Scientists Simplifying Science

Monthly archive

November 2016


in Biodiversity and Environment by

Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)

The sparrow-like bird displays brilliant blue feathers on the throat, known to reply to the calls of other bird, and sing its tunes is a treat to the bird lovers. In North America, they habitat the tundras. However, they are found in Europe and Asia too.

The male bluethroat has red spots on its neck and European ones mostly have white or entirely blue throats. They also have flashy red tails. These are migratory birds and hence can be found in Rajasthan during American winters. Insectivorous in nature, IUCN classifies them as Least Concerned (LC)


Krishnanand Padmanabhan


Hello everyone, I am Krishnanand, a graduate student in the field of biological sciences currently residing in Tel Aviv, Israel. Seeing the world around us with different perspectives has always inspired me and this was the reason behind choosing Photography as my passion. Being a biologist I firmly believe that equipment cannot match the perfection of Human Vision but they can definitely create art which we love to see.Motivated by this concept I wish to present you all my perspective to the beautiful world around us. Hope u all would enjoy the same!!


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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 ( 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 ( 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 and

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

The article was written by Satya Lakshmi.


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.


The question: Burning excess calories post exercise

in SciWorld/That Makes Sense by

Combining resistance and endurance exercises potentiates fat loss and muscle hypertrophy

You don’t burn calories while working out alone, body continues to burn calories even after the cessation of the workout. It was attributed to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which remains high after aerobic exercise as well as anaerobic exercise. In addition, lactic acid produced, during strenuous exercise, in muscle cells has to be diverted/oxidized back to other metabolites, which might also contribute to the excess calorie consumption after the workout. These 2 hypotheses however could not completely explain burning of more calories after exercise.


The science behind

Researchers at Harvard University detailed the science behind these hypotheses. They found that endurance induces a hormone which converts white adipose tissue (tissue which stores fat) into brown adipose tissue (tissue which burns fat). Irisin is the hormone produced upon endurance exercise in mice and human subjects which regulates this process. Irisin has been in the news ever since as an exercise hormone. In another study, by the same group, they found the scientific reason why resistance exercise induces muscle hypertrophy. When human subjects performed resistance exercises such as leg press, chest press etc., Insulin like growth factor (a hallmark protein for muscle hypertrophy) production was enhanced.

Interestingly, both the endurance and resistance exercise benefits were under the control of a master protein called PGC1 α. This protein is differentially produced in the body according the nature of the exercise performed. If endurance exercise is performed it produces the beneficial effects of burning fat; if resistance exercise is done muscle hypertrophy results.

PGC1 α is very important protein, a person’s athletic performance is determined in part by it. Genetic mutations in this protein affect athletic performance of the individual.

Kill two birds with one stone: resistance and endurance exercise

It was also reported that PGC1-α is induced at a higher level when resistance (anaerobic) exercise is performed after endurance (aerobic) exercise, which is called concurrent training. Combining both exercises, thus, will have a synergistic effect on overall health.

The future

There has been no golden rule for how much workout has to be done for achieving desirable health benefits- either fat loss or muscle gain. It could be possible, in future, that amount of production might be used as readout for endurance or resistance exercise for each individual. Proper exercise regime and nutritious diet could help maintain general wellbeing and attain dream physique.



About the Author:



Srinivas Aluri is postdoc at Albert Einstein College, NY. He is a fitness enthusiast, exercise and diet expert. He is also an international sports science association certified fitness trainer as well as American Heart Association’s CPR/AED certified professional.

P.S: This article was blogged at an untraceable place. It’s been edited and published here.


Photo source: and Pixabay

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Face to Face with Sandhya Sriram

in Face à Face by

In this episode of Face to Face, Dr. Sandhya Sriram talks about her role as a Program and Grants Coordinator at ASTAR Singapore. More importantly, she talks about her journey as a postdoc, her network strategies, and her entrepreneurial ventures in science communication and more….

Transitioning to a faculty position in India – skills that defines one during screening

in That Makes Sense by

As in case with any other academic position, applying for a faculty position in India can be likened to skillful maneuvering of a ship through the storm. After working relentlessly through his/her training phase, a faculty job aspirant finds himself/herself into a more challenging situation where one has to skillfully present the honed skills to be in reckoning in the highly competitive bottlenecked academic job market. I had a quite a long discussion with many of my colleagues planning to transition into the academia in India. Indeed, a great CV with a good publication record is something that definitely pushes the application forward, but our general perception was – there are certain skills that speak volumes of our ability to become future group leaders.

During PhD and post-doctoral tenure, one develops a vast array of skills. However, when it comes to the final destination that is, obtaining a faculty position in a good institution, everything zeros down to the trait that defines the person for the position. In general, a person’s capability to run an independent lab is usually judged during the personal interview stage. However, many faculty position ads (in biological sciences, India) asked for enlistment of skills that one has acquired till the time of application. We found it very peculiar and unusual for an academic position because these kind queries are generally associated with industrial settings. We soon realized that other than scientific output, the initial screening of candidates also involved his/her understanding of the nuances for running an independent group and how he/she has developed skills other than technical, to be proficient in it. A positive attitude on this aspect during the personal interview stage may also result in scoring important points.

The Career Support Group (CSG) discussion on this aspect brought in opinions from Siddharth Tallur, Dileep Vasudevan Thenezhi, Smita Salian Mehta, Hirak S Basu and Kaneenika Sinha whose general suggestion was to focus on the set of skills the selection committee might be looking in their future colleague and hence, highlight them in the application. These are the areas of expertise a faculty aspirant must develop during the training period in order to present oneself more positively in front of the committee.

A broad perspective was obtained, which is summarized below:

1.     Independently mentoring students especially graduate students that also involves ability to describe the problem to them lucidly

2.     What kind of service did you provide to the scientific community? Services such as reviewing papers, organization of conferences/workshops tutorials

3.     Setting up fruitful collaborations which may comprise inter-research groups or with one’s own PI

4.     Writing independent grants – this in fact, shows how a person is able to think independently in spite of working in a research group. Here both successful trials and important misses can be highlighted.

5.     In real sense, applying for a position with an approved grant scores highly in the academic corridors.

6.     Development of a new area of research in PI’s lab and describing what kind of skills, achievements a person has gained towards the completion of the project. This area of research might become one’s core research focus in future and any kind of past publications in the area (as first/co-corresponding author) will go a long way in defining that person’s independence in the field.

7.     Any kind of experimental techniques that one has developed or may have in-depth expertise which he/she can develop in the scientific community and mentor.

8.     A definitive research plan for five years that includes how one intends to supervise the PhD students

9.     The teaching responsibilities donned/shared by the candidate during the training period and the subjects/areas he/she will be comfortable teaching/initiating in the host institution.

In summary, a person aspiring to transition into academia needs to develop/highlight the expertise gained during the training period that depicts how as a prospective faculty, the person has evolved from a co-worker to an independent mentor in the research group. May be these nine points are not that exhaustive, but surely can be further developed by incorporating more challenging experiences shared by the community.

Devanjan Sinha


Presently, I am Assistant Professor at Institute of Science, Banaras Hindu University, India. I completed my doctoral dissertation from Department of Biochemistry, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. I briefly worked as a Research Associate at IISc, before transitioning to this position.  Further details on my academic journey is available on LinkedIn:

Image source: Pixabay

Edited by: Abhinav Dey

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Odra Noel- A Scientist by day, Artist at other times

in Sci-Pourri/That Makes Sense by

Cosmologist Lawrence Krauss had said, “Science and art ask the same questions.” Hence, it may not seem surprising that many inventors and scientists have pursued artistic pursuits alongside scientific research. Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man is a reminder that art and science complement each other. It is a perfect example how the skill of illustration proves to be invaluable for exploring as well as communicating scientific ideas, even across language divides. While the approach to answering the same fundamental questions may be different, there is a common element of wonder and curiosity. While the laboratory is the temple of scientific discipline, curiosity and imagination have been at the helm of some scientific discoveries. Kekule found/discovered the structure of benzene in a dream, imagining a snake seizing its tail. A story has been popularized that a rescue operation against cannibals resulted in the invention of the sewing machine by Elias Hawke. Einstein’s wild imagination of him riding a light beam has brought humanity so far. It is therefore not surprising that some of the great scientists also dabbled with art, music, and painting. Richard Feynman played the bongo and Einstein played the violin.
But, can  passion lead to a sustainable profession? To pursue the question that intrigues me of late, I started researching on the lives of modern scientists who are juggling between their profession and passion. Not very long after I started my research, Odra Noel caught my attention. Odra, who is a trained doctor from the University of Basque and a Ph.D. from the University of London, dabbled with cell culture, dissection, intracellular organelles when she realized that her enthusiastic interest in scientific art could be combined with scientific art creation. My quest to know about her transition into the world of scientific art (a subject which is very close to my heart) I reached out to Odra to know about her work and transition. “I always knew I was an artist. I had the soul of an artist. But making a living from art is even more difficult than making a living as a scientist, for the simple reason that we need many more scientists than artists. I never left science, my main activity, and the one that pays the bills is science. I do art in my spare time and use it to balance my life. I use art to think, to understand and to communicate science” Odra said when I asked her when did she realize she wanted to be an artist. Realizing from my experience that how hard such a transition can be for someone who is trained to work in the lab, solving problems to have a deeper understanding of life for several years at a stretch, I couldn’t resist myself to ask “so how was the transition?.” “My transition was partial and seamless. I always had made art on the side, so to make it a bit more ‘official’ was not difficult” she said, adding “It takes a lot of planning and energy. Having two lives is fun, but you need to make sacrifices because there are only 24 hours in each day.” I realized for a graduate student to pursue hobby vis a vis his/her lab life one needs a supportive mentor and so I asked: “how supportive was your alma mater/PI when you made the choice of a nonacademic career?” Odra’s response was “people are generally very supportive. But you need a certain amount of evidence that you know what you are doing. Not an unplanned ‘follow’ your heart in my case.”
My short interview ended with her claiming to be a ‘nongame changer.’ Well, she is modest about her achievements, but if you look at her work, you will realize that her work efficiently communicates science in a fun and artistic way. She also sets an example for us (PhDs) to have wholesome lives where our lives are more than our research jobs.

Just a few more lines about her:
Apart from training in science (Ph.D.), she has gained training in arts and aesthetics. She mainly paints cellular processes, membrane and cellular organelles on silks. Chloroplast and mitochondria are her favorite subjects. She ensures that the colors are vibrant and catchy to an uninitiated buyer, but when someone buys her product, they take a scientific concept home. Her art cover has also featured in scientific journal covers and science art exhibitions. She juggles her life between art and science.

So that was my way of knowing someone who is a full-time scientist and an artist. It is already well past midnight, and I need to finish my next set of illustrations…..

To find out more about Odra Noel’s artwork, please visit For those in London, some of her pieces will be part of the exhibition ‘Transplant and life’ at the Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons, London, from 22 November 2017 to mid march 2018.

Image is taken from Odra Noel’s Facebook page with her permission.



Ipsa is a Ph.D. student at IISc. She wants to gather and spread interestingness. She prefers painting and drawing over writing. She is grateful that Diptadip Dattaroy and Ananda Ghosh took the pains of editing her poor writing.

Postdoctoral Position at Shiv Nadar University (SNU)

in Scientagon by
 Roy  Lab is looking for a postdoctoral position funded by the Indo-French Center for the Promotion of Advanced Research (CEFIPRA) at SNU. 
 Applications are invited from eligible PhD graduates in the area of cell biology, molecular biology, and protein biochemistry. We preferably expect that applicants have previous work experience with human cell culture, cell imaging, mitochondrial cell biology and standard molecular and epigenetic techniques including Real Time PCR, cloning, transfection, Southern, Northern and Western analysis.
If you want to share any openings in your lab with us kindly write to us at

10 Mantras of Effective Networking

in That Makes Sense by

Networking is a skill. A skill that some of us may inherently have and some of us have to work upon. I have always been an extrovert. I love people, I can strike conversations, I am comfortable with new people and new settings. However, as a researcher I learnt that networking is not all about being an extrovert. Networking is something you have to learn and work very hard at.

My PhD professor would take us along when he attended networking sessions or when he was giving a talk at an institution. He would introduce us as his student and then leave us to fend for ourselves. While throwing us into the big-bad world of business networking, he inadvertently gave us the required push and set a good example. He encouraged us to get visiting cards made which came very handy even when we networked as students and during the course of primary data work. Being a research student in the management domain, we attend both academic and business conferences where networking is quintessential. Over the years as an academician, as an entrepreneur and as a consultant, I have realized that networking skillfully can make impressions and build careers.

I love observing people and for me the gender differences in networking often strike at events. Studies have shown how men are more aggressive at networking and women are shy in a mixed gender group. Also, very few women proactively attend networking meets. Interestingly, in an all women networking event, the conversations steer very differently.

The observations shared henceforth are solely mine and based on my experiences.

  1. Networking types- There is usually a ‘type’. Some people network aggressively and some assertively. This is often a result of personality types. I have seen assertive networkers doing fine. They begin on the right note and close conversations well. In my opinion, aggressive networking is a put-off. I have seen people nudge to get into a group conversation or even interrupt the flow of conversations between two other people. This is completely unacceptable.
  2. The essence of building a conversation- It is essential to move from the hello, to an introduction and come to the point of why you want to connect. Due to the stress of networking, however,  some people get a verbal diarrhoea while some choke. It is essential to talk about yourself, but it is even more essential to listen to what the other person does and is interested in.
  3. Closing the conversation- Often in large networking groups, you will notice flippant networkers. They move or hop from one person to other. What is important is to ensure that you close the previous conversation well enough. With some people, you may want to take the dialogue offline and with some, you may see no further benefits. In either case, a polite ‘nice to meet you’ goes a long way, along with closing the conversation track.
  4. Following up on the connect established– Send an email to the people thanking them for their time and stating a bit of your interest in being connected. Some may fizzle out and some connections may become strong bonds. While this is courteous, it also makes the networking more fruitful.
  5. Networking etiquette- Some rules have to be followed, irrespective of time, space and your eagerness to impress. Do not hog the limelight; listen, appreciate and respond. Be proactive in stating interest in what the other person does. Do not make judgemental statements on community, language or religion. Do not get argumentative. A networking meet is not a place to prove yourself and your thinking as the only right thing. At a networking meet recently, I was asked where am from and a flippant statement about women researchers followed. I understand that people have strong opinions, but that may not have been the best time. I steered clear of that person the rest of the day.
  6. Gender differences. I personally always find it interesting how women network differently. What I have seen is women invariably ask about spouse or children or place we are from. These often become starting points of discussion. I have rarely seen men talk about family.  But yes, men do ask women about their families. This is just an observation.  I at times like the no nonsense thing of just talking work and work interests. But that is me. I also am allergic when women dumb themselves down to fit in social networking situations.
  7. Networking in silos- Even at networking events, people end up networking in silos. This beats the entire purpose of networking.  So, leave that comfort zone and venture out. 
  8. The appropriate and the inappropriate- We have to be very cognizant of the fact that we do not make statements that are politically incorrect.  Jokes or comments on religion, community, and gender are not ice breakers. There is, also, a fine line between being witty, sarcastic, humorous and being obnoxious.
  9. Glass of wine, plate of snacks and intermittent conversations- Nurse that glass of wine, one sip at a time.  Networking events are not for drinking binges.  Try not to be caught with a stuffed mouth, full of chicken tikka or greasy hands from the paneer starter.  This can surely be a put off.
  10. 3 Ps- Preparation, Perseverance, Pragmatism. Always prepare.  If you know who you have a chance of meeting at the networking meet, read up about them and their work.  Be persevering.  You may not be able to connect with them in the first few minutes that they join the event.  Take your time.  Be Pragmatic. Networking can’t be done at the pace of speed dating. So, be focused, yet relaxed. There is no ideal networking style or moment or outcome.


Networking is a skill that we all are learning along the way.  So keep that smile ready and let the rest follow. Happy networking!


Madhurima Das

About the author:


A Human Resource Management (HRM) and Policy research consultant; passionate about psychology, poetry and people; grammar, writing and movies. Is also a HRM, Communications and Work-Life trainer. A clinical psychologist, with a doctorate degree in Human Resource Management from the Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. Was the Chief Evangelist and Co-founder of Gubbi Labs’ Research Media Services and its flagship venture, the Science Media Center at Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. Blogs at


Edited by: Abhinav Dey

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Face to Face with Prof. Lawrence Rajendran on Science Matters

in Face à Face by

“Observations, not stories, are the pillars of good science. Today’s journals however, favor story-telling over observations, and congruency over complexity. As a consequence, there is a pressure to tell only good stories. Moreover, incentives associated with publishing in high-impact journals lead to loss of scientifically and ethically sound observations that do not fit the storyline, and in some unfortunate cases also to fraudulence. The resulting non-communication of data and irreproducibility not only delays scientific progress but also negatively affects society as a whole. ”

This is the concept of Science Matters a GenX journal for scientists. Prof Lawrence Rajendran from the University of Zurich talks about his idea of what a journal should feel like, and why ScienceMatters is different and has a potential to change the publication industry as well as science.


Prof. Lawrence Rajendran

University of Zurich

Founder: Science Matters



My story on how I got my H1B

in SciWorld by

Hello everyone, I would like to share my experience towards getting the H1B visa. I’m happy to let you know that I am joining the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, as a postdoctoral fellow. I am very grateful to CSG, as early discussions on this forum encouraged me to begin applications even before thesis submission. My PI offered to do an expedited processing of the H1B visa, and I was also assigned an immigration lawyer for the same.

I chose Mumbai as the city of choice for my visa interview, but there were no dates for H1B available until Feb 2017!! (They have now increased availability, but from July-Oct it was tough to get dates within 3 months for this visa category). So I did the biometrics at the VAC in Mumbai, and had my consular interview at Kolkata,as that was the only place where dates were available. I’m sure many of you know this already, but just for the benefit of the minority (I was one of them) who don’t, it is perfectly fine to take visa appointments anywhere in India, as long as you mention the same city on your DS-160. In case you have already submitted the DS-160 and then see no dates available in your city of choice, or if you need to correct and/or update information, you can select the “Retrieve an Application” option on the site where you filled the form, enter your previous visa application ID, and then select “Create a New Application”. Your personal information will then populate into the new application. In the new application, update the details and proceed further. Applicants who have completed a new DS-160 after scheduling an appointment are required to carry both the old and new DS-160 confirmation pages to their Visa Application Center appointment for biometrics. 

At the Kolkata consulate, I was given a few minutes to explain my current research in IISc and future research in USA, and I was told that further administrative processing would be needed before they could grant me the visa. They kept my passport, and handed me a form which stated that my application was pending under section 221G, and I needed to email them a detailed word document describing my current research as well as proposed research in USA and its practical applications, following which I would get my visa in 2-4 weeks. Two other postdoctoral candidates at the consulate were also given the same form, and this is pretty common for researchers working in fields belonging to the ‘Technology Alert List’ that includes biomedical research, nuclear physics, chemical engineering among others. After a very tense and frustrating wait where I kept imagining the worst case scenario (that my visa would get rejected), I finally got my visa after 3 weeks 🙂

Take home message – Visa processing takes time, but it is rarely rejected.



Awanti has done her PhD in Systems Biology at the Indian institute of Science,Bangalore, and will be joining the University of Michigan for postdoctoral research. She identifies as a compulsive chatterbox

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