Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: Looking Back

The year 2016 has been a year of eventfulness at the professional side.

After a hectic week between Dec 27 - 31, 2015 of organizing the DST-INSPIRE camp at SASTRA University, the year 2016 started with my presentation at the Indian Science Congress for the Young Scientist award in the New Biology Section. Although I didn't manage to get the award, it was a nice experience presenting my work to a completely unknown audience. Some of them came to me and said the work was interesting and the presentation was good. That was rewarding.

This was followed by an invitation from the School of ThinQ to join their core team. ThinQ is a group of educators committed to inculcating inquiry abilities in children. My association with ThinQ thus far had been as a participant of their course Inquiry and Integration in Education (IIE) which has had a tremendous influence on my views of education. The invitation to join the core team meant the learning is to continue and be honed in addition to contributing to the development of ThinQ in my own possible ways. Since then, as expected the learning has indeed continued and I have been contributing to ThinQ in small ways to the workshops that are conducted (specifically the chennai workshop in May) and the IIE-2016 online course and finally as a facilitator for one of the sessions in the 9-day face-to-face workshop of IIE held at Pune in December.

The association with ThinQ has also helped me conduct Critical Reading Workshops at SASTRA University for PhD scholars and UG/PG Engineering students. The workshops proved useful, particularly in helping students understand the fallibility of scientific knowledge.

In May, I co-coordinated the "Research Science Initiative - Thanjavur/Trichy chapter" by SASTRA University where about 25 students in their 11th standard were selected from schools in Thanjavur/Trichy to attend a 1-month long research internship  at various labs in SASTRA and were given exposure to various fields in the form of lecture and being an intern.

In July, SASTRA took our Science Arattai initiative beyond its walls to reach out to school children. The primary reason being that the schemes of the government, due to logistical issues, focus only on the "creamy" students. However, as we all know, marks are poor predictors of intellect. Therefore, to reach out to the students who don't qualify to many of the schemes of the government (for eg. INSPIRE camps), and introduce them to the latest developments in science and technology, Science Arattai initiative invites eminent scientists from across the country to address students at different schools in Thanjavur, Trichy and Kumbakonam as a monthly event. The initiative was inaugurated by Dr. Gopichandran, Director, Vigyan Prasar, GoI. Meeting Dr. Gopichandran was yet another transforming moment. The simplicity and commitment he displayed was a great inspiration. Several learning points from him!

November saw the conduct of the research methodology course at SASTRA which I was a part of. It was again a rewarding and satisfying experience in the small ways I could make some positive change.

December started with the 9-day intensive face-to-face workshop for the IIE participants - conducted at IISER Pune & ThinQ to which I was a senior participant and facilitated one of the sessions on mathematics. The workshop also helped me to get to know various dimensions by which people are trying to make differences in the education sector. Particularly, I became interested in the Arts and education programme by an NGO.

This was followed by the one-day Science Communication workshop by the Wellcome Trust-DBT India Alliance that I co-coordinated. The workshop focused on manuscript writing, grant writing, presentation skills etc in addition to highlighting the alternate careers in Science other than Academics (which was based on our request).

The following Saturday (24 Dec) was spent at the Alumni Congress held at PSG Tech. I had the opportunity to interact with the current students and had a chance to illustrate to them the premises--> conclusion nature of statements and Science in general.

The year concluded with the second INSPIRE camp at SASTRA of which I was a co-coordinator this time. The second version of the INSPIRE saw "big shots" of the country - a fellow of the academy who held three Padma awards and another who had one Padma award in addition to many other stalwarts in their fields. Some of the mentors to the camp were extremely simple given their position in science administration of the country - that was yet another learning/inspiration similar to that by Dr. Gopichandran.

In addition to all these activities, I have managed to publish 2 research articles in 2016 and mentored 2 UG students on their projects.

In the forthcoming year, I hope to continue contributing to some of the above initiatives and make positive differences in ways I can think of.