Friday, February 10, 2012

The Frugal Way

No denial, I belong to the Whitesides Philosophy!

Who is this Whitesides by the way??
A Scientist Professor at Harvard, the most cited living scientist... okay, here is the wikipedia link if you need to know more: George_M._Whitesides

I am talking about him, because he usually talks about India, about research in India. In one of his commentaries published in 'Science' he discusses about how the trend of research is going to change, considering that India and China are emerging as innovation centres. Research and innovation are not only about making life easier and more understandable, it is also about providing technological advancements in a frugal way. Here is what he describes: Whitesides_Science_The Frugal Way

If we really wish to make technology accessible to the mass, we need to go the frugal way. Simply!
Here is a TED Talk on the same: Towards The Science of Simplicity

Enjoy the talk, and get motivated!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Triangles, Squares and Hexagons: manipulating cell shapes

When I first heard of soft lithography and micro-contact printing, it was fascinating for me to think of experiments based on supramolecular assembly. Eric Green's lab in Columbia did some meticulous experiments including DNA curtains ( These expeiments were just awsome!!
However, munching more into that line, to think of cellular shape manipulations was difficult for me. Partly because I had little knowledge about cells. I knew cell only though textbooks. But when I met them (by the way, I met Mr Fibroblast, who is quite funny, and very fond of explorations and dancing) I was surprised to see how fluid the PM be (Plasm Membrane and not Dr Manmohan Singh!). Micropatterns of fibronectin into various geometries constrains the cell to assume the shape of the pattern. So now, one can have cells of a distint size and of a particular geometry, say a triangle or a circle or a hexagon!!
What is so great about it?! Okay you have such funny cells but then what next? hmm... These geometrical shapes provide a controllable variable to understand cytoskeletal mechanics. The experiments are homogenous and the equations are no.. not that easy..m still fighting hard to get familiar with them.. :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When did social life start?

Living together with a division of labour in order to ease the 'individual' life is something which is not only found in humans but also in several living beings. So, when did it start? A single cell, say cyanobacteria, was capable of surviving on its own. It could survive in such a stringent condition, decreasing the CO2 content of the atmosphere so that it gradually became amiable for evolution of higher order organisms. In Microbiology, some 'single-cell' organisms have a social life. When in trouble (as in the dearth of nutrition), they come together to form a 'fruiting body' in order to disperse to a place with better nutrition facilities. The amzing fact is that, in this process, a significant part of the population has to sacrifice themselves to form the stalk of the fruiting body. Who are these altruistic fellows? Do they do it on their own or they are forced to sacrifice?
Scientists ivestigate this with various angles; right from investigation olecular mechanisms of signalling for stalk formation to game theoretical aspect f cheating and altruism. Well, if the single cell organism is so complicated, can we realy imagine how much complicated 'our' social life is (at least in terms of scientific queries)? What exactly 'being social' means to us?

Monday, February 15, 2010

On Nano

When I joined IISER, I had no idea about what basic science research is. All I knew was that science fascinates me. It fascinates because it is challenging, novel and demanding. To express my candor, I must confess that my first year here was like dwelling in an aerie. Right from entanglement to molecular motors, everything was fascinating! This was an uncanny experience and I fell into a perplexing situation where selection from options apparently demanded a meticulous effort. My NIUS project eventually turned out to be 'nano-based'. I was doing physics and chemistry there with biological molecules like lysozyme. Then I realized that nano is nothing but a novel approach of connecting various disciplines. No matter who is giving a talk on nano, a biologist, a chemist or a physicist, everyone starts with the famous RPF quote. I suspect how much popularity Feynman would have expected for his monologue ' ...plenty of room...'!
Nevertheless, when you go through Nature nanotech or PNAS or ACS or even PRLs and PLs, nano is ubiquitous. From basic scoience point of view, I realize that it is the qustion that we are asking is more important than whether it belongs to so and so area of research or not. Be it a Physical Chemistry problem or a Biophysics problem or a Biochemistry one, getting deeper into the field to uncover the enigma is really challenging and fascinating. It is, after all, nano!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Engineering proteins

Earlier this year, i happened to listen to a talk by some prof from protein engineering department of Oxford at NCL audi.
He was taking about 'aquaporins'.
these are membrane protein which allow water to pass through them. but not the proton...
well, what is interesting then??
his lab engineered the O-(from water) binding domain of the aquaporin so that the number of hydrogen bonds could be reduced from 2 to 1. This implies that now even protons ( i mean H3O+) can pass through it... so what>??
he puts them in the vesicles and prepares a series of vesicles connected with aquaporins...nd that's it!! u hav a single wire of proton running through this marvelous protein ... u have a nano-battery!!
well..further engineering can give u a nano-capacitor and so on!! ( as he said!!) ...
so the future directions of these biological advancement is certainly going to affect the way we live is difficult to speculate (for me at least!)
one of my colleage in Khorana program in wrking on this protein and today i listened to her talk...saw the motif and then only understood the mechanism of single molecule wire formation... I, on the other hand, am wrkin on lipid vesicles.... so it gives me immense pleasure to undersatnd the picture clearly after so many days of the talk!! well connections retain the excitement of science..i believe... havent done a great deal of wrk yet, but understanding how these 'great deal of works' have been done is in itself a source of pleasure, inspiration and excitement in my life.. and i m alive here!!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

the genes are jumping faster

Swine flu has caused nearly 900 cases in humans in past few weeks. The H1N1 influennza strain has now been reported to be isolated from pigs as well ( The report mentions that an agency suspects a farmer from Mexico to infect a pig in Canada during the visit and the strain subsequently spread in humans back. This to and fro across-species jump of these strains is really a matter of concern for the Scientists working on it because it really makes the case complicated. They suspect that a similar inter crossing is possible for avian influenza strain as well. Now these freely jumping genes could really make a havoc and require to be considered a serious issue. Question arises- what gives them such a high compatibility? Are the genes really jumping faster? Is this the demand of evolution or is it a consequence of how we are irrationaly manipulating our nature?

Saturday, May 2, 2009


As a student and researcher in Science, I always have some crazy ideas (not really crazy) which now other people can see and comment upon.
I am always amused wth the science hidden behind our ancient vedic traditions, the philosophy of upnishads and so many things like Indus valley civilisation (see Ronojoy's work on that
The crazy way of doing science is what I suppose the actual way of doing it.