Scientists Simplifying Science

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May 2017

The Gentleman’s Hesitation….& The Invention of Stethoscope

in Medness/SciWorld by

René Laennec (1781 – 1826) was a thorough gentleman. In retrospect, he’d turn out to be a knight in shining white apron.

In 1816, the young French doctor was worried that he could be getting ”inappropriately close’ to a young patient who had been suffering from chest infection. He would recall later, ”…. I was consulted by a young woman laboring under general symptoms of diseased heart, and in whose case percussion and the application of the hand were of little avail on account of the great degree of fatness.The… method of direct auscultation [was] being rendered inadmissible by the age and sex of the patient…”

Laennec resolved the problem of medical diagnostics and social decency in one shot. He ”rolled a quire of paper into a kind of cylinder and applied one end of it to the region of the heart and the other to my ear ”
Within a few months, he had invented that universal symbol of medical science – the STETHOSCOPE




Author Profile:

for sciwri

Anirban Mitra, Ph.D.

Anirban Mitra did his PhD from the Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru and is now a teacher of biology, based in Kolkata. His interests range from biological evolution to history of science and facets of India’s past.

Blog Design and infographics: Abhinav Dey

Featured Image: Ipsa Jain

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

The week that it was : 21st – 27th May, 2017

in ClubSciWri by
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This week as we practice giving and inspiring future generations on ‘Red Nose Day’, CSG saw various initiative stirred by members’ enthusiasm to help and educate young PhDs in their career choices. Let’s have a look at what kept CSGians busy this week.

Lessons from nature

Nature has always inspired science since ages. This week while scientists from ICRM-NITM demonstrated ‘bergenin’ from plant sources to curb tuberculosis bacteria, IISC scientists have taken nanostructure lessons from insect wings and sharkskin to make titanium orthopaedic implants bactericidal. A global warming threat was also reported, as the ‘failsafe’ protection of Global Seed Vault was flooded after the deep permafrost entrance tunnel showed signs of melting.

From generation to generation

Encouraging the young minds towards research-based careers, the India HRD ministry plans to launch a project to confer the status of ‘Institutions of Eminence’ on government and private research institutions for India to gain global recognition. Further, the ‘Mentor India’ initiative by NITI Aayog works at grass-root levels calling professionals to mentor school students by sharing their career stories, skills and insights. This week we also had Parthiban Srinivasan share his experiences about his career trajectories in varied fields with Abhinav Dey on Facebook live.
An apt example of ignited young minds was seen as International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition 2017 saw a promising project iFLOAT from undergraduate IISCians. The innovative idea aims to bring down cost to producing recombinant proteins by helping optimise yeast bioreactors. The project is been funded from various sources, crowd-funding being one of them.

Story of the week

This week the PhD scholar Precilla Veigas from Canada inspires us to dream higher and narrates her story of how irrelevant life problems are as you chase your dream while fighting Cancer. The Canadian university held a special convocation for the terminally ill graduate applauding her vigour and strength as she dedicated her doctorate to her daughter. Another mother-scientist narrates her story of how she managed to pursue two passions in life: Science and motherhood

Resources to help your research
Here’s a user-friendly resource to analyse Cancer transcriptomics data and one to help you with scientific writing, while Sci-Hub is an upcoming venture to provide public access to millions of research papers.

CSG: the new Hogwarts

CSG this week has come up with two new initiatives. The CSG Data science platform by Pawan and Anshu is a venture to empower PhDs to help them get a flavour of the ‘quantitative real world’. Interested CSGians please sign up by participating in a poll and are requested to submit a ‘Statement of Purpose’ to by June 5th 2017.

Another CSG initiative is to compile a list of lawyers initiated by Naz and Richa Tyagi with pros and cons of hiring them. This should help PhDs/Post-docs applying for green card and find the right sources of help.

CSG plans to have an Annual CSG Meet-up in Boston on 19th August 2017 are underway and suggestions are welcome to make the event useful for career development.

Resume roadmap

Top interviewers share their insider tips to get hired by elite pharma companies while LinkedIn finds a better way to explain parenting breaks. Google to launch a ‘Google for Jobs’ portal for job searches and here’s a guide to consulting for fresh PhD graduates. For fresh PhD graduates willing to experiment with consulting, please consider joining the CSG Consulting Club.


While Novartis plans to generate around 350 jobs in high-end biologics, let’s have a look at some opportunities posted by fellow CSGians.

Good luck to aspiring job applicants. Lookout for more opportunities on our Facebook page.

So here’s wrapping up this week and wishing you a yet another productive week ahead.

About the cover image

‘Paving the way for generations to come’ is a snapshot of the Enchanted Forest , Scotland 2017.

About the author

Nisha Peter is a recent PhD graduate from Genome Damage and Stability Centre,UK and is now working as Research Fellow at Sussex Drug Discovery Centre,UK. Her research interest involves cell biology (I’ve spend a lifetime admiring mitotic cells during my PhD!!) and oncology. She works for Club SciWri as a freelance writer to pursue her love for “words”. Apart from being bench scientist she actively participates in science communication events, enjoys teaching, globetrotting and experimenting with music.

Time perception in the brain

in SciWorld by
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In our previous two entries, we discussed how painters and writers reflected on the passage of time, and we also learned what philosophers and physicists had to say about this issue. Now it’s the time of neurobiology! How does our brain perceive time? What are the neural bases and possible mechanisms underlying time perception? Is there any internal clock or pacemaker? Is timekeeping distributed among different brain areas?


Temporal processing is a daunting task. A rich gamut of behaviors depends on our capacity to calibrate and align incoming signals timely. We sample these inputs at various channels, in distant brain areas, and with different processing speeds. However, our brain does an excellent job in generating a coherent picture of the world around us, updating this report to match the fluctuation of external signals.

From prestissimo to largo

We have the ability to compute timing differences that span 10 orders of magnitude, from microseconds to a day (Fig. 1). Separate channels deal with this wealth of information. It seems that we have distinct neural systems that process different timescales. On the high-end of this spectrum, we encounter the neurons of the cochlear nuclei that are responsible for sound localization. They achieve an astonishing feat: they can detect time differences of microseconds in the arrival of sound to both ears. Entrained by the light/dark cycle and other signals, the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus is the mammalian master clock that regulates aspects of metabolism and the daily sleep/wakefulness cycle. In between these two extremes of performance, a network of regions associated with the thalamus, cortex, and striatum operate in the range of seconds to minutes, working as coincident detectors (Buhusi & Meck, 2005). Recent research has also implicated the hippocampus in keeping track of how much time elapsed and in discriminating between similar intervals in the scale of minutes (Jacobs et al., 2013).

Figure 1. Time-scale of temporal processing (taken from Buonomano & Karmarkar, 2002).

Given the scope of this subject, in this article we will concentrate on events taking place in tens or hundreds of milliseconds: speech perception, motion processing in the visual and somatosensory systems and some cues in music perception occur in this time scale.

Time matters for neural circuits

In “The organization of behavior” (1949), Donald Hebb recognized the importance of time in sculpting network properties when he introduced the groundbreaking concept of concurring excitation as a way of strengthening synaptic connections. The Hebbian synapse model suggested that if a neuron is repeatedly involved in the excitation of another neuron, the connection between them will be more efficient as a result of changes taking place in one or both cells. Basically, if two neurons fire together, they wire together. Another plasticity rule appeared later: spike-timing dependent plasticity (STDP). STDP goes one step further, proposing that the strength of a synapse depends on the relative timing of presynaptic and postsynaptic action potentials (Fig. 2). The spike order can make a dramatic difference, potentiating or depressing the synapse.

Figure 2. Scheme of spike-timing dependent plasticity (STDP). In the canonical form of STDP shown here, a presynaptic action potential closely precedes a spike in the postsynapse (red and black bars on top), leading to long-term potentiation (LTP, positive change in synaptic strength). On the contrary, the reversal of this sequence results in long-term depression (LTD, negative change in synaptic strength). In some systems, the temporal requirements for LTP and LTD are exactly the opposite, compared with the canonical STDP. The time window (about 50 ms) can also change depending on the brain region (for details, see Sjöström et al., 2008).

In silico, neural network models incorporating time-dependent realistic features were able to extract temporal information (see Buonomano & Merzenich, 1995). One of these implementations was paired-pulse facilitation (PPF); a known plasticity mechanism in which an impulse evokes a larger postsynaptic potential if it was closely preceded by another impulse. A dynamic neural profile essentially means that a train of action potentials will change the state of the network, inducing activity-dependent transformations in the circuits. When new inputs arrive later, even if they have the same duration and amplitude, they may still evoke a different pattern of activity simply due to the altered state of the circuit. We will come back later to state-dependent networks and their relevance for time-keeping mechanisms.

Central clocks or distributed mechanisms?

In the literature, there are two models that account for the locus of temporal processing in the millisecond time scale. Some authors maintain that an internal clock in our brain sets the pace, pretty much like a computer’s clock. Others think that various regions of the brain share the job of encoding timedifferences (Eagleman et al., 2005; Buonomano & Karmarkar, 2002). In the latter model, the dynamic state of the networks could per se, encode durations, as seen above (Buonomano & Merzenich, 1995). One of the building blocks of this temporal code might be short-term synaptic plasticity, which could instruct circuits with their recent history of activity, keeping track of what happened on the network a few hundred milliseconds ago.

The centralized and diffuse models can, in turn, be subdivided into two classes: in one of them, the same group of neurons encodes time irrespective of the sensory modality. In the second class, the group of neurons that sets the pace, change depending on the type of sensory input (visual cues, tones, touch stimuli, etc.).

Psychophysics can help us discriminate between these scenarios. This discipline quantitatively addresses the complex relations between incoming physical stimuli and our responses to them. In time perception experiments, the participant is confronted with two stimuli (a tone for instance) separated by a variable interval of time. Paired-stimuli are randomized, and the subject has to indicate whether the longer segment was the first one or the second one (Fig. 3).

Figure 3.  An experimental paradigm in psychophysics. Two tones flank time intervals of varying duration; the participant is asked to tell which stimulus presentation was longer. Taken from Buonomano & Karmarkar, 2002.

If there is a centralized time-sensing area in the brain, individuals that are good at discriminating visual cues might be equally good at discriminating sound stimuli. The psychophysical data so far show that for some tasks there seems to be a central time-sensing mechanism. This clock is tuned to particular time intervals and can be generalized to different modalities, as long as the tested duration remains the same (Buonomano & Karmarkar, 2002). According to some authors, there could be labeled lines, where groups of neurons would be tuned to specific intervals. If this is true, then it would be possible to selectively abolish timing for an interval of time while leaving others untouched, but this idea awaits experimental backup. It is also not clear how these experiments can dissect between a pacemaker and a timekeeper for millisecond durations. For stimuli lasting seconds to minutes, pharmacological manipulations could discriminate between the clock stage and memory storage, based on their sensitivity to dopamine and acetylcholine, respectively (see Buhusi & Meck, 2005).

Neural basis of time perception

The cerebellum works as an internal clock operating in the millisecond range, particularly in motor processing tasks like the eyeblink conditioning. In this protocol, the training of an animal includes paired presentations of a tone and an air-puff delivered to the eye. Trained animals learn to blink their eyes in response to the sound cue alone. Interestingly, they do so after a particular interval of time that matches the gap between tone and puff presentation during training sessions. Lesions in the cerebellum abolish the timing of the response (Buonomano & Karmarkar, 2002).

Time distortion by causality

Our internal register of time can be expanded or compressed depending on factors such as causality and sensory feedback. Haggard and collaborators showed how voluntary actions contract the perceived duration of time between two stimuli, as a mechanism of conscious binding of actions and their effects. Involuntary actions, on the contrary, perceptually expanded the time interval between stimuli, indicating a prominent role of agency in the internal representation of temporal information (Haggard et al., 2002).

As a baseline assessment, subjects had to watch the clock and judge the onset of four different stimuli, which were initially presented all alone. In the voluntary condition, they had to press a key at a time of their choice. In the involuntary condition, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was used to induce a muscle twitch by stimulation of the motor cortex. There was a sham TMS condition, in which they had to indicate the timing of a click produced by TMS, with no muscle twitch following afterward. Finally, in the auditory condition, they had to signal the occurrence of a tone (Fig. 4).

Figure 4. The pattern of perceptual shifts is the evidence of a binding effect mediated by voluntary movement, as opposed to involuntary actions. Negative perceptual shifts (in ms) indicate that an event is perceived earlier in an operant environment compared to its presentation alone in the baseline condition. Binding of the first event toward the subsequent tone is shown as an anticipatory perception of the tone and delayed perception of the key press. Taken from Haggard et al., 2002.

In the operant condition, voluntary action, sham TMS, and the TMS click were followed 250 ms later by the sound. Interestingly, perceptual shifts between single event presentations (baseline test) and their operant context, indicated a strong attraction for voluntary actions and the tone. The involuntary action (muscle twitch triggered by TMS stimulation, without the intention of the subject) and its subsequent sound showed the opposite behavior. In other words, conscious, intentional aspects of motor control perceptually anticipated the perceived occurrence of the tone and delayed the key press action.


Did you know this?

Source: YouTube



Buhusi C V & Meck W H. What makes us tick? Functional and neuronal mechanisms of interval timing. Nature Reviews in Neuroscience, vol. 6, pp. 755-765 (2005). doi:10.1038/nrn1764

Haggard P, Clark S & Kalogeras J. Voluntary action and conscious awareness. Nature Neuroscience, vol. 5, nr. 4, pp. 382-385 (2002). doi: 10.1038/nn827

Sjöström J, Rancz E, Roth A & Häusser M. Dendritic excitability and synaptic plasticity. Physiological Reviews, vol. 88, pp. 769-840 (2008). doi:10.1152/physrev.00016.2007.

Buonomano D V & Karmarkar U R. How do we tell time? Neuroscientist, vol. 8, nr. 1, pp. 42-51 (2002).

Jacobs N S, Allen T A, Nguyen N & Fortin N J. Critical role of the hippocampus in memory for elapsed time. The Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 33, nr. 34, pp. 13888-13893 (2013). doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1733-13.2013

Eagleman D M, Tse P U, Buonomano D, Janssen P, Nobre A C & Holcombe A O. Time and the brain: How subjective time relates to neural time. The Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 25, nr. 45, pp. 10369-10371 (2005). doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3487-05.2005

Buonomano D V & Merzenich M M. Temporal information transformed into a spatial code by a neural network with realistic properties. Science, vol. 267, pp. 1028-1030 (1995). doi: 10.1126/science.7863330


Featured Video source: Youtube

About the Author: My name is Gaston Sendin, and I am a neurobiologist who is passionate about science communication and the history of art. The sensory systems are particularly attractive to me, because they can be exquisitely tuned to specific features of our world. I have so far used electrophysiological and optical methods to study sensory processing in the zebrafish and in mice, focusing on vision and hearing.

After finishing my studies in Biology at the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina), I went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the International Max-Planck Research School & the University of Göttingen (Germany). Doing research in sensory neurobiology, I was a post-doctoral fellow at the MRC-Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge (UK), the Department of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Groningen (Netherlands) and the Inserm-Institute for Neuroscience of Montpellier (France).

Depression in Science

in That Makes Sense by


I was wondering for quite some time as to how I should start this article. The only way I could start talking about depression in science is being direct about it. Let’s face it- sometimes depression does creep into some of us who are doing science. I am writing this article to share my personal opinion about this immensely important aspect of research that not many dare to talk about. I will try and make it light and humorous without digressing from the topic.

I don’t know you (the person reading this). I don’t know if you are a PhD student or a post-doc or a faculty member or even a younger researcher. I don’t know if you have ever dislodged Mount Everest and put it on your head because a stupid experiment failed or could not be repeated. Don’t tell anyone…but I have! I also don’t know if you have let your personal life affect your research. If you have…you are outright stupid! Alright…so have I! So did all of this get entangled in a cornucopia of “my-life-is-a-hell” and put a thought of “let’s-fucking-end-it” into your head? If it have…welcome to the club of over thinkers. Also, let me welcome you guys to the club of “people-who-can-change-the-world”.

Let’s analyze this psyche a bit! Mind you the only psyche I’m close to is “psychedelic rock”. Bad joke right? (Oh I suck!) All those who think this might end up eating up your precious time…you’re right! This will eat up your time…quit right away! You are an average mind! All this is meant for people with deeper intellect and deeper feelings, who can’t handle themselves.

Anyway, now that we are a little less in number let’s continue with the analysis. So what is the reason for your anxiety?

  1.  A failed experiment?
  2. You had earth-shattering results which have suddenly given up on you and will not repeat themselves.
  3. You don’t know which direction to take your research into.
  4. Your supervisor is giving you a hard time
  5. You had a break-up and cannot focus on work.
  6. You feel lonely and nobody understands you.
  7. You just feel depressed for no apparent reason.

I will give you my perspective on how to overcome all this. And if you are wondering who-the-fuck-am-I to give you all this overdose of advice…I am one of those who have experienced a little bit of all of the above. And no I’m not writing to you from afterlife…I am currently pursuing research at Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (Potsdam, Germany)

  1. A failed experiment. If an experiment has failed…let me put it straight to you…YOU HAVE TO REPEAT IT. Why? Only if you repeat it twice more would you really understand that yes it has failed. Before that…there’s no point of being depressed! Let’s come to the second part “IT HAS REALLY FAILED”. This is the time you start blaming others like the chemicals you ordered from Sigma Aldrich wasn’t fine, the incubator or the reaction vessel or any other instrument wasn’t working fine. Then? YOU HAVE NO REASON TO BLAME YOURSELF FOR IT. Now let’s consider that you had taken care of that. Then, it means that your hypothesis was wrong. Who do you blame for it? YOUR SUPERVISOR (whoever it is…a PhD student, a postdoc or a senior scientist). If he/she has not been able to foresee it, IT’S THEIR FAULT. If they have not had time to look into it or if they are too busy or if they have a wall separating you and them. IT IS STILL THEIR FAULT! YOU…as absurd as it may sound…ARE NOT AT FAULT! If you have made a mistake during the experiment. It’s not a fault really…it’s just experience! YOU WILL GET OVER THIS!
  2. You had earth-shattering results which have suddenly given up on you and will not repeat themselves. It goes in the same direction as point number one. Mostly! If you cannot repeat it, it means…it’s not a fact! Well not always! You were perfectly sure that you had done everything right and it gave the right results. Then? Well…write down everything you did…from where you have taken the Milli-Q water to which instrument you have used and what you have used. If you have not checked all of that, you should learn to do it! That’s all. And still if it doesn’t repeat itself! IT WAS NOT AN EARTH SHATTERING RESULT. More importantly, RESEARCH IS NOT ABOUT EARTH SHATTERING RESULTS! It’s about learning, accumulating, understanding and presenting data scientifically and articulately.
  3. You still don’t know which direction to take your research into. If you are a young scientist, this is not your job. It is your supervisor’s job. If you can’t talk about it with your supervisor and he/she doesn’t give a damn…CHANGE YOUR SUPERVISOR! HE/SHE IS AT FAULT! NOT YOU! If you are a postdoc, give yourself time, postdoc is the last time you can really try something new all by yourself and nothing new comes easy in this world. Nobody knows it as much as you do…remember your battles during PhD? Remember how you resurrected yourself as the DARK KNIGHT? You are the hero that you need…not the one that you deserve. If you are a new PI…let’s face it…you either try it once more…or look for something you can do better. It’s not the end of the road. Look up the age at which Colonel Sanders created KFC!
  4. Your supervisor is giving you a hard time. There can be two reasons for it. One. You haven’t been competent. If that is the case, you just need to take a break. By a break I mean, forgetting research and all your troubles for a week (at least). Go for a trip. Sky dive! Dive into the depth of the ocean. Learn a new instrument/language. Make new friends. Go clubbing. Go to the concentration camps around the world and see how little your problem is. But when you get back to work just remember not to repeat the same mistakes. Do everything with care and properly. Record everything! Two. Your supervisor is not a good person and even worse…a horrible supervisor. HE/SHE DOESN’T DESERVE YOU! They are at fault if they can’t distinguish between Gold and Fool’s gold…forget about diamonds! Just change your supervisor. He/she doesn’t have the right to dictate your life. You will not allow it either.
  5. You had a break-up and cannot focus on work. This one is a little difficult. But there’s always someone you can go back to. Your friends…tell them how you feel. Your parents…open up to them…tell them how you feel. Most of them will understand. Watch movies. Go shopping. Do all the things that you wanted to. Right now you are important. In fact you are the most important. Nothing else is. Pamper yourself in every possible way you can. However, do not shy away from work. Show yourself up at work every day. Work mechanically. But do it! If things don’t work out (they might not) still do them. Spend all the time that you can in the lab if you don’t have anything fun planned. Eat well and get fat…or start looking at your physique…go for a run…swim…just keep your mind engaged. One day you will realize that the person was sent to your life to teach you to be better…to teach you to live better…to teach you to get back to people you were ignoring. Life is really more than that! Cheer up…try it! 🙂
  6. You feel lonely and nobody understands you. Pack your bags and go out for a solo trip immediately. You will find so many people…just like you. Share your feelings with a random person…someone who doesn’t know you. They will listen to you and give you the best advice. If you don’t like travelling…join a new course-language, sports, gym, dance, singing- anything that you like. There are millions of others like you and you are not one of them. There are millions of others doing science just like you. Ok…not millions…thousands…or may be hundreds…but you will find people who will understand you. You just have to take yourself out and give yourself a chance to meet them.
  7. You just feel depressed for no apparent reason. For you my friend, all of the above might mean something or nothing. If that is the case, just do all of the above specially, points 5 and 6. If you still find yourself depressed…you should see a friend. Sometimes a shrink can be your friend too but before that…you should see a real friend who cares about you and doesn’t charge money. 🙂

I don’t know if this was helpful at all but depression is not the way to be. It’s not something you should ignore. If you think you are about to be depressed then you should do everything you can to get away from it. If you have nothing better to do…you can reach this weirdo at the contact given along with this article. Cheers! Hic! Cheeeers!

Infographically speaking…..

Depression & Stress Resilience


From Visually.


Featured image: Based on suggestions from Ipsa Jain and made by Francisco de Goya, El Gigante or El Coloso (1814-1818), a loose print on paper cast in polished aquatint from Wikimedia Commons

Edited by: Neha Bhutani

About the Author

DSC_0502 sepia

Chandradhish is a medicinal chemist by profession, a poet by heart and a footballer by feet. Pursuing researchMax Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces, CD (as he is fondly known) also indulges in literature, movies and music. Quintessentially Bong, he eats everything ranging from water to alcohol to cigarettes to biriyani, so when he is not eating, footballing, day-dreaming, CD is free to discuss all of this and of course his science at

Blog design: Abhinav Dey

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

Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PhD Career Support Group or ClubSciWri. This blog is strictly for news and information. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Transitioning from Bench to Academic management: Tête-à-tête with Dr. Viswanadham Duppatla

in Face à Face by

In Club SciWri’s transition interview series, we highlight the journey of Dr. Viswanadham Duppatla (Visu) today, who is the COO of MNR Foundation for Research and Innovations, India. Dr. Duppatla is a multifaceted research professional who envisions establishing an efficient system for training science graduates in India. He’s continuously striving for a change in the higher education standards and is playing an important role in improving rural education in India. He is a man who has mastered the skills of transforming challenges and hurdles into success and his career is a perfect example of it.  In his conversation with Abirami Santhanam (AS), Dr. Duppatla provides some inspiring insights to young scientists looking to move back to India as well as for transitioning to newer STEM roles.

AS: Please tell us about yourself.

Visu: I come from a very remote village in South India. Due to my limited exposure, I took a lot of risks in life. At this stage, I feel they were all worth it. I’m an average person who learned where and how to get things done, and therefore, I can promptly set things in motion. Furthermore, I help my network and ask for help without hesitation.

I was fortunate enough to graduate from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore where I learned quite a lot from fellow students. Thanks to my PhD supervisor I could explore opportunities like the DAAD short-term visiting fellow and European Union Scientist exchange programs during my PhD. My participation in these programs catalysed my selection in the Marie – Curie Industrial Network Program (Foldamer Applications in Protein-Protein Interactions) at the University of Würzburg, Germany. Thanks to the rigorous training during my PhD, I could handle an independent lab soon after my graduation.

AS: What’s your role in the MNR Foundation for Research and Innovations?

Visu: In one sentence: To encourage the Research and Entrepreneurial culture among faculty and students of MNR educational trust institutions with a special emphasis on Medical college. We have started the process of establishing an incubation platform for graduate students who can start exploring their start-up ideas with limited internal funding. We are actively collaborating with young minds in the biomedical space with a mutually beneficial outcome.

AS: How was your academic journey and what were your memorable moments?

Visu: The most fortunate event in my life was studying in the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya where quality education is provided to rural students with free boarding and lodging support (I would like to stress the importance of this as it enabled me to be what I am today). Like many of you, I enjoyed my bachelor’s in Biochemistry (Andhra university), simultaneously working at a telephone booth (entrepreneurship) during the night. Passing several MSc entrance exams tremendously boosted my confidence. Thanks to the DBT sponsored program at the University of Calicut, I pursued my Masters in Biotechnology. Thereafter, I earned my PhD while focusing on DNA Mismatch repair (Indian Institute of Science). Exploring a career as a Marie-Curie Industrial Network program fellow at the Biozentrum, University of Würzburg, Germany and that too in an independent position was the most satisfying moment. My academic journey is a continuous effort and now  I am doing a Strategic Management course with IIMK.

AS: Did you set any goals during your early scientific career?

Visu: Like most of the Indian science students, I didn’t plan my career. I was just a part of the race and luckily ended up at the IISc. The academic atmosphere at the IISc was very stimulating and competitive. Sadly, I had limited mentorship regarding my scientific career (Inferiority complex due to not so posh English language skills). I just followed what everyone else thought was better. Having said this, my PhD mentor was very helpful throughout my stay, especially at times of distress when I was looking for a change.

AS: How did you develop your network during your research career? How important was it for you to reach to your current position?

Visu: Friends call me a ‘people’s person’. I was an extrovert outside the classroom since childhood, but somehow, I could not just get up and clarify my doubts in high school as I wasn’t the smartest of the lot (and I repent a lot for this). I try to put a conscious effort in staying in touch with people in everyday life. The purpose of my networking was never for any gain. I always reach out if I can help. Whenever I have a problem I have people around me who assist me in troubleshooting. PhDCSG (PhD Career Support Group) helped me greatly in widening my network. It was through networking that I came to know about my current job. As a COO of MNR-FRI, I assist with connecting people from different walks of life, and it is this networking which has made my job easier.

AS: At what point, did you decide to move from academic research to academic management?

Visu: Like many postdocs, I too was interested in an academic career. It was during my postdoctoral time when I was searching for opportunities to come back to India that I thought about this transition.  I don’t have an extraordinary CV in terms of publications, though I have prestigious national and international scholarships and two first and corresponding author publications. Unfortunately, these achievements were not enough for getting me an academic position in India. Instead of letting myself down I seriously thought about my strengths, which are networking and management, for which I was greatly appreciated both in India and abroad. I used these qualities as my trump cards and created a new niche for myself – academic management. This area is still in a budding phase in India, with lots of opportunities in the coming years.

AS: Why academic management in particular?

Visu: I realized that researchers have limited options for exploring their entrepreneurial spirit, though the government has various schemes to encourage them. I felt that the paperwork was the major limitation for researchers. Therefore, I wanted to simplify these procedures for fellow researchers who want to explore their own ideas and develop marketable products. I am already seeing the effects albeit on a small scale.

AS:  What persuaded you to move back to India?

Visu:   ‘A foreigner is always a foreigner in a foreign country’. In the west, the system underlying science and the ecosystem for kick-starting a scientific company is well developed with very little space for tinkering. Whereas in India, there is an enormous scope for improvements. Hence, with a well thought structured effort, one can bring about a huge change and have an impact on the Indian ecosystem. Therefore, I always wanted to be a part of it!

AS: Can you elaborate on the role of PhDCSG in your career?

Visu: PhDCSG played a very important role in my transition and even present operations. Most importantly, #ClubSciWri was very instrumental in sharpening my social skills, especially on Twitter: @visu_bio. The assistance of several of my friends and many PhDCSG members have been instrumental along the way. Most of the specialized seminars organized in our medical campus were done with the help of the CSG members. Thanks to the active network, we could coordinate international travels with the institutes of choice. The programs organised in conjunction with the PhDCSG members were the most successful. Special thanks to Prof. Nikhil Gupta for his valuable contributions in organising a fruitful workshop on 3D printing and its applications in medicine and dentistry. As you might have realised this support network stood by me at every step and I enjoy being a part of it.

AS: Can you share the difficulties you faced while establishing a network in a new environment?

Visu: Surprisingly, I enjoyed interacting with people during my transition and I knew I was going to enjoy my future role. These are the people I was interacting for 10-15 years in various capacities. I was very much convinced of seeing myself in a management role at an educational institute. I was always open about it to my circle. I accepted my shortcomings and tried to improvise by attending career workshops and constantly updating everyone in my circle with “What’s Next”. It’s very important to be fearless in accepting your limitations and constantly learning the much-needed skills. If you love what you are doing, you will find a way to cross any barrier.

AS: What are the advantages and hardships one faces after coming back to India?

Visu: The answer could be a broad one and opinions could be divided based on a person-to-person basis. I can talk about what I felt.


  • Approaching for jobs is not straightforward.
  • It takes time to get a response (if you are lucky).
  • Most jobs are through some sort of reference though most deny it.
  • Many applicants don’t mean what they say! It becomes difficult to gauge the situation.


  • The system in India has been the same since I left India in 2009 with only marginal improvements in its functioning. So, it’s easy to work in a familiar place which is better than anywhere else – my home.

After getting used to a super streamlined and organized system in Germany, it was a bit difficult for me to unlearn and relearn Indian things. But familiarity helped me in settling down quite quickly.

AS: Can you share your vision for the future of MNR FRI?

Visu: The major objective of MNR FRI is to establish a research centre with an entrepreneurial spirit catering to the regional health care challenges of lower socioeconomic strata. My major goal is to create a PhD program where graduation means running their own company!

AS: You are an avid user of social media. Could you share some useful tips for using social media for one’s professional development?

Visu: It’s very important to define what you want to share and why. Spend defined and limited time on social media. I would strongly suggest everybody to update themselves with technology. Link your LinkedIn profile with Twitter and connect your Tweets to Facebook. So, once you post in LinkedIn it finds its way to Facebook via twitter. It saves a lot of time. Most people ask me whether I spend a lot of time on social media. The truth is that I hardly do so in reality. You can schedule your posts using various technologies. Be professional on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Depending on your geography and future career, modify your discussion from the standard format. This is where people can approach you without you saying it out loudly. Your social profile should truly reflect your personality.

AS: What is your advice and suggestions for PhDCSGians who are looking for a career transition?

Visu: Career transition should not be a secret and a single person project. If permissible, let your well-wishers and friends know about it as early as you can. Be vocal on LinkedIn and Facebook discussions. Employers are always looking for good applicants. Have a tailor-made resume for each job (CV for academia). I was invited for interviews without submitting any formal application. Hence, it all depends on how others perceive you when they are interacting with you. The present job was offered to me when I went to see if I could help out the MNR group. For me, your daily activities should reflect your career transition and you should make it as natural as it can be. If you are looking for a job in the Indian academic system, you should start very early, at least 2 years ahead. Strictly speaking, I won’t recommend last-minute job applications. There are seniors who are willing to help. Approach politely while asking for guidance. Your strengths are your skills and your network. There is always a job waiting for you – you just need to recognize it. You are your strength – talk to yourself, take the risk and enjoy your life.

Here’s my favourite quote that drives during the toughest of times:

You are not superior, you are not inferior; You are not even equal, you are just unique, and You will become what you want!

AS: Thank you very much Dr. Duppatla for this clear, detailed interview and your time. I can see your enthusiasm and passion for academic development as well as the optimism towards approaching your goals. This interview will definitely help us in paving our path to a passionate and successful career.


About the author:

Abirami is a research fellow with a focus on ocular research and research administration. She is interested in photography and freelancing.

Editor: Sayantan Chakraborty, PhD

The contents of Club SciWri are the copyright of PhD Career Support Group for STEM PhDs (A US Non-Profit 501(c)3, PhDCSG is an initiative of the alumni of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The primary aim of this group is to build a NETWORK among scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs).

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




Informational Interviews and How to go about them?

in Planet Gurukool by

An informational or exploratory interview is an opportunity for the job seeker to explore about interested job roles, career fields or industries by seeking information from an expert individual who is experienced or currently working in the respective job role, career field or industry. The information obtained during this process enables the jobseeker to align their expertise and interests with the goals and responsibilities of a job, career field and company or organization. Therefore, an informational interview is considered as a career-planning tool. An effective interview also facilitates in building valuable relationships with the interviewee.

The information in this blog has been compiled from multiple websites to provide a precise picture about the etiquette and procedure for conducting an effective informational interview. This is created with the intent to provide an instant resource for the members of Career Support Group (CSG) that will aid them in conducting effective informational interviews.

Steps to follow for an effective informational interview:

  1. Analyze your skills, experience, your interests, job market and identify your employment opportunities.
  2. Identify and select a person for the interview based on his/her job title/role, industry/company in which they work or unusual career path taken etc. which interests you (LinkedIn is a good source/through friends/neighbors/networking events etc.)
  3. Contact the person for interview (use a polite script) – It can be either telephonic/ e-mail/in person (*chose a public place for the interview). Set the time & date for the interview.
  4. Prepare for the interview – Read about the person, his/her job & the company he/she works for. Decide what information you require. Prepare a list of questions that you need answer for (refer to example questions given below).
  5. Conduct the interview – Introduce yourself. Try to keep the interview short 15 – 20 minutes. If the interview is in person make sure to dress professionally. Be honest, polite & professional. Do not directly ask for jobs instead ask for advice. Refer to the questions & try to stay on track (*be ready for spontaneous discussions as well). Before ending the interview, request him/her to let you know of future job opportunities in the company he/she works. Exchange your business cards.
  6. Record the information obtained after the interview.
  7. Follow up with a ‘thank you’ note with in 1-2 days. Keep them informed about your progress.


Informational interview question examples:

  1. What is your academic background or work experience, and how did it help to lead to the present job? What is your experience in this career field?
  2. What is your job title or role? What are the duties or functions or responsibilities of your job? To what extent do you interact with customers or clients? What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying and most challenging?
  3. What are the educational requirements for this job? Are there specific credentials or licenses required for this role? Is graduate school or an MBA recommended? Does companies offer training to persons entering this field?
  4. What are the most important skills that are essential for succeeding in this position or field? How did you obtain these skills: through work experience or a formal training program?
  5. What personal attributes do you think would contribute most to being successful in this job or career field?
  6. How would you describe a typical day in your job role? Does this vary? Are there busy and slow times or is the workflow fairly constant? If you had to break it up into percentages, how do you spend your day? Are the time demands of your job specific to this company?
  7. Can you tell me about the various kinds of decisions you perform in your present/past role?
  8. Whom do you report to in this job: department head or supervisor or both? Where do you identify yourself and your supervisor in the organizational structure? What is your regular level of interaction with other departments, functional units, or levels of hierarchy?
  9. Do you have any flexibility in determining how you perform your job? Do you work at individual level or in? How do you organize your work teams or groups?
  10. What made you decide to work for this company? What is the most likeable aspect of this company for you? How different is your company from its competitors?
  11. How long have you worked with X company? How did you get started? Why did you change or not change jobs since the first role? How have you handled the changes – layoffs, reorganization etc.?
  12. How would you describe the working atmosphere and the co-workers? Is there flexibility in work hours, or working offsite?
  13. How is work-life balance?
  14. Does the company or organization have a basic philosophy? Is it a people-, service- or product-oriented business?
  15. Can you describe the corporate culture in your company?
  16. How is the occupational landscape reshaping in the current scenario? What is your take on the best way to enter this occupation? What are the career development opportunities? What are the major qualifications to succeed in this occupation?
  17. Does the company encourage and/pay for employees to pursue graduate degrees?
  18. What do you like most about the company?
  19. On what criteria does the company evaluate your job performance? How are performances assessed for promotions? Does the company recognize and reward outstanding accomplishments of its employees?
  20. How much flexibility does your role have in establishing innovation/creativity? How does the company encourage or promote this?
  21. Is the company expanding? If so which areas are they expanding and what opportunities do you foresee for job seekers?
  22. In your opinion what are the factors that affect the company’s growth? How is the current economy affecting this industry?
  23. In your opinion, how can employees prepare for any planned changes at the company?
  24. What would be the next step in your career if your job progresses as you expect?
  25. What are the different job opportunities in your career field? How do you describe the demand for this career field? How fast is the field growing? What are the possibilities for future job openings?
  26. In this job role, are you obligated to work outside the ordinary working hours: travel or evening meetings?
  27. What are the social obligations with your job?
  28. Apart from things like money, fringe benefits, or travel, what would you describe as the major reward of this position?
  29. What are the positions in your field or organization? How do they differ?
  30. What are the common entry-level job titles and their functions? Which entry-level jobs are the most suited for learning the skills required for this career?
  31. Which other job roles require similar kinds of work or skills? Which other organizations have similar job roles and functions as yours? Can you please suggest a contact who performs similar job role and whom I might talk to?
  32. What would be your best advice to someone who is interested in this field? Is there any literature that you can suggest me to read? Which trade or professional journals and organizations should I follow to learn more about this field?
  33. What are the most effective strategies to seek a position in this field?
  34. What is your advice for a jobseeker to qualify for this position? What are the different kinds of paid/unpaid experiences that you would suggest for anybody pursuing a career in this field?
  35. Do you have any special words of warning or encouragement as a result of your experience?
  36. What is the typical job-interview process at the company? How many rounds of interview do the candidates generally go through before being offered a position?
  37. What skills/experience do you look for in the resume of candidates applying for this job role?
  38. What suggestions/advise would you provide to a student to prepare you for this job? What is the best education/course to prepare for this job? Are grades and or college’s reputation considered important for hiring?
  39. What journals, magazines or professional associations would you recommend for professional development?
  40. A, B and C are my strongest assets (A, B & C are skills, areas of knowledge, personality traits, and values). In which job roles would these expertise/skills be applicable in this company? What are the other fields that these skills will be of use/help?
  41. How would you rank my experience in terms of entering this field? What are your suggestions to prepare myself better qualified for this field?


Infographically Speaking….

Job Interviewing 101: How to Succeed in Any Situation

From Visually.

Featured image source: Mimi and Eunice




About the author:

Riya (Raghupathy) Binil is an aspiring Scientist. She completed MSc in Applied Chemistry from Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT, Kochi) followed by a PhD (National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, India) and Postdoctoral Research (Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Ottawa, Canada) in Cell Biology. Riya currently works as a Biotech Analyst with SGS Canada. Apart from being a science enthusiast, Riya enjoys travelling, dancing and cooking.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PhD Career Support Group or ClubSciWri.

Blog design: Abhinav Dey

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

The Patent Chronicle

in Sci-IP by

May 23, 2017: Your weekly dose from the world of patents. The Patent Chronicle is led by Syam Anand, who has been at the core of CSG’s development and an entrepreneur himself. This section is your go to destination every week for a capsule dose on the hottest happenings in the patent world. Syam has clinically dissected out every news on the decision, the background and the impact. He is also in the process of building his scicomm team for this section. If you would like to come aboard, mail him at

So let’s light up our patent awareness for the week!


Strict limits on patent litigation venues in future

Decision: The US Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of TC Heartland in the case against Heinz preventing Heinz from litigating in Delaware.

Reason: The practice of selecting friendly favorable venues was an irritant for majority of patent owners. The court had realized the far-reaching consequences of the case and taken pains to carefully weigh the facts before delivering it’s ruling.

Impact: The case was high profile and closely followed by everyone. Suing for infringement in friendly and favorable venues such as Delaware and the Eastern District of Texas will be impacted in light of this ruling. It is a big win against Trolls favor the two venues.

Read more

Aurobindo Pharma secures unusual injunctive relief against Mylan

Decision: The Federal circuit granted injunctive relief for Aurobindo in the infringement case brought against it by Mylan on Isosulfan Blue (IB).
Reason: The court felt that Aurobindo is likely to prevail on merits, will likely suffer irreparable harm in the absence of such relief, the balance of equities favor it, and it is in public interest.
Impact: The bigger impact of the ruling comes from the test that was applied by the court to provide relief. Instead of a function-way-result test (product performing substantially the same function in substantially the same way to obtain the same result), the court used the insubstantial differences test (accused product or process is substantially different from the patented one) stating that is more appropriate for chemical arts. The ruling could be a trendsetter giving as much importance to the process as the product. This could bode well for the chemical arts. The relief provided for Aurobindo is a motivation for others interested parties also to strategize their assets.

Read more


SC to weigh in on Inter Partes Review practice

Decision: The US supreme court decided to take up a case that will review whether USPTO’s PTAB should issue written decisions on all of the claims challenged by a third party in Inter Partes Reviews or just on the claims PTAB chose to review.

Reason: The PTAB usually grants a review based on merits of the likelihood that the petitioner would prevail with respect to at least one claim. In the process, not all the claims are necessarily chosen for review. In scenarios where the petitioner successfully gets the PTAB to invalidate some of the claims in a patent under review, the PTAB issues written decisions only on those that were reviewed in the procedure.

Impact: If it is ruled that PTAB should issue written decisions on all the claims in the contested patent, it will put additional burden on the Board. For the petitioner the written decisions on all the claims will be a useful resource if the Board’s decision is questioned later in the court by the patent owner.

Read more

Abbvie’s Humira patent invalidated

Decision: USPTO’s PTAB invalidated Abbvie’s key Humira patent.

Reason: Coherus Biosciences had approached PTAB for invalidating a key patent that covers Humira.

Impact: The patent was set to expire in 2022. Humira brings in multibillion dollars to Abbvie. The impact of the ruling was immediate as the stocks of Abbvie dived and Coherus gained. Coherus is coming up with biosimilars to the Humira. In light of the ruling, they can use the same drug regimen for treatments. Abbvie has other patents that protect the formulations till 2022. Coherus will have to figure out a strategy to deal with the remaining patents that survived while marketing their biosimilar. Needless to say, there are others also wanting to cash in on this turn of events.

Read more



Infographically Speaking…..

The State of the Pharmaceutical Industry

From Visually.


Proprietary Humor From Mimi and Eunice

About the author:


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.

Feature image source: Wikimedia Commons

Blog design: Abhinav Dey

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

MedNess: Healthcare Business News from the Month of May

in Medness by

Hello everyone and welcome to MedNess: At the frontier of healthcare news. I am back with the news from healthcare business that had the most impact this month Read below to find out more.


To stay on top of scientific advancements, subscribe to Club SciWri (

Neurotrope’s Alzheimer’s candidate fails to yield statistically significant results

Earlier this month Neurotrope reported results from its Phase 2 Alzheimer’s study of Bryostatin. The trial involving 147 patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s met its primary endpoint in patients that completed the full course of treatment. Bryostatin improved outcomes in cognition and ability to handle daily activities but failed to achieve statistical significance over placebo (FierceBiotech).

Neurotrope is hopeful of its candidate and plans to take the study forward.

MedNess: This is yet another Alzheimer’s candidate that failed in Phase 2 testing. The successful treatment of dementia is an enigma, and most drug candidates fail larger phase 2 trials. No new drug has been approved for Alzheimer’s for more than a decade. Neurotrope’s shares fell by 63% (Biospace)

Moderna Therapeutics reports interim Phase 1 results from mRNA based H10N8 flu vaccine

The private biotech company; Moderna Therapeutics reported positive interim results from phase 1 study of mRNA-1440 vaccine against avian H10N8 flu. The complete data and results were published in the journal Molecular Therapy.

31 subjects were enrolled in the Phase 1 study, and 23 received 100 µg of the vaccine. All participants achieved HAI titers suggesting seroprotection against seasonal flu. No response was achieved in the placebo arm (8 subjects). (FiercePharma)

MedNess: Since the company is still private, the only investment that can be made in Moderna Therapeutics is through venture capital funds. The company’s valuation is $3B, and primary sources of funding are grants and private investments (Investopedia and The Motley Fool).

Sanofi against affordable pricing for Zika vaccine

Sanofi Pasteur, the leader in vaccine manufacture, was under fire by US army officials and Senator Bernie Sanders after refusing the US Army’s plea for affordable US price for a Zika virus vaccine. Sanofi boasts of about $43 million US research grant money. Sanders and lawmakers have been requesting the US Army to reconsider its term of negotiations with Sanofi that could provide the latter an exclusive license to make and sell Zika vaccine in the US. The vaccine is being developed with the American taxpayer funds, thus prompting both the US Army and Sanders to request an affordable price for the American population.

The spokesperson from the Army states that the decision to provide Sanofi an exclusive licensing is still under consideration and the final decision will be made in the summer (STAT).

Corbus Pharma’s anabasum denied BTD for systemic sclerosis; enrolls the last patient for mid stage-study dermatomyositis

Corbus Pharma’s anabasum (Resunab) was previously provided Orphan Drug designation for Fast Track review by the FDA for systemic sclerosis. However, this month Corbus Pharmaceuticals was trying to gain Breakthrough Therapy status for the drug. The plea was rejected by the FDA. The BTD designation entails recurrent meetings with senior personnel and a rolling review of the New Drug Application. Meanwhile, in another phase 2 clinical trial where anabasum is being tested for dermatomyositis, the last patient was enrolled

MedNess: The failure to gain BTD designation by the FDA worried the investors, slipping shares down by 12%. However, with the news of last patient enrollment, the shares moved up by 3%.

The Belgian-Dutch Biotech Argenx draws $115M post-IPO filing

Argenx filed for IPO last month to draw cash from American investors; in order to push its lead candidate ARGX-113, an antibody directed against autoimmune disorders myasthenia gravis and primary immune thrombocytopenia, to phase 3 trials. It also proposed moving its lead cancer candidate ARGX-110 through mid phase studies. The biotech was able to rope in $115M, 50% above its target goal of $75M.

The biotech started their phase 2 studies with ARGX-113 earlier this year, and the results are expected in the first quarter of next year. A 30% drop in the IgG antibody level would be considered clinically significant (Fierce Biotech, Market Watch).

Incyte reports positive results from selective IDO1 enzyme inhibitor, epacadostat in two separate combined trials

Incyte reported first set of positive results from ongoing combined trials; ECHO-202 in combination with Merck (epacadostat+ Keytruda) and ECHO-204 in combination with BMS (epacadostat + Opdivo). The full sets of results will be announced at American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting next month.

The ECHO-202 trial is assessing epacadostat (selective IDO1 enzyme inhibitor) in combination with Merck’s Keytruda (anti-PD1 immunotherapy). The efficacy and safety results from the phase I/II trial showed that epacadostat in combination with Keytruda was well-tolerated in the following cohorts: non-small cell lung cancer, renal cell carcinoma, ovarian cancer, triple-negative breast cancer, bladder cancer, and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

Alternatively, data from the ECHO-204 trial evaluating the safety and efficacy of epacadostat, in combination with Bristol-Myers Squibb’s PD-1 inhibitor Opdivo showed the combination was well tolerated in melanoma, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, ovarian cancer, and colorectal cancer (

MedNess: Following the positive results, Incyte’s shares gained 2.3%, rose by 6% by mid-day which rose by 8% towards the end of the day (Thursday, May 18, 2017) with the overall increase of 14.10% by the end of the week (Zacks, Investor Place, The Street, and CNN Money).

About the Author:  

Imit Kaur is a freelance medical writer, editor, and an active science blogger. She pursued her Ph.D. in Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of Utah. She is experienced in the field of oncology, hematology, pharmacology, nanotechnology and drug development.

Follow Imit on LinkedIn (Imit Kaur) or Twitter (@imit_kaur)



The week that it was – 15th to 21st May, 2017

in ClubSciWri by
  • 1548034_10152124600876703_839288437_o.jpg?fit=2048%2C1127
    Frost in Northern Iceland (photograph by Somdatta Karak)
Inter-connectedness of scientific research, policy makers, government and public, by IpsaWonders (on Facebook and Instagram)

I can’t help but start this week’s updates with discussing global warming as the Global Seed Vault buried in the Arctic to ensure food supply at the face of a humongous calamity by storing seeds of important crops is under risk as its protective permafrost is melting away. This brings me again to reiterate and emphasize on the importance of science outreach and diplomacy to hit a chord with the statesmen and policy makers. If this is something that makes you want to make a difference, here is your opportunity to get trained by ASBMB, as it invites you to participate in workshop on communication, outreach and professional development at Kentucky, USA on 29th – 30th September, 2017.

Not only just for policies, but you also have the power to tell people the stories of scientific development. Here are a few from plenty that interested the CSG members – Team of scientists from Massachusetts build Institute for Protein Innovation – aim towards developing antibodies against every extracellular proteins in humans, aim to work with non-affiliated industry and academic investigators. In the age of omics, Harvard Medical School researchers are mapping interaction partners in the entire human proteome. A big NIH funding has been granted to study neurobiological gender differences at Worchester Polytechnic Institute. While all these interesting work is happening in the field – should we have more permanent staff scientist positions or hire more PhD students and postdocs, a constantly moving mass of people?

Celebrating the big women scientists, by IpsaWonders (on Facebook and Instagram)

In the conquest of reducing gender gap in science, UNESCO offers PhD fellowships to women scientists from developing countries, generously funded by Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. Going beyond academia, NITI Aayog celebrates women’s contribution to India’s growth in formal and informal economy – make the powerful women around you known. Mothers can now add their maternal experience on LinkedIn as well – thanks to a tool that Mother NY has developed. But at the heart of the problem , it is of prime importance to recognize our biases, and also to know how to circumvent them – an example to follow from GDI with support from Google to design machine learning to detect how much time females occupy in movies.

And everything somehow these days boil down to data science and machine learning! Who are the people working in machine learning, what skills and expertise do they need to have? Not just in for profit industries, it has the potential to solve complex societal problems like changing the face of education where teachers take up the more roles of mentors, enabling and concentrating on each individual’s growth.Unfortunately, in this era of intense competition, mentoring has taken a back seat in many places, including research. Most of us as early career researchers need a good mentor, the late career researchers should strive to become a good mentor – and for anyone who wants to know what should a good mentor do, here is some advice. Being a good team leader also means being able to nurture good ideas. But unconsciously we tend to kill a lot of these, know how. Here is a piece of dark humor of where a PhD student in India also evaluates himself in absence of university’s efforts to look for mentors for the students it registers.

Fortunate are the ones who master the art of staying open to diverse possibilities – see what three different PhD holders have to say on this, a personal account of how time spent in academia also prepares you for other careers. And for the ones who are the path of learning here are some tips to boost your career. Stay visible to recruiters via LinkedIn – here are some numbers to coax you into networking. It’s equally important to know what and how not to speak while presenting yourself.

If you are confused about what skills are required for the jobs in market, I am here with some help for you. Find all that you need to know about consulting and entry into data science as a PhD holder. What is medical writing? What does it mean to be a website and social media manager at CIRM? Hear Leslie Stolz, Head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation speak at JLABS, LA, about her experience as a business development professional – what, how and why do they know to take the ‘right’ decisions for their companies. There is an upcoming workshop on combating antimicrobial resistance at Washington, DC, USA from June 20-21, 2017. If you are moving into the USA, it will help you to have immigration info relevant for APD holders.

Know the companies trending currently – here is CNBC’s top 50 disruptor companies of 2017. Let’s a take a sneak peek into the other big names. What does Abbvie aim towards? Amazon is beginning its entry in pharma and life science industries. Novartis is reshuffling jobs in different continents as it heads for more centralization. Sanofi invites proposals for cancer treatment via precision medicine. It might help you to stay updated with the latest developments in the field of precision medicine by the essays published by JAMA on the field.

I have a good reason to have you prepared you with all this bits of information so far – this week has a bonanza of job openings in the USA and Europe. Check which one fits and suits you.

Also know the pros and cons of contract based positions in life science industries – it is certainly a trend on a rise! For people who consider freelance working or starting up a new enterprise you are then one of the multipotentialites – those who know how to do everything – here is a story of one of them to pep you up.

And here is my summer challenge to get you all out chasing your hobbies. If you have a camera collecting dust somewhere here is your opportunity to make good use of it as Royal Society announces photography competition. And those who used to fond of writing but now haven’t pursued it for a while, learn how to be creative on purpose?!s A lot of us on Club SciWri might vouch for its success. Here is some advice that works for Susan Cain in helping herself put her thoughts out in and for public in writing. We can all do it, if Precilla D’Souza could finish her PhD in the face of terminal cancer.

And let me end for the day with some Sunday humor – have you ever wondered what would it look like if corporate incorporated grad school mannerisms? If you are one those who think that would be a wonderful world, read this. If you don’t think so, read it anyway for a big grin 🙂

About the author:

Somdatta Karak works with Club SciWri as a project coordinator and Corporate Liaison. She is a doctorate in Neuroscience from Georg August University, Göttingen, Germany and has been a Teach for India fellow (2014-16). She loves putting her analytical skills to build newer and more sustainable solutions, enjoys traveling and communicating and takes every opportunity to expand her horizon.

You can reach her here.


Increasing public perception of science via robust science communication

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Science is essential to the economic, societal and environmental growth of a country. Science improves the quality of life by providing better medical care, healthier environments, increased efficiency in industries, secured financial trading, improved food safety, strengthened border security, stimulating environment, etc. However, a lack of understanding of the scientific advances can have dire consequences. Take for example the issue of climate change, where a number of factors including inefficient communication of fundamental climate data to the public has not only created misunderstanding of scientists and their research, but has also influenced the government decision-making with regards to environmental regulations, science policy and funding. The importance of proper science communication is not just limited to the issue of climate change. With the development of new technologies like genome sequencing and personalized medicine, general public needs to know the complex scientific intricacies so that they can make decisions that directly affect the quality of their life. Thus, it is essential for the general public to know the basics of science to make informed decisions.

Scientific advancements and breakthroughs are channeled to the public through different media platforms. It is usually believed that any information that passes through a journalist’s filter is of high quality. As such, media coverage is widely considered as an indicator of relevance and success, as in the field of policy, related to science. However, an oversimplification of scientific jargon by journalists can not only water down the nuances of real science but also distort the information. Complicated situations arise when many journalists try to polarize the audience in a way that benefits their own vested interests, hence, blurring the lines between advertisement, journalism and advocacy. Unfortunately, the problems do not really end here.

With the advent of social media (YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and others), traditional media platforms, such as television and radio, for communicating science with the public, are getting outdated. While social media has made information more easily accessible to the public, these platforms are predated with fake news, alternative facts, hoaxes, misinformation, personal beliefs and political agendas. As a result, numerous people develop bizarre and inaccurate ideas about science. To make matters worse, any endeavor at rational discussion between the public and scientific community usually gets reduced to a clash between extremists, resulting in polarized societies. This can have real, negative consequences for the public support for science and the funding that goes into the scientific research all over the world. The recently released review of the funding for fundamental science in Canada, called the Naylor report, is one such example of decreasing support for basic science. Circumstances are not great too in other parts of the world.

Because of the decreased availability of funds, many researchers are spending a major proportion of their time writing grants. Early career researchers (ECRs) and young trainees (PhDs and post-docs) are especially affected in more ominous ways to the extent that many of them quit academia and even science. This can have potential long-term consequences for the future of science and society. Only a conscious and well-informed society can assess how crucial investments in science are and how future prosperity depends on new ideas. While increased funding for basic science would be the first right step in this direction, transparent science communication and promoting a two-way discussion between the general public and the scientific community is essential to strengthen public’s trust in science and the peer-review process.

Over years, few scientists and science enthusiasts have turned to various media platforms to promote public dissemination of scientific knowledge. Carl Sagan, who created the popular TV show “Cosmos” paved the way for such communication. In recent years, the popularity of the likes of Bill Nye -the Science Guy, Chris Hadfield, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, has provided further momentum in this direction. As such, many scientific organizations and individual scientists have also turned to writing blogs, participating in social networks and uploading videos about their research. However, the same people and their efforts have also received a lot of criticism from their peers as this is not what regular scientists do. This is regrettably true because governments generally judge the merit of a scientist based on the number of the grants and publications the person has. Science communication and outreach activities are rarely counted towards promotion in the university system and are often frowned upon as a means of distraction from the research agenda. Moreover, scientists who have a lot of responsibilities of reviewing papers and grants for free, undertaking a lot of journal editorial responsibilities, etc, may find communication an extra burden. There is paramount need to provide incentives to people who are engaged in science communication and other outreach activities.

While increased efforts by the scientific society to educate the public about the scientific progress, reasoning and critical thinking is the need for the hour. In a hostile environment of alternative facts and misinformations, it is imperative to explore avenues to foster optimal communication with the public, to bolster their participation in debates pertaining to science and policy, and also discourse the ethical, legal and social implications of research.

In conversation with Joanne Thomas (JT) of UK-based Sense about ScienceNida Siddiqui (NS) uncovers steps that need to be taken to increase public trust in science.

NS: Could you please tell us about yourself and your educational background?

JT: I am a program manager at Sense about Science, where I coordinate the “Voice of Young Science”, a network of engaged early career researchers, and deliver public engagement projects in partnership with researchers. Before joining the team in 2015, I completed a Masters degree in Science Communication at the University of the West of England and previously worked at the Science Media Centre, a press office that aims to improve media coverage of science. I also have an undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Oxford.


NS: What motivated you to be a part of Sense about Science?

JT: During my undergraduate degree, I became really interested in the science communication movement and in how science and evidence interacts with society, particularly around issues related to GMOs (Genetically-modified organisms). I wanted to work for an organization that champions open discussions about [scientific] evidence and encourages researchers to engage with the public. Sense about Science was a great fit — it’s a dynamic organization that equips the public to make sense of science and evidence and encourages researchers to be open about their research findings and to communicate them in a clear, accessible way to public audiences.


NS: Tell us about the initiatives at Sense about Science.

JT: Sense about Science runs a series of programs, campaigns and projects to challenge misrepresentations of science in public life and to give people the tools they need to make sense of science and evidence.

Our biggest campaign is Ask for Evidence This is a wide-reaching public campaign which helps people request for themselves the evidence behind news stories, marketing claims and policies. We hear daily claims about what is good for our health, bad for the environment, how to improve education, cut crime, treat disease or improve agriculture. Some are based on reliable evidence and scientific rigor. Many are not. How can we make companies, politicians, commentators and official bodies accountable for the claims they make? If they want us to vote for them, believe them or buy their products, then we should Ask for Evidence. This campaign is about holding powerful figures to account and not having the wool pulled over our eyes on important issues. It is making sure that a discussion about the evidence is happening when it really matters. You can read some of the claims people have been asking for evidence about on the Ask for Evidence website.

Another big initiative of ours is the Voice of Young Science (VoYS) program. VoYS is a unique and dynamic network of early career researchers across Europe committed to playing an active role in public discussions about science. By responding to public misconceptions about science and evidence and engaging with the media, this active community of 2,000+ researchers, engineers, scientists and medics is changing the way the public and the media view science and scientists.

The program includes a series of free Standing up for Science media workshops each year. These full day events encourage early career researchers to get their voices heard in public discussions about science. Early career researchers have the chance to hear directly from respected science journalists, as well as from scientists with media experience. It’s an opportunity to learn how the media works, how to respond and comment, and what journalists want and expect from scientists. And at the heart of VoYS are myth-busting and evidence-hunting campaigns led by members who, inspired by the workshops, are passionate about taking on bad science, tackling misconceptions and sharing insights from their research. These campaigns have ranged from homeopathy and detox to meteorology:

Our VoYS program is also now expanding into Europe – and we’re running our first VoYS EU workshop in Brussels in June 2017. You can read more about Ask for Evidence, VoYS, and other areas of our work on our website:


NS: Why is it becoming increasingly important for early career researchers (ECRs) to communicate science?

JT: The importance of ECRs communicating science has always been clear, and has increasingly become so in an environment where a huge amount of information is publicly available yet often conflicting, and where there are ever more pressures on researchers’ time. ECRs are often at the coal face of research – they are the ones in the lab carrying out the research day-to-day so are often best placed to communicate what the research is aiming to achieve, how and why. Additionally, all researchers have a responsibility to communicate their research with the public and we’ve seen the real impact that researchers, and particularly ECRs can have on public discussion. We encourage researchers not to wait until they are professors before taking on the responsibility to get involved in public debates.


NS: Any thoughts on how can we bridge the gap between the public (understanding) and scientists (discoveries) and improve public engagement in science?

JT: In order to close gaps between public and scientific discussion on issues and to engage more people, we must encourage and support more researchers to communicate clearly and openly with wide public audiences. Researchers must also involve many public groups early in the research process, to not only inform their research questions but also to help them to plan how they should communicate their findings. To increase public trust in science – researchers must first trust the public, by being clear about their findings and the uncertainty within them: sharing what their research can and can’t tell us. Our public guide Making Sense of Uncertainty sets out why uncertainty is central to science and to communicating research.

Increasing public trust in science can also come from talking more openly about the process of science; how it works. For example, peer review, which is an essential process to science, can also be a useful tool for the public too. If people know about the peer review process, when they come across scientific claims, they can then ask is it peer reviewed? This is a useful first question for everyone to ask in order to weigh up the quality of evidence. See our public guide to peer review I don’t know what to believe for more details:


NS: Is there a considerable impact of science communication done by ECRs (blogs and social media) on mainstream science journalism?

JT: Early career researchers certainly can and are having an impact on public and media discussions about science and evidence. Voice of Young Science members have launched a number of successful campaigns in recent years which have been covered in mainstream media:

For example, in spring 2009, VoYS sent an open letter to the World Health Organisation, calling for the body to issue a clear international communication about the inappropriate use of homeopathy for five serious diseases. VoYS had become aware of widespread promotion of homeopathic treatments for serious diseases in developing countries and saw that there were no clear guidelines available on this from the World Health Organisation (WHO). VoYS joined with other early career medics and researchers working in Africa and pressured the WHO to condemn the promotion of homeopathy for the treatment of serious diseases. On 21st August 2009, the WHO responded to the open letter stating clearly that it does not recommend the use of homeopathy for treating HIV, TB, malaria, influenza and infant diarrhoea. VoYS members then wrote to the health ministers of all countries to publicise the WHO’s position, asking them to combat the promotion of homeopathy for these dangerous diseases. This campaign was covered in the Times, the Guardian and by the BBC.

Individual VoYS members have also been standing up for science as individuals – for example last year Britt Marie Hermes wrote an extraordinary investigative piece in Forbes magazine, delving into the evidence behind health claims for a new device, UVLrx; Leah Fitzsimmons helped the BBC fact-check a segment on cold sores for Trust Me, I’m a Doctor and RPS members Hayley Gorton and Ryan Hamilton organised a We Pharmacists twitter chat about evidence-based medicine that reached over 1 million people.

So early career researchers can and do make a difference! The message of VoYS is not to wait until you’re later in your career to get involved, so stand up for science now.


About Joanne Thomas (JT):

Joanne is a program manager at Sense about Science. She coordinates Voice of Young Science (VoYS), a unique and growing network of over 2000 early career researchers who are committed to playing an active role in public discussions about science. Joanne is also part of Sense about Science’s public engagement team, which helps researchers to make complex scientific issues widely accessible, guided by the people who will use them. Prior to joining the team in 2015, Joanne completed a Masters degree in Science Communication at the University of the West of England and previously worked at the Science Media Centre, a press office that aims to improve media coverage of science. Joanne also has an undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Oxford.


Co-author: Nida Siddiqui, who is currently pursuing final year Ph.D. at the Centre for Mechanochemical Cell Biology, University of Warwick, UK. Follow her on LinkedIn and twitter as @siddnida.

Edited by: Sayantan Chakraborty, PhD

Photo credit: Pixabay


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

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