Scientists Simplifying Science

Monthly archive

February 2016

Homeopathy Part V: The candy man can!*

in Poli-Scie/That Makes Sense by

Who can take a sunrise

Sprinkle it with dew

Cover it in chocolate

And a miracle or two

The candy man

The candy man can

The candy man can cause he

Mixes it with love and

Makes the world taste good…

Before the establishment of modern pharmacology, superstition drove the selection and use of remedies for maladies that afflicted us. The Greek word Pharmakon, from which the word pharmacology is derived, meant magic charm for treating disease. In those times, the goal of a pharmakon was to get rid of the evil spirits that was thought to be behind diseases and illnesses. We knew very little about the etiology of diseases. With the passage of time, experience, largely based on trial and error, enabled people to differentiate remedies that were useful and actually worked from those that did not work to alleviate symptoms. This lead to certain remedies getting selected and used over others. That was the advent of herbal medicines using plant extracts, to which modern medicine owes a lot.

Further developments in modern pharmacology had to wait for advances in chemistry and physiology. The most important among these were the isolation of pure compounds and discoveries on the etiology of diseases and illnesses. With this, the role of magic and miracle started to fade away from the realm of treating diseases and illnesses.

The first pure drug to be isolated was Morphine, based on the analgesic and euphoric properties of Opium poppy pods that was known for thousands of years. Following this, several other opiates, including Codeine were isolated from the Poppy plant. The identification of the structures of these and other compounds paved the way to convert naturally abundant compounds into rare ones in the laboratory. The availability of pure compounds revolutionized modern medicine and allowed us to ask specific questions about specificity, mode of action and dosage. With this, the role of magic and miracle was nearly eliminated from the realm of treating diseases.

As modern pharmacology became a true multidisciplinary enterprise, it derived utility from advances in other disciplines. But, more importantly, it also contributed to the generation of useful reagents as well as frameworks to interrogate life processes with specificity. Molecules that fall into the broad classes of agonists and antagonists are illuminating examples of this. Thus, modern pharmacology also paved the way to get rid of misconceptions about life such as vital forces and mysterious energies.

In the present day, modern pharmacology is the scientific discipline that deals with the interaction of chemicals with cells, tissues, organs and organisms. With its birth, outcomes of chemical interactions could be rationally correlated to physiological changes that they brought about through their interactions with their molecular targets.  In the present day, advances in synthetic chemistry allow us to make compounds that we desire. In the present day, advances in physiology and modern investigative tools allow us to rationally ask questions and obtain answers on pharmacological effects chemicals have on our body devoid of the noise originating from the impurities in the source material. A shining example is the discovery of Artemisinin, an antimalarial drug that was obtained after screening around 2000 Chinese herbal remedies. The discovery won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine. We are continuously discovering and poised to discover many more drugs from natural sources including ancient herbal remedies and synthesize them in the laboratory.

The time is ripe to ask chemists, biochemists, microbiologists, geneticists, physicists or any other person who has a reasonable background and training in science, or just plain common sense, a simple yet critical scientific question- can you imagine diluting an extract containing Artemisinin in water or alcohol and then magically come up with a sugar pill that will cure Malaria with the same efficacy as a more concentrated dose of a purified preparation of Artemisinin would? I doubt anyone could. But the homeopathic doctor- the Candy man- can! Because apparently, he also mixes a miracle or two and also love and makes it tastes good too.

If a conspiracy exists in the medical field that needs to be discussed and condemned by the scientific community, it is not the one purportedly run by Allopathy and modern pharmacology against Homeopathy, but rather the one waged by Homeopathy against herbal medicines right from the inception of Homeopathy- as I have alluded to in the Part IV of this series. As it stands now, almost 80% of homeopathic remedies are herbal remedies mixed with miracles and made to taste good. Where they are not, they are no different from herbal medicines or Allopathic medicines. Yet, by naming a remedy “Homeopathic”, it allows practitioners of this branch of medicine to sidestep regulatory guidelines that require labeling of actual compositions and active ingredients that even practitioners of herbal medicine and supplements are required to follow.

*Here is a link to the kid’s song “The candy man can” and the lyrics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIPGyKGuWeA

Authored by Dr Syam Anand, PhD (Indian Institute of Science, IISc; Post-Doctoral research, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Faculty, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Founder and US Patent Agent, Mainline Intellectual Property LLC, Ardmore, Philadelphia USA). Syam has over 20 years experience in diverse areas of Science with domain knowledge in Life Sciences and Intellectual Property. Dr. Anand is also an inventor and budding entrepreneur. A rationalist, Dr. Anand enjoys science at all levels and advocates the use of scientific methods for answering all questions and solving all problems and make common people curious and interested in understanding their worlds.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/syamprasadanand

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Presenting Myself and Representing Myself

in Sci-Pourri/That Makes Sense by

How “addressing” has profound impact on presenting yourself to others.

Many of us have lived in multicultural, multinational, and multilingual societies. Each of these societies have their norms of behavior and norm of how to address others. I was fortunate to live in three continents and learned their cultures, took good things from each of these cultures to implement in my own life. One of these is “addressing”.

Wherever there is hierarchy “defined” by the culture, there is also an official way of addressing. However, these societies are also undergoing transformation. Let me compare India and Germany, both have (had) hierarchy. In India every subordinate in any establishment (whether public or private) address his/her superior as “Sir/Madam”. The subordinates are called with their names, surname or given name. In Germany this effects only if you have a higher academic standing “Herr Professor Doktor” or “Frau Professor Doktor”. In the rest of the society it is Herr “Surname” or Frau “Surname” irrespective of the hierarchy. This is similar to calling Mr. Sharma or Ms. Modak. This simple example, clearly shows that while hierarchy is written in the system, other countries have learned to address superiors and subordinates with similar “addressing”, but in India, superiors still enjoy/demand the privilege of being addressed with obedience, while not reciprocating the same.

When it comes to academic set-up, the country that was built on “Gurukulas”, even present day generation addresses the “teachers” whom they revere and respect as “sir or madam”. A true teacher also reveres and respects his/her pupil and showers care and affection – may call most of the times with first name (given name). Unfortunately, over the time the rigor of Gurukula is gone, but the addressing system remained.

I’m trying to get my recollection dating back to 1980s onwards where I had more conscious interaction with my teachers. I don’t remember to have addressed them as “sir/madam”, but mostly as Professor Mehta or Professor Balu etc. But I addressed my Ph.D. advisor always “sir”. He was really like a guru to me. We had more non-science philosophical conversations that he enjoyed. But I used to address all the other faculty as Professor.

Now let me compare that with the system in the USA. I get many requests often. Students start with addressing me Dr. Gudipati, but after a few conversations and acquaintance either by e-mail or in person, the addressing quickly comes down to say “Hi Murthy”. Similar pattern at a University or at a Company. This does not mean that the students are not respecting you. Respect comes from their mannerisms – how they respond to your communication.

In the western countries, thanking many times or saying “yes sir” or “yes madam” in whatever the language – trying to show your subordinate status to the other person is not positively taken. In fact, it is bad manners to be too polite. Same is true when you write a letter, a cover letter, or a letter asking for a position. Show respect in “limits”. Start with Dear Dr. (or Professor) or Mr. or Ms. (by the way many women do not like to be addressed with Mrs because that is discriminatory as men do not have that status change when married). If you are speaking over phone or skype, say the same and say thank you Mr. Ms. Dr. Professor (whatever is pertinent) once, perhaps twice, but never thrice.

Now let’s come to life outside the hierarchy, whether at a University, a Company, or on the Street. I know one faculty at IISc, whom I revere so much – always addressed me (his junior) as “sir”. I reciprocated with great pleasure. We do the same even today. In the USA it is an obligation to address the customers as “sir or madam”. Typical addressing is “how are you doing sir today?”. Long ago one of our daughters when she was hardly 4 years old was greeted at a store “good morning Miss – how are you today” – she was so happy for someone recognized her to be with her father and they said good morning. It made her day! When I take a taxi I typically pick up a small conversation if possible and at the end give them more than a reasonable tip as they get my luggage out of the taxi and say “thank you sir or madam”. Their eyes become big and they smile with a pleasure that they are recognized as humans, not just a taxi driver. I practice consequently this with those who work hard and make their living – whenever I have something to do with them, from security/watchmen to street workers. They all deserve to be treated as humans, irrespective of their profession.

Another story I vividly remember in Hyderabad, India. I was there for a conference and met with old classmates whom I had not seen for decades. We went out for dinner to a “high-end” restaurant that was close to my hotel. As we were completing our dinner, my old classmate looked at the person who was attending our table and said, “hi go and get fingerbowls” – with such a tone and authority as if the attender were a slave. First instinct feeling I had was to cover my face with shame and then I was disgusted by my classmate’s behavior so much that the rest of the evening was a formality. Unfortunately, majority of men and women behave like this even today in India. Subordinates, low-wage workers, lower-caste, poor (irrespective of their religion or caste) are addressed with such a disrespect, authority, that even many at the places like IISc., with higher learning credentials or intellect – do not realize their own behavior to be disgraceful and disrespectful.

A few general words that may sound peculiar, but when you think deeply you understand why I say this. Keep in mind, even a beggar needs to be treated with respect. You may not give her/him money or food, but you have no right to treat them with disrespect. You will get back the same treatment that you give others. You respect them, you address them with respect, they respect you. They respect you more. It is wise to keep away from those who are disrespectable in their words and their behavior. If you can think – think about this – if you respect others, you are respecting yourself. If the respect comes from your heart, the appropriate addressing will follow.

 

 

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About the Author: Murthy S. Gudipati (aka G. S. Murthy at IISc) is a Principal Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. His research focuses on the evolution of organic matter and ice in the Universe, particularly the outer solar system, comets, and the potential origin(s) of life on Earth. He worked at the University of Texas at Austin, at the University of Cologne, Germany, University of Maryland, College Park, and at NASA Ames before joining JPL/Caltech in 2007. Murthy obtained M.Sc. at the Central University of Hyderabad (1981), Ph.D. from the Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Science (1987), and Habilitation (similar to tenure) at the University of Cologne (1998). He stayed in almost all the Men’s Hostel Blocks, dined at all the three A-C Messes, ran a half-marathon, and developed life-long friendships during his 1981-1986 stay at one of the most beautiful campuses in the world – the IISc. His PhD research was recognized with “Guha Medal – Best Thesis Award”. Murthy is one of the founding members of the IIScAANA.

Born and raised in in Southern India, Murthy lived in interior villages to mega cities in three continents. He at times walked over four miles each way to attend upper primary schools from his village. This experience bonded him with nature and animals immensely. Murthy likes Nature and National Parks and he has organized several hiking and camping trips for IIScAANA. Murthy’s passion is to bring knowledge, information, and education to the next generation humans to enable the future civilizations to treat themselves and the Nature with respect. Murthy’s pursuit of Science is balanced by his interest in World Music, Nature, Vegetarian Cooking, and Philosophy.

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Shooting stories

in Theory of Creativity by

As a structural biologist and a photographer, I believe that these two fields are quite the same. During my Ph.D. at Molecular Biophysics Unit in IISc, I was trained as a crystallographer shooting X-ray beams to biological macromolecules. The X-ray, much like what light does in photography, reveals the structure of macromolecules in all glory. In structural biology, certain variation, such as a fold or a motif, makes some of these structures unique and interesting. This “uniqueness” about one structure often generates curiosity and a surge in brainstorming ideas about what that macromolecule might be doing. In photography, shape, pattern, tone, and light are the uniqueness factors that make a few compositions memorable. A well-lit and well-composed photograph conveys mood and messages and hints a story. There are many reasons that I love photography, not the least of which is that photography has an uncanny similarity to my profession.

 

& family dramas

Many times, my instinct decides what I want to photograph. I photograph subject for what I feel urgency to explore. For example, I am deeply interested in the family moments. It is one of the recurring topics in my photography. I love both the familiar overture and the complex and subjective idea at its core. I also realize that these photographs allow different points of entry for viewers and reveal themselves at many levels.

 

Cozy_KM

I shot this mom and baby gorilla photograph in a safari park. It was a lot of fun just to watch the mother and the baby gorilla cuddling with each other. I was shooting for the entire time as they were communicating love and affection to each other. This photograph is one of my favorite. To me, the coziness between them speaks about the universal nature of this relationship.

 

 

 

Hungry_KM

I photographed those swallow chicks at Yellowstone national park. We spotted the swallows quite unexpectedly and found out that they were nesting in a nearby dead tree. I immediately noticed how hungry the chicks are and how crazy they behave at the prospect of one the parents returning with foods. As tree swallows are really swift flyer it was challenging to capture them in the same frame with the chicks. I consider myself lucky to be able to document this.

 

 

 

Koustav

About the Author

Koustav Maity obtained his Ph.D. in Structural Biology from IISc and pursuing his postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Diego. His current research efforts are focused on developing new strategies to characterize membrane proteins. Besides science, he enjoys photography. His photographs have featured in National Geographic, Outdoor photographer, National park services and Share the experience. He received Share the experience award for the best wildlife photograph of the year 2014. His photographs were exhibited and awarded at San Diego County fair.

You can reach Koustav at maityk[at]gmail.com

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/koustav-maity-792588b3

To see some of his photographs please visit

National Geographic your shot: http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/profile/800576/

Viewbug: http://www.viewbug.com/member/maityk

 

 

 

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Brains Behind the Scenes: Our Chief Data Monk

in ClubSciWri by

headshot

Onkar Bhardwaj, PhD: Chief Data Monk of ClubSciWri

He is a computer scientist by Ph.D. and profession, currently pursuing a postdoc at IBM. He is also an alumnus of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He is an avid reader and internet-surfer; loves traveling, technology, languages, music; and likes to be a friendly person. He believes in the power of community and the power of democracy built through respectful discourse, and likes to think that leveraging these along with science and technology can solve most of the problems facing humanity. At ClubSciWri, his role is to come up with ways to make ClubSciWri data-savvy and technically smooth from the point of view of user experience.

Entrepreneurship Experience in Bangalore

in Entrepreneurship/Face à Face/SciBiz by

 

I have been asked to put down my experience of starting and running a business in Bangalore. All of us have lived in Bangalore for at least 2 years inside the IISc campus. Our view of Bangalore is heavily skewed by our experience at IISc. My view of Bangalore was that it is a very settled, slow moving, high-tech and amazingly green city.

I graduated from IISc in December 2008 and returned to Bangalore only in January 2015. This time I was in a different part of Bangalore, the startup region – south Bangalore. I was pleasantly surprised to see the speed of development here. Everywhere you go, you will find boards of companies hanging over houses, buildings and shops, new buildings being constructed to house more and more companies. No street is left untouched by the startup buzz.

We started our company at a coworking space. The concept of cowork space is pretty amazing as it gives you a feel of office without being too hard on your budget. Most companies are bootstrapped at least in the initial period of their existence, our case was no different. Companies providing cowork spaces most often convert big houses into workspaces, where they charge you per seat (~5k) and also provide you with a registered address for your company. You can also get a dedicated room or cabin for your team at a slightly higher cost per month.

Being in a cowork space you get to interact with other startups and participate in their journey. I will often see a 3 member founders team suddenly getting a lot of funding and increasing their team to 30-40 in a matter of a week and then moving out of the coworking space. Others will remain stable and work on their product. Some will stop coming as their startups were not going anywhere.

Our company is now 1 year old, unofficially (0.5 years, officially). We are now incubated at IISc. Instead of putting everything in one post, what I have decided is to write to you in intervals as I go through more experiences.

 

Neha Satak Astrome Tech

 

Neha
Astrome Technologies (www.astrome.co)
(An Indian Space Technology Company)

 

 

 

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How to create and measure innovation?

in That Makes Sense by

“Innovation” is THE buzz-word of today!

Everyone wants to label their companies as innovative, hire innovative people, create processes to induce innovation and be the next big innovator! But how does one really ‘innovate’ and how do we quantify innovation?

Sarah Kaplan, professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto came up with an interesting answer that you might not have expected.

It is generally thought that brain storming with people from diverse knowledge backgrounds is a great way to come up with new ideas. In their paper, Kaplan and colleagues show that while combining different disciplines does lead to novel ideas, there is another equally important way that innovation works. In-depth knowledge in a field is required to understand the anomalies within the field, which can then lead to novel ideas.

“We find that, counter to theories of recombination, patents that originate new topics are more likely to be associated with local search, while economic value is the product of broader recombinations as well as novelty.”

Interestingly, breakthrough innovations were more likely to result from searches within a domain but economic value was a result of novel innovations arising from a combination of diverse ideas. However, such patents were very rare making up only 1% of the dataset.

“Patents that were both novel and had economic value were the most valuable. And that was only about 1% of the total patents.”

At this point, most researchers must be nodding in agreement “I had thought so”. What was the most surprising thing for me, though, was the way they measured “novelty”. In scientific literature as well as the patent world, innovation is measured as a direct function of citations. Even though most of the scientific community has rejected the idea of the journal impact factor as a way to measure the quality of a scientific article, the next best measure employed is the number of citations for the article itself. Thus, a patent or scientific paper that get highly cited is considered superior and thus a breakthrough innovation.

“What we found in our study is, in fact, that most of the patents that do get highly cited are not necessarily novel.”

In this study, the authors used a different metric to examine patents from the field of nanotechnology. A computer science and natural language processing (NLP) method called topic modeling that uses “a bag of words, a body of text, …and it infers from that body of text by the co-location of all the different words, what are the key underlying topics in the data”  was employed to determine if novel ideas were being developed. Interestingly, the patents that had high level of citations were not necessarily novel.

This is an interesting revelation, and something that scientists should also consider while judging the quality of literature. The entire reward system in science is largely based on publications and the feedback from citations. This generates ‘hot’ topics that many scientists work on, read about and cite, thus creating a research bubble. In such an environment, other fields of potential interest have difficulty to gain exposure and citations. Researchers flock towards hot topics, which can hinder the overall progress of science.

This generates ‘hot’ topics that many scientists work on, read about and cite, thus creating a research bubble. In such an environment, other fields of potential interest have difficulty to gain exposure and citations.

Kaplan and her group plan to delve deeper into how innovation works by studying novel ideas in different fields. It would be interesting to see what insights they can bring!

Me_DFX9112-crop

About the author: Czuee has a PhD from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland and Masters from IIT Bombay. She has previously worked at IISc-Monsanto collaboration and as a patent analyst at Evalueserve. Apart from her research on proteins involved in brain signalling and diabetes, she is interested in scientific communication (czuee.wordpress.com), entrepreneurship and runs a webcomic (http://gradschoolmuse-icals.thecomicseries.com/).

Photo source: Forbes.com

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT PATENTING

in Sci-IP/That Makes Sense by


(These are not definitions, but helpful pointers)

    •  What is a patent?

    A patent is an exclusive right for a limited time for an invention.

    • What are the exclusive rights for?

    The rights are excluding others from making, using, selling, offering for selling and importing the invention.

    • For how long is a patent valid?

    20 years from the application filing date.

    • What is an invention?

    An invention is a novel and non-obvious useful tangible solution to a problem. Notable exceptions are design patents that cover external appearance of objects.

    • What is novel?

    In simple terms anything that is new, man-made, and does not exist previously and has not been disclosed before.

    • What is non-obvious?

    In simple terms anything that is not an incremental improvement (i.e. obvious improvement) over previously known product or process.

    • Can I patent anything and everything that meet the criteria of utility, novelty and non-obviousness?

    No, you cannot. There are country-specific rules on what is and what is not patentable.

    • Can I patent, if I publish?

    In the US, you may, within one year of publishing and obtain rights in the US. In all other countries you loose your rights if you publish before submit a patent application.

    • Can I patent, if I disclose?

    In the US, you may, within one year of disclosing your invention. In all other countries you loose your rights, if you disclose your invention before submitting a patent application.

    • What kinds of disclosures affect the prospects of patenting?

    In general, any public disclosure as opposed to disclosure within a confidential meeting (for example lab meeting) or disclosures protected by non-disclosure agreements.

    • Do I have to file a patent to practice my invention?

    No. You are not required to file a patent to practice your invention. But without patent protection, you risk your invention being copied by others.

    • Can a person or entity that has already obtained a patent on the same invention, stop me from practicing the invention?

    Yes. A patent gives the owner of the patent, exclusive constitutionally bestowed rights to stop others from practicing the invention described in the patent. This falls under patent infringement.

    • I have an idea that could be patentable, what should I do first?

    The first question to ask is, who owns the idea. An easy way to answer this question is to ask yourself, what are your obligations to your employer.

    • I work in a lab and my idea is related to the project I work on for my employer. Do I own the rights to the idea?

    In general, no. Your employer owns the right to the idea. Contact your technology transfer office/center. They will guide you.

    • I work in a lab and my idea is independent of the project I work on for my employer. But I used materials and equipment in the lab for testing and perfecting my idea. Do I own the rights to the idea?
    • I work in a lab and my idea is independent of the project I work on for my employer. Also, I did not use materials or equipment from my employer and instead used my own funds for testing and perfecting my idea. Do I own the rights to the idea?

    Yes.

    • My employer decided not to pursue my invention. Is this a dead end for my invention?

    No. They could give you the ownership rights for the invention for free or a cost. They could also license for free or a cost. Where federal funding is involved, even the federal government can give you the rights for free or a fee.

    • What are the things to remember when deciding whether to patent an invention or not on my own?

    Two things to contemplate are money and time. Obtaining a patent costs money in terms of filing fees, maintenance fees, and attorney fees. It is up to the inventor to evaluate the cost benefit of filing and maintaining a patent.

    • I am good at generating ideas but not good at perfecting them. Can I file a patent application for an imperfect idea?

    In fact yes, if the idea is not completely abstract and can be described adequately to convincingly prove that it can work as described.

    • I am good at generating and testing ideas and even perfecting them. But I do not have the experience or inclination to manufacture or market my invention. Is this worthwhile to pursue a patent application?

    Yes. Patents can be sold or licensed to others who are interested buyers. They are a form of intellectual property.

Authored by Dr Syam Anand, PhD (Indian Institute of Science, IISc; Post-Doctoral research, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Faculty, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Founder and US Patent Agent, Mainline Intellectual Property LLC, Ardmore, Philadelphia USA). Syam has over 20 years experience in diverse areas of Science with domain knowledge in Life Sciences and Intellectual Property. Dr. Anand is also an inventor and budding entrepreneur. A rationalist, Dr. Anand enjoys science at all levels and advocates the use of scientific methods for answering all questions and solving all problems and make common people curious and interested in understanding their worlds.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/syamprasadanand

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Twitter Town Hall @ClubSciWri #AskVijayDBT on February 21st 2016

in ClubSciWri/Face à Face/Poli-Scie by

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In the last one month of ‪#‎ClubSciWri‬, we have witnessed some of the best articles/write-ups/interviews on this forum. Now we are moving into the next stage as we are introducing interviews with policymakers. In first of such series, we are hosting a twitter townhall with Vijay K VijayRaghavan. We will discuss about DBT’s policy on academic/industrial opportunities for post-doc/PhD. You can send your questions to @ClubSciWri twitter handle, post here on FB or best join the live chat on 21st February 11.30 AM- 12.30 PM (IST).

@ClubSciWri Proudly hosts Twitter town hall with @DBTIndia Prof. @kvijayraghavan send your question at ‪#‎AskVijayDBT‬

Morning Rays

in Theory of Creativity by

Morning Rays (1)

About the Photo:
“If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I’d make a wish for sunshine for all the while”
The sunshine, particularly the morning sunrays become visible when
scattered from fog in the winter and create beautiful patterns passing
through different obstacles. Capturing the drama in light and shadow
is the greatest satisfaction for any photographer. I shot this morning
rays while the sunrays were beaming through these beautifully
patterned trees in front of the faculty hall in Indian Institute of
Science. When I visualized this, I knew that all the elements present
in the frame would contribute positively to make one of my favorite
photos. It is always difficult to tackle and capture these tricky
lighting conditions but it gives immense satisfaction when they come
out well. I waited for a morning with dense fog and bright sunshine,
and finally it was the morning of a Saraswati puja day when I got
everything working just perfectly for me and here is the photo that I
made. Hope you all will like it. This photo has been exhibited in more
than ten international salons, and won a couple of honorable mentions.

 

Photography Profile

About the author: Manas Khan, AFIAP

“Hope my photographs create a delicate balance between art and awareness”

Manas is an avid nature lover and photographer who loves to capture the uncontrived beauty of nature. He strives to portray his vision to spread an awareness of preserving the nature in its pristine form. Though his interest spans everything in the realm of nature photography, Manas is most fascinated by birds in flight photography. While his knowledge and skill with photography converge to master the image he visualizes, his immense love and admiration for nature enrich each frame he makes by adding unique perspective to it. By profession, Manas is a physicist, currently pursuing research in the University of California – Los Angeles. Prior to this, he was a graduate student in Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. While he was honing his skills on technicalities with optical tweezers and table optics in the physics lab, it was in this lush green campus where he found his creative pursuit for photography. Sharing his vision with three of his friends, Manas founded the Bangalore Photography Club in 2006. His photographs are frequently exhibited in FIAP (The International Federation of Photographic Art) salons worldwide, winning. As recognition FIAP awarded him with the Artiste – FIAP in 2013. The award list includes many honorable mentions, a bronze medal from the United Photographers International (UPI), and a gold medal from the Photographic Society of America (PSA). He is also a member of the ‘Federation of Indian Photography’.

Manas’s photography can be explored at:

Web Photo Gallery: http://www.ArtlessBeauty.Net

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ArtlessBeauty.Net

500px: https://500px.com/artlessbeauty

Logo

About the art: ArtlessBeauty “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” ~Albert Einstein Looking deep into nature is indeed magical; even a glimpse in enough to fill one with joy. Artless Beauty is a journey through such glimpses that the author is blessed with to behold and capture through his lenses. Besides showcasing mesmerizing nature, this endeavor is dedicated to spread awareness and advocate for the conservation of nature and wildlife. Let us look through the author’s eyes, his boundless love for nature and its artless beauty.

 

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Laapataa- The Indian PhD

in Laapataa- The Indian PhD/That Makes Sense by

 

Doing Research in India

It is an uphill journey for a researcher working in India in many ways. One of the cited reasons talks about lack of resources or of top researchers who can really do game-changing research. I find that to be the least of the reasons.
First of all, let me try and define what I consider to be a normal researcher’s career goals. There are these dreams to be a top researcher whose work is cited in every conversation happening in a particular area of scholarship. This is a very lofty dream. It will not be fructified for most of us. Aiming for that just like that is a prescription for depression and disappointment. Instead, a more realistic goal is find a valid groove for oneself in the research ecosystem. That groove may be big or small — that’s secondary. It should provide a continual opportunity to think and work, to contribute, to communicate. Fame, recognition and riches may come, but as happy side-effects. The main product being a sustainable opportunity to work and produce, all while leading a reasonably happy life.
I know, there are subjectivity and loose ends in the above description. But that’s Okay! As long as it shifts the focus from lofty and unrealistic dreams of greatness to realistic goals of day to day satisfaction and fulfilment. And one of the first hurdles to building fruitful research career in India is related with unrealistic goals. Please don’t get me wrong in that I am trying to persuade you to give up your dreams. But dreams should arise out of your deep understanding about some problems, and an irresistible wish to solve it; it shouldn’t arise out of images of heroic achievement flashed over the media. This only leads to vacuous ambitions, unrelated with the immediately surrounding reality. Work whose only meaning is associated with the fulfilment of an ambition, whether materialistic or otherwise, is by definition a chore, and can never give happiness.
So, if a person opts to do research in India with his or her expectations placed correctly, is it a cakewalk? No! So, what other problems? A list of some of the important problems in my view are presented in my cartoon that appeared today in Club SciWri, reproduced here:

The Strong Links

  1. Talent. High talent density is made highly probable among Indian researchers by the sheer amount of competition they surmount before ending up in any prestigious graduate school. I am fully aware of the caveats in this assumption, though.
  2. Motivation. The dampening influences which will be discussed below start playing out much before a student steps into a graduate school. If, in spite of them all, a student makes it to the doorsteps of a higher research degree, he/she has proved at least one point, that he/she is highly motivated.

The Weak Links

  1. Unrealistic Goals. The first weak link that saps much of a young starry eyed researcher’s energies are his ignorance about what research involves. He starts off at a high note thinking he can pull it off only on the basis of his intelligence, knowledge, hard work and what not. Disillusionment sets in when he finds that these qualities barely enable him to make any dent.
  2. Communication. Most of us hardly ever start at working on our communication skills. Those of us who do start hardly ever graduate beyond thinking of it as good English and confidence and all that. Communication is a much deeper skill. It has its roots in a practice of thinking with clarity, ability to sense lack in clarity, and seeking clarity by acquiring information through the means of listening, reading, guessing and imagining.
  3. Selling Skills. My PhD got over before I got over the feeling that no one cares about my research. This lack of confidence sits so deep in our soul that we are never able to utter a single word about our work to others with an honest fervour. Yes, many of us pick up styles from here and there by noticing ‘what sells’. But, to a trained eye, they look artificial and disgusting. The marketability that arises out of a calm and peaceful confidence in the meaningfulness of our work is widely lacking in us. This again has a lot to do with the fact that we start our journey by setting unrealistic goals.
  4. Collaboration Ecosystem. A sense of deep mistrust pervades the Indian research scenario. Industries think researchers just want to talk crap. Researchers and academicians think that industries only care about money and short term goals. Both cling to their IPs like … I don’t know … which is that animal which clings?! Yes. They cling to their IPs. And they sign such watertight MoUs that it chokes the life out of any effort. Funding agencies wait endlessly before releasing the first cheque. And they play safe by funding well known candidates. Institutes over commit, thinking that the money will take its own sweet time to flow in, if ever it flows in; so we might as well write ten other proposals. Institutes hesitate to share students, equipments, information … unless shown businesslike incentives. What are they afraid of? Hard earned status? Disappointment on working with a bogus partner? I don’t know. But, there’s something in the air that prevents us from collaborating with each other. And collaborate we must, if we want to exist at all.
  5. Financial Stability. Finally, the whole process of doing a PhD simply stops making sense when it fails to get us a commensurately paying job. 5-6 years appear like a sunk investment of precious youth and avenues of securing financial stability when it doesn’t even give us a foothold in the market. If a PhD student in India decides to live off Government stipend, in a bachelor hostel, eating subsidised mess food, he can easily be fooled into thinking of himself as a king. If he thinks of letting the other aspects of his life move on in a normal way — getting married, investing, owning a house — he will wake up to his real penury. This financially unstable condition is the cause of many a casualty.

The Stumbling Blocks

  1. Lab Politics. The stresses generated primarily by the above sources hits the individuals so hard so as to cause the internal environment of most labs to become completely toxic. Lab-mates, who should be working closely with each other (without it being forced by the supervisor), should take interest in each others work, evade each others’ eyes, hide their data, lie to and about each other. Essentially, the broken collaboration ecosystem invades the very home of research — the lab. What these labs end up being are pressure cookers with stressed out and lonely souls afraid of their inmates. It creates a terrible prospect for the work that can be expected to come out of such places. No wonder, much of the research that comes out of Indian labs is toothless.
  2. Social Pressures. All the above topped up with social pressures deals a deadly blow to the Indian researcher’s will to put in that extra amount of effort which will tip the balance favourably for him.
    • Get married.
    • Support your family.
    • Finish fast.
    • IISc? What’s that? Tell me one great invention that came out that place! Why didn’t you do it abroad?
    • Dress like a human being, you geek! Smile. Attend the party… Be, or at least look, more like us all.
 An Indian research student functions in presence of continuous squabble created by his relatives, friends and immediate society. Many wickets fall under these Yorkers; any vessels are sunk by this torrent.
So, there you go. If you are contemplating taking up a research career here, please consider taking help of the above points in doing a bit of soul searching. For God’s sake, start with realistic goals. There’s a lot of ways in which a PhD can contribute to nation building in India. These ways mayn’t quite look like those idolised by science books, magazines and journals. Preparing a society that has forgotten the faith in deductive reasoning and knowledge to start using systematic thinking for finding its way up, is challenging enough. This may need us to drop our ivory tower images of a scientist and get down on the field and get our hands a bit dirty.

 

 

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About the cartoonist and the blogger: Sujit did his PhD from CSA (Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore) and joined Philips. After few years in the industry he joined IIIT Bangalore as an Assistant Professor and continues to teach there. Creator of ” Lapataa”- A fictional IISCian as he dodges through the reality of PhD. It is one of the fantastic piece of art which ClubSciWri thought needs to preserved and showed to the world and other alumni. The clips connect all of us whether it is an IIScian or a non-IIScian who did his PhD in India.

Sujit has previously posted the blog here: http://sujitkc.blogspot.in/2016/02/doing-research-in-india.html

http://www.iiitb.ac.in/faculty/sujit-kumar-chakrabarti

https://sites.google.com/site/sujitkc/professional2/professional-biography

©Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti

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

 

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