It is close to three years since my first visit to the ‘Land of the royal kings and gold, tigers, cobras and elephants’ – INCREDIBLE INDIA!! Yes, incredible in every way with its friendly people, deep-rooted culture, heritage and history, natural beauty and scientific accomplishments, the most recent being in the area of space research with the discovery of water on Mars.
In the south of India in the State of Karnataka is the city of Bangalore, a bustling metropolis often called the IT capital or silicon valley of India. To the north of the city, is the famous Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), one of the oldest research institutions in the country. It houses the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), a premier research unit supported by the Government of India and situated on a beautiful, sprawling campus spread over an attractive 20-acre plot surrounded by forests and green fields. NCBS is known for its advanced research on biochemistry, biophysics and bioinformatics, genetics and development, cellular organization and signaling, neurobiology, theory and modeling of biological systems, ecology and evolution.
NCBS has excellent facilities for academics and modern research. There are more than 20 well-equipped laboratories and a separate Central Imaging and Flow Facility. Each laboratory functions as an independent, self-sufficient community or unit with its own traditional approach, although the overall strategy is highly integrated and collaborative. It also supports recreational activities with a well equipped sports complex and swimming pool that ensures a pleasant and healthy environment for research.
Since autumn 2007, I worked as a visiting student at the laboratory of Prof. Gaiti Hasan, a reputed research scientist with range of international publications to credit, whose focus of work addresses the role of inositol-1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor signaling in cellular and systematic physiology. This past experience and moreover the encouragement and support offered to international candidates convinced me to pursue my first Post-Doctoral training at this reputed institution. Moreover, the Journal of Development has kindly supported my visit to India by awarding a Travelling Fellowship. Currently, I hold a full-time position as a ‘Post-Doctoral Visiting Fellow’ under the supervision of Prof. Hasan. Typically, new lab entrants receive a warm welcome and are considered members of what is known as ‘our unique family”. This is more than apt since for many researchers it’s a second home that supports advanced research and at the same time helps balance family life which is equally important.
The lab hosts several weekly events: Lab-meets on Saturdays to report individual research data, Journal Scientific Club on Tuesdays to understand the latest achievements of the specific research area in question such as, molecular aspects and genetics of neurodegeneration, role of Ins1,4,5-trisphosphate receptors in this phenomenon, Ca2+-signalling via STIM and Orai proteins in excitable cells, etc. NCBS also hosts weekly research seminars by outstanding scientists representing premier research institutions worldwide. I have been fortunate to participate in some of these sessions that have helped provide me with a broader perspective to the multi-disciplinary nuances of research.
Amidst all this serious work is the fun side of lab-life with team outings, lunch get-togethers and the ‘Bollywood’ specials noted for its colourful song and dance routines!
The overall experience has been truly enriching and I look forward to the year ahead. I hope to share with you in the coming weeks and months more interesting snippets from my research life at NCBS and India.