Saturday, March 31st, 2012

The phrase "intellectual property" is often used in the Indian media as synonymous with "patents". In fact, patents are only one form of intellectual property. Other forms of intellectual property include trademarks, copyright, design rights, plant variety protection, etc. Of these, trademarks are used in business for the purpose of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others.

Friday, December 16th, 2011


No laptop. No powerpoint slides. No laser pointer. Just him and a few aspiring scientists. Some modest advice for graduate students on turning scientific data into publishable material. Bountiful jokes.


This is what a talk by Jiri Friml in March 2011 at the National University of Singapore was all about.

Monday, October 17th, 2011

All kinds of research need an ethical approach. From the big questions, such as deciding if embryonic stem cells should be used, to the simple integrity that is expected in data collection and analysis - ethics are omnipresent. These are the things I initially wanted to write about when I thought about research ethics. But as I researched the topic, I noticed something unexpected: when I scanned the internet for cases of scientific fraud, the majority seemed to be in the field of biology. Was this my personal bias or was it a fact?

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

In his book The First Three Minutes, particle physicist and Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg wrote, "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless. ... The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts a human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy."

Physicists are often confronted by the apparent meaninglessness of the universe, or at least the lack of any meaning that can be discerned by science. In this context, Weinberg argued that science itself gave meaning to one's life. In an interview with PBS, Weinberg would add, "There is a point that we can give the universe by the way we live, by loving each other, by discovering things about nature, by creating works of art."

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

“A very professional and fastidious place to work in, with a very strong and dominating work culture. Not for the faint of heart”- Anonymous

Well maintained lawns, spic and span corridors, beautiful buildings, state-of-the-art labs, sophisticated infrastructure, tasty food, lively people and above all-stimulating research work. That about sums up the first impressions of NCBS by first-time visitors here. A place that will tend to increase your fetish for research.

My first visit to the NCBS campus was during the interviews into the PhD programme. I fell in love with the place at first sight. I got bowled over by the warm reception we got and by the beautiful landscape of the campus. It transported me into another world. I felt I was in a foreign university except that the majority of the people there were Indians. It gave me the distinct aura of being in a corporate company (reminded me of the summer internship spent in Dr Reddy Laboratories).
Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Constructed in 1537 by King Kempe Gowda, Hebbal Lake has seen a multitude of uses since then: as a reservoir for drinking water, a source of livelihood for local fisher-folk, a haven for many species of birds, even a welcome sight for the sore eyes of the NCBS shuttle commuter, with its expanse of water, pelicans and painted storks.

Sadly, however, other uses have also been found. Drains from neighboring localities flow into the lake. Sewage almost always acts as a fertiliser for a water body due to an influx of nutrients; and Hebbal Lake has been no exception. One of the many consequences: a lush green mat of water hyacinth cloaking the surface of the lake.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011
As the Minister of Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh was known for the cases of Lavasa, BT Brinjal, Adarsh housing complex, Vedanta and Posco. Not known to many, Ramesh played a critical and lasting role in mentoring a young generation of students. During his tenure, the comfort of a lounge room was converted to a vibrant working place where students interested in environmental law, and young wildlife scientists like I were given the rare chance to be a part of the working of his office. The enthusiasm and energy at his office was contagious. The television in the kitchen was usually tuned into Animal Planet, and the channel was changed only to watch the proceedings of Rajya Sabha TV. There was a wedding that I had attended of one of our staff's son. There was no doubt that the gift we had contributed for would be signed from all of us as Team Jairam.
Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011


I stand beside a shallow lake..

The moon above at a lofty height..

I see the clouds sprinkling tiny flakes..

In the misty, foggy site..

On the glassy water, I see a projection..

My reflection!


Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

There was a time when a chemist tinkered about with test tubes, a physicist built complex circuits and a biologist dissected frogs. One discovered the chemical composition of matter; the other revealed the properties of electricity and the third unveiled the anatomy of life. Today, these three personalities have progressively amalgamated to form a fourth: the scientist.

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

In my previous post I tried to allay some possible concerns about "writing to recipes", and one of my main points was that sticking to a schema can lead to clearer writing. In this post I want to tackle another "fear of the formula", one that seems the most paradoxical of all: an aversion to the very clarity that we were previously (and naively?) assuming to be a desirable feature of science reporting.

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

In my role as a writing advisor to young scientists, I'm a big supporter of using schemas (or templates) to help organise a research paper. A schema provides a layout into which the writer introduces the details relevant to their own report. The one scientists are most familiar with is the "IMRAD" system of partitioning the paper (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion), and its widespread use alone indicates it has been a useful aid to scientific communication. But teachers of academic writing like myself also suggest the use of schemas for the individual sections of a paper and even for paragraphs.

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