where he continues to grow, learn and challenge himself.

The highlights from this conversation:
LEARN
earn anything and everything, pick up a book, go sit in a class. initially you might struggle but eventually, you will learn.
DO NOT LIMIT YOURSELF
There is no limitation to what you can learn and what you can do. Never live with a label.
To people who are finishing Ph.D.
Take inspiration, don’t be blinded by history. be open to explore, expose yourself. make use of resources available, wherever you are; and MAKE YOUR OWN CHOICE.
Image: Another brick in the wall.
Image source: http://texturify.com/stock-photo/-brick-mixed014-8435.html

STEM Peers 2017

in ClubSciWri by

Mission Statement: The first annual meeting of PhD Career Support Group (PhDCSG) is a much anticipated career advancement event, bringing professionals from more than a dozen life sciences industries and academia under one roof. Learn from first-hand accounts of success from mentors, entrepreneurs, recruiters, and professionals in industry and academia to help STEM graduates successfully navigate careers in life sciences. The meeting will feature highly interactive sessions from an impressively diverse group of STEM professionals, including panel discussions, small-group lunches and one-on-one networking opportunities.

If you are a STEM graduate don’t miss out on being a part of this event!

 

STEM Peers 2017- Connecting Scientists

1st Annual Symposium on PhD Career Advancements

Organized by Career Support Group for STEM PhDs (PhD CSG)

•September 23, 2017 • Boston, MA  •

Venue: Aeronaut Brewing Company, 14 Tyler St, Somerville, MA 02143 (Driving Directions)

Symposium Co-chairs
Syam Anand (Founder Mainline IP and Secretary, PhDCSG)
Ranjith Anand (Gingko Bioworks, Boston)

Symposium Organizers
Ananda Ghosh (Founder, PhDCSG)
Abhinav Dey (Co-founder, PhDCSG)

LIST of Participants

Participant Name Institution
Abhi Dey  EmoryUniversity
Abhishek Das  Palleon Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Adwait Godbole  The Scripps Research Institute, Florida
Aishwarya Swaminathan  University of Massachusetts Medical School
Ajit Kamath  Boston University
Ambily Abraham  UMass medical school
Ambrish Roy  Vertex Pharma
Amritraj Patra  Vanderbilt University
Ana Batista  CellPress
Ananda Ghosh  New York University
Anandaroop Dasgupta  Healthcare Consulting
Anisha Zaveri  Weill Cornell Medicine
Anita Chavan  Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Anshu Malhotra  Emory University
Arun K Rooj  Brigham and Women’s Hospital, HMS
Arvind Panday  Harvard Medical School
Aswin Garimalla  Research Foundation City University of New York
Ayyappan Subbiah  Sevengenes Inc.
Banishree Saha  UMASS Amherst
Benjamin Gabriel  University of Rhode Island
Bhanvi Mishra  New York Medical College
Chakravarthi Venkata Srinivasa
 University of Alabama at Birmingham
Chang Liu  Brandeis University
Christopher Link  Eton Bioscience
Colleen Brady  CellPress
Cong Huang Massachusetts General Hispital-Harvard Medical School
Danika Khong  Scismic LLC
David Waterman  Brandeis University
Deepti Gadi  Massachusetts General Hispital-Harvard Medical School
Devasena Ponnalagu  Drexel University
Dolonchapa Chakraborty  BenchSci
Elizabeth Wu  Scismic LLC
Eugenia Rojas
Ganapathy Subramanian Sankaran
 UMass medical school
Gargi Chaudhuri  Brigham & Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School
Gaurav Jain  New York University
Giang Nguyen  Tufts University School of Medicine
Gyanendra Kumar  St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Harish Ramamurthi  Oracle
Harpreet Singh  Drexel University
Hema Chug  Boston Children’s Hospital
Ilan Shanmugam  Boston University
Ishita Banerjee  UConn Health
Jagan Srinivasan  Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Jayeeta Sen  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
K Kannan  Takeda
Kiran Gireesan  Yale University
Kirk Haltaufderhyde  University of Rhode Island
Krutika Bavishi  Weill Cornell Medical College
Kumaraguru Raja  Research Analyst
Kushagra Bansal  Harvard Medical School
Manju Mummadisetti  Rutgers University
Mishtu Dey  University of Iowa
Muthu Dhandapani  Mitra Biotech
Nandhu Mohan Sobhana  SUNY Upstate Medical University
Nandini Mani  Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School
Nazish Abdullah Weill Cornell Medical College
Neha Deshpande  Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary/Schepens Eye Research Inst/Dept. of Opthalmology HMS
Neha Diwanji  University of Massachusetts Medical School
Nick Deal  Stratacuity
Nikhil Gupta  New York University
Ola Soderquist  Sevengenes, Inc
Onkar Bhardwaj  Akamai Technologies
Pallab Ghosh  Harvard Medical School
Pooja Gudibanda  Cornell University
Prabuddha Dey  Rutgers University
Prajna Behera  Rutgers University
Prasad Subramaniam  Rutgers University
Praveen Anand  Harvard University
Priya  Free university and MPIKG Berlin, Germany
Radha Mukherjee  Weill Cornell Medicine
Radhika Raheja  Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Rahul Chib  Rutgers University
Rajat Kumar Pal  CUNY
Rajeshkumar Prakash  Biogen
Ranjith Anand  Gingko Bioworks
Rati Sharma  Harvard Medical School
Richa Jaiswal  Lake Pharma
Rohit Arora  Harvard University
Ruby  Tufts University
Sahana Bhattacharya  CUNY
Samik Chakraborty  Boston Children’s Hospital
Sanjay K Bharti  University of Virginia
Sankalp Gupta  New York University
Sarojini Adusumilli  Arizona Technology Enterprises
Saurabh Khasnavis  Harvard Medical School
Sayantan Chakraborty  NIH
Scott Eastman  Eli Lilly
Shiteshu Shrimal  UMass Medical School
Shreyas Gokhale  MIT
Shreyas Jadhav  Research Scientist
Shruti Gupta  New York University
Shyamtanu Datta  UT Southwestern Medical Center
Siddheshwari Advani  UMass Amherst
Simon Mongtrison  Berklee College of Music, NY
Smita Salian-Mehta  Abbvie
Srinivasan Parthiban  Vingyani
Subhalaxmi (Subbu) Nambi
 University of Massachusetts Medical School
Sujatha Koduvayur
Sujay Ramanathan  Drexel University
Sumit Rai  MGH
Susannah  Brandeis University
Susi Macdonald  Stratacuity
Sutirtha Datta  Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Syam Prasad Anand  Mainline IP
Thirupathi Barla  Harvard University
Tribhuwan yadav  Harvard Medical School – Massachusetts General Hospital
Tuhin Das  Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Vidhi Deepak Thakkar  Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Georgia State University
Vinay Eapen  Harvard Medical School
Vladimir Botchkarev  Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Xiangmin Lv  Harvard Medical School – Massachusetts General Hospital
Zachary Knecht  Brandeis University

 

At the registration desk

(Connecting the DOTS) to help all those who fear networking and break the ice during their initial interactions. At the registration desk you will get a registration pack that will have your 1. Name Tag, 2. Lunch Ticket, 3. Breakfast ticket, and 4. Networking Stickers (Color coded). Choose the sticker/stickers which can provide maximum benefit to you and others at the meeting, and place it on your name tag. You can seek help and be a mentor in several other ways so wear the color with pride and humility.

Program Schedule

8am-9am Arrival and Registration

Welcome Note: Abhinav Dey
Introductory Note: Ananda Ghosh
Keynote Introduction: Ranjith Anand

9:30am-10am Keynote Lecture
Melina Fan (Co-founder/CSO Addgene)

10am-10:30am Panel Discussion on Industry Research Careers
Session Chair: Ranjith Anand (Gingko Bioworks)
Panelists: 
Smita Salian-Mehta (Abbvie), Ambrish Roy (Vertex),
Richa Jaiswal (LakePharma)

10:30am-10:40am Grant Writing as a Postdoc: Vinay Eapen (Jane Coffin Childs Fellow, HMS)

10:40am-11:10am Panel Discussion on Academic Career Development
Session Chair: Nikhil Gupta (NYU)
Panelists: Mishtu Dey (University of Iowa), Jagan Srinivasan (WPI), Harpreet Singh (Drexel)

11:10am-11:30am Recruiter’s Perspective
Nick Deal (Stratacuity)

11:30am-12pm Panel Discussion on Careers in the Business of Science
Session Chair: Syam Anand (Founder Mainline IP)
Panelists: 
Ragoo Raghunathan (Metabolon), Subhalaxmi Nambi (UMass),
Rajnish Kaushik (UMass), Ananda Ghosh (NYU)

12pm-1pm Lunch Break with Musical Performance by IMON

1pm-1:45pm Panel Discussion on Science Communication and  Management Careers
Session Chair: Abhi Dey (Co-Founder, ClubSciWri)
Panelists: Colleen Brady (CellPress), Ana Batista (CellPress), Sutirtha Datta (Clinical Trials Office, MSKCC), Muthu Dhandapani (Mitra Biotech)

2pm-4pm Networking Session- Chair: Smita Salian-Mehta
4pm-4:30pm Awards Ceremony
4:30pm-5pm Closing Remarks and Future Directions (Syam Anand, Conference Co-Chair)


Registration Fee 25$

Instructions to Register and Pay the Registration Fee

Click Here to Register Or Scan this QR Code

  1. Please complete required information in STEM Peers 2017 registration form.
  2. Email: your email address
  3. Name: Please provide your full name
  4. Organization: Please provide your current associated Organization/ University.
  5. Designation: Please provide your current designation.
  6. Participation: Please select appropriate participation group (Postdoc/PhD etc).
  7. Contact: Please provide your contact number.
  8. Food: Please provide information if you have any dietary restriction.
  9. Arrival time: Please provide details of your arrival time at event.
  10. Please select I am not a robot.
  11. Once you complete adding information, please click submit.
  12. Once you submit your registration, a new window will  pop-up confirming the receipt of your registration along with a highlighted link. (This is the link for registration fee payment)      
  13. Please click on link to pay and finalize registration.
  14. Payment can be made via using a PayPal account only.
  15. You can also use the “Buy Now” option (shown below) to pay your registration fee of 25$

 

(Please leave your name and email address as a note when paying using Paypal)

 

Click “Donate” to help PhDCSG (Please include your name, email address and phone number as an additional note while making the donation)




PhD Career Support Group (PhD CSG) for STEM PhDs is a US Non-Profit 501(c)3  organization and all donations to PhDCSG are tax deductible

 

We thank our sponsors

Co-Chair’s Note:-

Why STEM Peers 2017 could be important for your career advancement?

  1.  If you don’t know what it takes to advance to the next level. If you think your publications make your career, attend and learn more.
  2. If you don’t know what it takes to get hired- the key skills, how to market them, how to to get them noticed by people who matter, and how to make your CV/resume stand out. If you think having a great CV will get anyone’s attention, attend and learn more.
  3. If you don’t know what it takes to stay in a job- getting hired could be the easy part. Staying in a job needs to understand the key job requirements that employers are seeking. If you think your bench work and associated skills is all it takes, attend and learn more.
  4. If you don’t know what it takes to advance your career after staying for a while in a new job (industry/pharma/IP/academia). Advancing your career depends on skills you develop while on the job. This needs preparation and updating of skills, sensing changing needs etc. If you think what got your hired will also advance your career further, attend and learn more.

I cannot emphasize this more- many bench scientists don’t understand these before their funding runs out or visa restrictions start dawning upon them.

Here is your chance to interact with folks who have successfully transitioned and advanced their careers further. Awareness, networking and DETAILS matter.

Finally, would you rather spend hours weeding through the internet to get the info you want or a day with successful people who are keeping their time aside for you?

STEM Peers is a bargain in that respect. We are able to bring all this to you in an affordable manner ONLY because we are a non-profit. Make use of STEM Peers 2017.

Best wishes!

Syam Anand

 

 

FAQs about STEM Peers

  1. What is the registration fee? Ans: $25 for Postdoctoral Fellows/Graduate Students; 50$ Faculty members/Industry members/Others; Late-registration fee/On-site registration Fee: 30$
  2. What is included in the registration fee? Ans: The registration fee includes access to all conference sessions and exhibits. When you check-in at the registration desk, you will receive a delegate package, which includes copies of the conference program, your name tag, and other relevant information. The registration fee also covers access to a morning coffee break, and an afternoon coffee break on the entire day of the conference.
  3. Do I have to be a CSG member to attend the conference? Ans: No
  4. Do you have discounted rates for graduate students/postdocs? Ans: Student/Postdoc registrations are heavily subsidized, and therefore the Early Registration Discount for these already discounted registrations is smaller
  5. Do you have early registration discounts? Ans: To have a better idea of how many participants will attend and to promote timely registration for the conference, CSG may offer an early registration discount. A discount applies to regular registrations received before the early registration deadline, as specified on the registration page.
  6. How do I confirm that I am registered? Ans: Once your registration is finalized, you will receive a confirmation email indicating that you are officially registered. You will receive an Official Receipt from PayPal, via email again, as proof of payment. In addition, your name will appear in the list of registered attendees on sciwri.club
  7. Can I get a certificate of attendance? Ans: A certificate of attendance can be printed for you on request and e-mailed to you after the conference. Please visit the registration desk and request a certificate to be mailed. We would appreciate it, if you wait for a time when the registration desk is less crowded to request a certificate.
  8. Is there a discounted rate of registration? Ans: Mail us stempeers@gmail.com
  9. What if I have a question that is not answered here? Ans: This FAQ only covers answers to questions that we receive frequently. If you have a question that still has not been answered, please email us stempeers@gmail.com and one of us will be happy to assist you.
  10. What is your cancellation policy? Ans: We understand that members who have registered for the conference may have to cancel their registrations due to unforeseen circumstances. While we try to accommodate cancellations to the best of our ability, any cancellation, especially late ones, put CSG at a difficult situation. Due to the size of our conference, we make many of our arrangements well in advance and therefore cancellations come with a cost to CSG. Therefore, the CSG Board has developed a cancellation policy to balance the needs of our members with the costs of cancellation to CSG. As such, please note that cancellation requests for an already confirmed registration will be processed according to the following schedule:

Before August 15: %100 refund ($5 cancellation fee)

August 15 – August 31: 10$ refund.

After September 1: No refunds available

For any queries mail us: stempeers@gmail.com

Download the flyer here

Follow us on Twitter @PhDCSG

Acknowledgements: Tribhuwan Yadav, Radhika Raheja and Anita Chavan for testing the registration process.

Featured Image and CSG Logo design By Ipsa Jain

 

How to cut through the bullshit with Carl Sagan’s ‘Baloney Detection Kit’

in Sci-Pourri/That Makes Sense/Uncategorized by

A large fraction of the information that we come across online is quite possibly bullshit. The internet has made it very easy for us to access and disseminate unreliable information, transforming the society into an echo chamber of misinformation.  Democratization of publishing and social media have resulted in opinions being marketed as facts. In this era of  #fakenews and #alternativefacts, the ability to cut through bullshit and get to credible information has become an essential social skill.

Although the internet and social media have catalyzed the spread of falsehood, our relationship with bullshit is not new. We’ve encountered it time and again in science, politics, religious philosophies and social practices; however, the current state of affairs warrant the use of skepticism and critical thinking for busting bullshit more than ever.

The art of systematically and logically challenging the socio-political claims and getting to the logical conclusions was perfected by one of the brilliant philosophers of his time – Carl Sagan. In his marvelous book about the philosophy of scientific thought The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Sagan dedicated a chapter to ‘The Fine Art of Baloney detection’. In this chapter, Sagan advocates the need for critical thinking and maintaining a balance between acceptance and skepticism.

In Sagan’s own words, “In science we may start with experimental results, data, observations, measurements, ‘facts’. We invent, if we can, a rich array of possible explanations and systematically confront each explanation with the facts. In the course of their training, scientists are equipped with a baloney detection kit. The kit is brought out as a matter of course whenever new ideas are offered for consideration. If the new idea survives examination by the tools in our kit, we grant it warm, although tentative, acceptance”.

Image Source: Wikimedia (CC)

This approach of baloney detection used by scientists is equally effective in the hands of the general population and can help us fortify our minds against propaganda, falsehood and manipulation. Sagan emphasizes the indispensability of healthy skepticism in everyday life by saying, “when governments and societies lose the capacity for critical thinking, the results can be catastrophic”.

In his baloney detection kit Sagan proposed 9 tools to recognize the fallacious or fraudulent arguments, and to reach to conclusions which follow a true premise. The 9 tools from the kit are as follows:

“Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the ‘facts’.”

Facts are the foundation of any argument or claim. When you are presented with an argument, try to gather facts related to it. Something that you read on social media does not qualify as a fact, because it may just be someone’s opinion and hence may be biased. Check for the credibility of your sources. Make decisions based on verifiable evidence and not gut feelings or opinions.

“Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.”

Debate allows for all point of views to be expressed and relative strengths of evidence, for and against the claims, to be evaluated. A healthy debate challenges the nature of the evidence, methods of data collection, inherent biases in study design, logical progression of thought and the validity of conclusions. Limit the debate to the evidence on the table without introducing personal opinions.

“Arguments from authority carry little weight — ‘authorities’ have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.”

If your boss tells you something is true, it is not actually so unless data supports it. Evidence is superior to all opinions irrespective of rank, position or authority of the person.

“Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among ‘multiple working hypotheses’, has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.”

This one is my favorite.  It essentially means stringing up multiple hypotheses in front of you and trying to poke holes in each one of them based on the theoretical evidence and experimental results. This approach makes you think unconventionally and out of the box. You have the opportunity to put forward your craziest and the most counterintuitive hypothesis. If it stands the rigorous scrutiny of the evidence, it may emerge as the right answer. Approaches like this result in paradigm shifts in science.

“Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.”

Keep an open and fair mind and do not try to keep a hypothesis alive in the face of contradictory evidence. Try to avoid personal bias. We learn something new when a hypothesis is shot down by evidence, seek that knowledge.

“Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.”

Quantification produces a standardized way of measurement and allows for measurements made by different individuals or groups to be compared using statistical tools. It increases precision and minimizes ambiguity, guesswork and prejudice. By relying on quantitative data, you will be able to make more informed decisions.

“If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.”

A chain is as strong as its weakest link. Similarly, if your argument has multiple points, each one of them should stand up to scrutiny, else the whole argument may fall apart. You should carefully analyze the argument and try to strengthen the weakest link.

Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler.”

A simpler theory is preferred over more complex ones because simple theory can be tested relatively easily.

“Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much.”

If a hypothesis can be tested and can be refuted in light of evidence, it is called a falsifiable hypothesis. And a falsifiable hypothesis is a good thing. An untestable hypothesis is one which cannot be practically or ethically explored with controlled experiments. Falsifiable hypothesis allows you to learn something new when disproved whereas unfalsifiable are not worth much.

Sagan further writes, “In addition to teaching us what to do when evaluating a claim to knowledge, any good baloney detection kit must also teach us what not to do. It helps us recognize the most common and perilous fallacies of logic and rhetoric”. He warns against the 20 most common fallacies and examples for each.

This timeless wisdom by Carl Sagan has been guiding scientists and nonscientists in their pursuit of knowledge and critical thinking for the past two decades. I hope it will help you cut through the culture of bullshit and reach the knowledge you seek.

About the Author

Gaurav is a biomedical scientist trained in multidisciplinary and multicultural settings. He is currently working on electrical conduction through single DNA molecules in pursuit of developing quantum tunneling based DNA sequencing platform.

Abhisheka the multifaceted artist and scientist

in Biodiversity and Environment by

“We have come to this world to accept it, not merely to know it. We may become powerful by knowledge, but we attain fullness by sympathy. The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence. ” Tagore, 1917

A Multipotentialite

When I met Abhisheka the first time, it was those sparks in her eyes and a very characteristic short spurts of laughter that caught my attention.  Abhisheka K Gopal is a painter, a dancer, a veena player, nature educator, wildlife rehabilitator and an ecology researcher. Yes, talk about multipotentialite, she defines it.  Today I will share her story which is mostly her journey to the foray of science communication.

Like Aarthy (link), Abhisheka studied science in pre-university. She says “I was not the brightest student and I knew back then hat marks did not add up to knowledge.”  She realized that though she loved science, especially biology, science education at the college was killing her curiosity, and eventually decided against pursuing science post pre-university. The ‘fractured’ education does seem to put off quite a few good science students in the class. The culture of memorization in our education with little stress on rational thinking drives many like Abhisheka away from pure science.

“This education of sympathy is not only systematically ignored in schools, but it is severely repressed. From our very childhood habits are formed, and knowledge is imparted in such a manner that our life is weaned away from nature and our mind and the world are set in opposition from the beginning of our days. Thus the greatest of educations for which we came prepared is neglected, and we are made to lose our world to find a bagful of information instead.” Tagore, 1917

Dabbling with creative art:

After school she joined the bachelor of fine arts course at the College of Fine Arts, Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath in Bangalore. While she enjoyed art, she disapproved of the way art was taught. She found that there was no freedom to express her artistic creativity under strict syllabus of the college. That art was mostly governed by the imagination and style of the teachers at the college. Being part of the urban wildlife rehabilitation group, she was deeply concerned with the way humans upturned the balance of nature by destroying the animal and plant ecosystem. She wanted to explore the idea of “conflict between concrete civilization and green civilization”, in her canvas only to realize that the apart from a couple of teachers, the others at the fine arts college would approve only human-centric and abstract art. The act that destruction of nature by man could be captured on the canvas was incomprehensible to them. As a student, she disapproved of the emphasis on abstract art. Her view was while abstract art does satisfy the creative spirit; it fails to engage the society in a meaningful way since the common man fails to understand what is depicted in that work of art. According to her “It caters to a very small section of the society.” Realizing that her creative expression was getting choked by the academic discipline of the school she drifted away from arts as well after completing her graduation.

“We rob the child of his earth to teach him geography, of language to teach him grammar. His hunger is for the Epic, but he is supplied with Chronicles of facts and dates…Child-nature protests against such calamity with all its power of suffering, subdued at last into silence by punishment.” Tagore, 1917

Because of her interactions with the Chief Wildlife Rehabilitator Mr.Saleem Hameed at the wildlife rehabilitation center and other wildlife experts in Bangalore, she soon realized her calling in ecology, biodiversity and conservation sciences.  When she read up about Environmental art which was quite popular abroad she realized that artists in the process of creating nature-based art were destroying the natural habitat of native flora and fauna. She recollects an example of such art installation where artists covered Surrounding Islands with a pink plastic sheet for a week (http://christojeanneclaude.net/projects/surrounded-islands). Realizing that such project would have caused havoc on the biota of that island at the shores, she decided that artists working in the field should have a primary education of ecology to understand the catastrophe they were creating during their creative process.

The struggle to pursue Ecology:

It was then she decided to pursue ecology only to find that most colleges in India require strict criteria of having a minimum level of science education. She soon came to know that she was not ‘qualified’ to do a postgraduate level course in ecology. Very quickly she noticed that the strict curricular requirement does not allow one to learn what one aspires for, something that Gaurav Goyal also mentioned in his conversation with CSG (insert link).

Determined, she eventually found a distance learning course from Manipal University that allowed her to learn the concepts and science of ecology and conservation. The subject knowledge of the process in combination to her work with animal rehabilitation in urban spaces, made her realize that education is fun when it is interactive.

“Thus the greatest of educations for which we came prepared is neglected, and we are made to lose our world to find a bagful of information instead. We rob the child of his earth to teach him geography, of language to teach him grammar.” Tagore,1917

Canvassing ecology:

For her MSc project, she went to ATREE Bangalore where a senior scientist spotted her talent for field work and employed her as a researcher. There she worked on a project which involved studying water use in agriculture and its impact on bird diversity and local migration patterns. She says that she is grateful that she found a supervisor like Dr. T. Ganesh who was willing to work with her despite her lack of formal science education and “that is a rare event.” “As long as you can work in the field and think and analyze its good” was what her mentor expected. She is also grateful to her teammates in ATREE who taught her wildlife monitoring techniques and basic statistics and never once treated her indifferently.

Sketches of flora and fauna

After few years of working with ATREE she worked with Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) where she studied bird migration patterns. Every winter she would spend time at the Chilka Lake in Odisha and Point Calime in Tamilnadu and in Pong Dam in Himachal Pradesh. The work involved tagging birds and learning about their migratory patterns.  While being part of these research she won scholarships to do short courses in institutes like Smithsonian school of conservation USA, Wageningen CDI, Netherlands and so on which made her realize how much she enjoyed science.

Apart from her research, she worked as an educator at ATREE. She coordinated a program where they interacted with rural as well as urban school students in an attempt to encourage them to adopt and spread sustainable practices. As part of the program, students are trained to monitor biodiversity in and around the schools eventually turning those schools “green”. She realized that being an educator can touch so many lives. During those years, she had interacted with students, few of whom now are pursuing studies in the field of ecology and environment, working with Greenpeace, conducting nature awareness programs, etc. She says “It is a gratifying feeling to be able to touch and change the lives of impressionable minds for the welfare of not just the mankind, but the whole ecosystem.”

Students sketching animals at a pond.

It was then, based on the encouragements from both her mentors Mr.Saleem and Dr.Ganesh that she started dabbling with her passion for art again for the purpose of audience engagement and science communication. “I finally began to enjoy the art.” She worked on nature illustrations that involved a lot of audiences and also used them for developing nature education material.

Though as a student she felt she may not be able to reach out to the common man with abstract art or installation art, she now wants to try her hand at using these forms of creative expression to see if  environmental awareness could be achieved amongst non-artists without sticking to just realistic art works.  Experience also has taught her not to stick to a particular style or medium but to work according to the requirement of the target audience. 

The dancer within:

After her stint at ATREE, she took a stab at the contemporary (movement based) dance forms. She was trained in Bharatnatyam since childhood. With the help of her dancer-choreographer friend Veena Basavarajiah, she realized her potential as a dancer lies in engaging her audience with a story. Being part of a dance-theatre piece titled ‘Mooki’ (means mute) that invoked questions on gender-based issues, changed her conception about the art form. She loved that experience so much that she now wants to communicate the story of diverse flora and fauna through dance. She hopes that ‘someday’ she will be able to realize her dreams.

Performing ‘mooki’

Painting the wall: Foray into science communication

While Abhisheka has led few community art projects, the one she values the most is the wall mural done for ‘Punarchith’, a collective started by social anthropologist Dr. A. R. Vasavi to work with village youth to empower them and develop sustainable agricultural practices. She painted the different millet varieties on the walls with Soliga youth an ethnic group living on the foothills of Biligiri Rangaswamy hills and Malai Mahadeshwara Hills near Mysore. The idea behind the wall mural at Punarchith was to encourage the revival of traditional millet farming in Nagavalli village and surrounding areas as the farmers there have switched over from dry agricultural practices to water intensive sugarcane and banana cultivation in the recent years. Since the region falls under the rain shadow area, it is largely a belt suitable for dry grain production and was once well-known for producing millets and pulses. However, recent trends have led to bore wells being dug in large numbers, and the extensive use of water has led to the decrease in ground water level.

During the process of painting the mural on the public wall with the help of two young boys, she realized that potential of visual art as a strong medium of science (agriculture in this case) communication to involve the society which could have a tremendous impact on the sustainable development of rural India. A lot of locals became enthusiastic about the paintings, and she started using the opportunity to talk about sustainable agriculture practices. “I hope to pursue and engage at the interface of science and arts, considering that I now understand both….it is an incredibly powerful educational tool.”

Sustainable living:

Today she lives on the outskirts of Bangalore, away from the hustle-bustle of the city. She stays in a small gated community of artists, scientists, and educators. She uses public transport for travel. She engages with local students in remote villages and exposes them to natural history, arts, and painting. She continues to experiment with science, arts and education. She firmly believes that alternative education systems allow students to learn more efficiently. Such education systems also create sensitivity about diverse issues and teach sustainable development a topic of grave importance in our world today.

While we may not be able to give up our city lives and comfort living, we can for sure adopt some practices that help save diversity and conserve the environment. I know, I will tag along next time she is painting a wall in the village or taking art workshop with school kids talking about these issues, and contribute my tiny bit.

 

Authors:

Ipsa is a Ph.D. student at IISc Bangalore, India. She wants to gather and spread interestingness. She prefers painting and drawing over writing.

Ananda is a Technology Marketing Associate at Office of Industrial Liaison, NYU, NY, USA and is a co-founder of ClubSciWri. He loves adda (casual chat) and music.

 

The myths about networking

in That Makes Sense by

During a recent talk  I gave on transitioning to tech transfer from academia at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Bronx, NY, USA), I was asked quite an interesting set of questions. In this write up I want to focus on two issues which I find many of the young academicians struggle as they plan their next career move.
A young aspiring postdoc asked me from the crowd “ When I see all the alternative career choices I get totally lost. I wonder what is the best fit for me?” I have been trained to think about the experiment and publish and enjoy the academic, intellectual rigor and I feel totally lost as soon as I see the list of alternative careers and wonder where should I start?”
Those who have transitioned to alternative careers have found that what helps most is talking to people who have made the leap. One can either reach out to alumni from your institutes or now with the availability of LinkedIn and Facebook you can reach out to people beyond your alumni and ask for an informational interview. From what I have seen people are always willing to help if you are earnest in your approach. During such interactions, you can ask them about the job roles and responsibilities and also how their academic training gets utilized in their new role outside academia.
An another approach to test whether you will be suitable for such a career would be to do internships/ online or regular courses which can give you the flavor of the job. In my case, an internship with technology transfer offices at Cornell CTL and Columbia CTV were of immense help. I had known beyond any doubt that this is exactly what I want to do. Of course, I had great mentors in tech transfer, and that always helps.

There is also a misconception that whether alternative careers can be intellectually stimulating given one of the things which drive most of us in academia is the intellectual aspect of the profession and of course the creativity. From what I have seen from my experience and from others who have transitioned more or less with me, one would be surprised to see the kind of smart people who runs the world outside academia. In fact, they many times brings more meaning to academic science as the science steps out of the lab. More than once during my interaction with my colleagues I have often wondered how much science would have benefited had they continued academia. Apart from academics, many are fluent from Beethoven to Shakespeare to Charlie Parker to Ravishankar…and often flawless in their assessment.

So my suggestion would be to talk to people, get to know about what excites them about their work and what doesn’t. When you meet people, you can also gauge from their personality that whether such a job will suit your personality or not. Even if nothing substantial comes out of the meeting, at least you will make an attempt to make a new friend outside academia, and that is a good start.

The another question that I got asked was “When should one start to network? Also, everyone will know that he or she is desperate for a job which will defeat the entire purpose of networking.”

Networking is not to seek a job. That is perhaps the biggest misunderstanding. No one asks for a job in networking. It is to find common ground. However, one should mention at a suitable time that you are ready for a new opportunity or challenge in your career. Moreover, networking events are the best places to find your mentors or sponsors and just like academia it always help to have them by your side.

I remember in one of the career development events at NYAS, New York a speaker said: “You should start networking from yesterday.” One should do networking throughout the year, whether you are in a job or looking for a job or planning to make a leap to a new field. I have known professionals who got great introductions from the people they met in jazz bars or from soccer matches they played together. So make sure you have a life outside lab to talk to people about your hobbies and interest. You will be surprised how hobbies can be a game changer.

One needs to learn the art of talking to professionals in networking events, and that once can develop with time. One of the best ways is to practice your introductory pitch, and that itself can take months. Remember the first impression always counts. We have seen many during networking events slips in his/her resume and that according to many is an absolute no. Everyone in networking events is in general aware that people who are attending the session have either came to learn about new opportunities, job description or are looking for new challenges, so don’t be shy. Keep a smile and reach out, show your strengths your passion and commitment to try new opportunities.

In a world we live in there are now other forms of networking. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook are all great platforms to network and meet interesting people. There are several career support groups. Join them, engage in stimulating and useful conversations. You will be surprised you will have friends sooner than you thought and who will vouch for you during your job search phase. Therefore, learn the tricks of social networking sites and use them to your advantage. Also, networking is not only about asking, but it is also about sharing and many comfortable forgets that part, unfortunately.

To conclude, meet new people with an open mind, help them if you can, all the person in front of you wants to know is how interesting are you professionally.

13876192_10153622641800047_7637481486705765851_n

Ananda

Enjoys good friends, music and adda.

Tweet@Andz79

Others who contributed substantially to the ideas expressed in the write-up are Roshni, Satarupa, Gaurav, Sutirtha, and Madhurima.

Image Courtesy: https://pixabay.com/en/truss-historically-stolberg-resin-1731118/

Creative Commons License
This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Aarthi Existential

in Sci-Pourri/That Makes Sense by

Aarthi Parthasarathy is a very well-known artist and film maker who finds joy in nurturing the creative energy within her and others and successful at doing so. She defies the conventional definition of success in terms of power or money but that does not lessen her happiness even by an ounce as per her own admission. She found a way out of our existing education system and its traps to set up a film making studio with her friend and colleague Chaitanya. They work out of a cozy nook that houses animators, sculptors, musicians, photographers, and product designers. She is also part of kadak collective that creates a platform for women comic writers and artists to tell uncensored stories on gender disparity.

Well, her journey is certainly not straight forward but rather quite bumpy and curvy and luckily she had her seat belts on. She grew up in erstwhile Bombay which is ‘Mumbai’ now and throughout schooling has been an A+ grade student as per present day standards. Siddharth Basu’s or Derek O’ Brien’s quiz shows and encyclopedias and ‘tell me why’s books filled her childhood spare time. As she started understanding the world better, she loathed the current teaching practices that made her memorize than learn. She found herself craving for learning out of school (as it was not possible within school) and started drawing inspiration plus learning from real lives through reading biographies echoing Gaurav Goyal’s conversations with club sciwri (http://www.sciwri.club/archives/1664). If we think that Aarthi is alone in her disbelief in the education system, the MHRD survey shows that the highest dropout rate for science students happens after the bachelor’s degree ( http://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/statistics/EAG2014.pdf). The reasons for this could be twofold: one, not many attractive (well-paying except IT) career opportunities after science education and two, teaching practices killing curiosity, the backbone of scientific success.

Coming back to Aarthi and her journey, she indulged in a lot of self-learning by visiting the libraries, reading books and watching plays to satisfy her curiosity to learn about the world. During one of those visits, life caught her unaware. She stumbled upon a book by J.Krishnamurthy, the well-known philosopher and founder of Rishi Valley School. In a brief moment she realized that the cause of her inner struggle was the awkwardness of fitting in a fractured society. The exact words that brought about the transformation in her  are “I wonder if we have ever asked ourselves what education means, why do we go to school, why do we learn various subjects, why do we pass examinations and compete with each other for better grades? What does this so called education mean, what is it all about? This is really a very important question, not only for the students, but also for parents, for teachers,why do we go through struggle to be educated? Is it merely to pass some examinations and get a job? Or is it the function of education to prepare us while we are young to understand the whole process of life? Having a job and earning one’s livelihood is necessary-but is that all? …”  These words became an anchor to her thought process and as a constant reminder and companion; she carries a copy of the book with her always.

She wanted to be a doctor or geologist and the anxiety caused by endless hours of study were made tolerable by creative outlets like writing, painting and other forms of art. She was fighting her inner urge to learn independently through reading, thinking, making, and experimenting just for the love of doing it, to scratch an itch, follow the compass of passion versus making a clone of her to fit into the fractured and moulded society. An answer to her struggles lay in the hands of most unexpected quarters, a clerical mistake. At St.Xavier’s college Mumbai, a clerical mistake with an application for geology was turned into an admission for B.Sc Economics drove her towards pursuing the next best thing that she loved arts. She interviewed at Shrishti College of Arts where the faculty set up ingenious interviews and made students perform creative tasks for a period of four days. She fell in love with the people, the teaching, the college and the learning instantly.She explored the art of learning and teaching through storytelling using various forms of visual communication and she still gets fascinated everyday by the light, color, composition, and framing;and how it all blends to culminate in a beautiful story. She is glad about giving ears to her inner voice and finding something she enjoys doing every day and not being a clone (of doctor or geologist or whatever) struggling inside forever participating in a ruptured society.

The story of her journey only reiterates what all of us know but seldom practice. Education should teach us the courage to explore and listening actively to voices from within to hone our natural abilities and become truly happy individuals, not just successful clones. Education in its true essence would teach us to seek answers for the inherent quests and find happiness in those pursuits.

Find her work at https://www.facebook.com/royalexistentials/ and https://www.behance.net/aarthipartha

Image is taken from her weekly blog, Royal Existentials with her permission.

The article was written by Satya Lakshmi.

satya

Satya Lakshmi is a scientist by profession and an explorer by hobby. She is constantly on the lookout for the next learning adventure and loves reading. You can find her pursuing professional interests at the interface of biology and business.

Ipsa Jain interviewed Aarthi and helped editing the piece.

 

Go to Top
Close
loading...
%d bloggers like this: