Three Grade 12 students from the Central School for Tibetans at Mundgod in Karnataka are currently interning at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS). Following an agreement with their school and the NCBS, Tenzin Tsetan, Tenzin Phentok and Tenzin Zomkey began their internship on 6th May with Professors Uma Ramakrishnan, Vatsala Thirumalai and Axel Brockmann.
The fragmented forests of the night might soon be darker places, with fewer tigers to brighten them. How is this possible when recent census reports show rising tiger numbers in India? A study by scientists from the NCBS and Cardiff University shows that mere counts are not enough. Current tiger populations in India have lost 93% of their former genetic variation, information coded in genes, vital to species' survival. Also, the populations are not interbreeding like they used to, becoming isolated in fragmented habitats. The authors warn that this motif could portend decline, even extinction, of the endangered big cat in India.
One and a half million: The estimated number of deaths caused by mosquito-borne diseases every year across the world. Prevention is fundamental to curbing these diseases, and doctors recommend the use of nets and vaccines, as well as repellants, which deter mosquitoes by interfering with their sense of smell. Scientists at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) have now discovered 110 new proteins in three mosquito species - proteins belonging to a group critical to mosquito olfaction. Repellants targetting this larger group of proteins may function better than existing ones, decreasing instances of dreaded diseases such as dengue and malaria.
A Bachelors degree in Botany and then a Masters in Wildlife Sciences: not many botanists are wildlife biologists. What drew you to wildlife biology?
I always liked plants, although wildlife sciences was definitely my first love. Professor Madhav Pendse, then the head of the Botany Department at Sir Parashurambhau College, was always supportive and encouraging of all my work on wildlife. I would say I finished my Bachelors degree and have come to appreciate plants much more than before, thanks to him. And the second person who influenced me is Milind Watve, currently professor at IISER Pune: because of him, I would say I finished my education and am into research. Looking back, I think the degree in Botany was one of the best things that happened to me in college. I started pursuing work on butterflies much more seriously during that time, though I did not dream that I would study butterflies for a living. Because I had a background in botany, learning about butterflies, their host plants and the forests where they fly became much easier. I put this knowledge to use in my butterfly studies now.
The international Human Science Frontier Program awarded a Young Investigator research grant to NCBS principal investigator Madhusudhan Venkadesan and his collaborators, Mahesh Bandi (Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, Japan) and Shreyas Mandre (School of Engineering, Brown University, USA) last month. They received the three-year grant (of $350,000 per year), for a project titled "Foot in Motion: Materials, Mechanics and Control" which proposes to study how the human foot helps in stable, energy efficient locomotion.
Aristotle's maxim holds especially true when it comes to scientific research - where the diversity of disciplines adds so much more to forge the gigantic whole. And collaborations are key to the multi-disciplinary approaches that have fostered many contemporary science successes today. Now, after nearly ten years of ongoing collaborations between NCBS and the RIKEN Kobe Institute in Japan, the Bangalore Bio-Cluster comprising NCBS, inStem and C-CAMP has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with RIKEN Japan. The MoU will strengthen ongoing collaborations, now extending to all RIKEN institutes across Japan, promote graduate and post-doctoral exchange programs between the organizations involved and potentially also set up a new research center in the premises of the Bangalore Bio-Cluster.
Alternative healing systems have always been part of Indian tradition: from local medicine men to the vaidyas or physicians of the more classical unani and ayurveda. The popularity of these remedies took a beating with the advent of allopathic medicine. But traditional medical systems are coming to the fore once again and enjoying renewed interest.
One of the most important events on NCBS's calendar, this year's Annual Meeting will be held from the 3rd to 5th January 2013. Over the three days, fourteen of NCBS's principal investigators will speak about their recent work, focusing on different aspects of "Control in Biological Systems" - the theme for this year's talks. All seminars will be held at Dasheri (the NCBS Auditorium) in the new Southern Laboratories complex within the NCBS campus. The event also involves afternoon poster sessions where NCBS's research scholars will throw light upon their recent projects at the institute. The poster sessions will be dispersed between talks on all days.
The fastest carnivorous plant: a small aquatic species belonging to the bladderwort genus now holds that distinction. Scientists at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) filmed Utricularia stellaris trapping its prey and found that it was the fastest ever recorded for a carnivorous plant. The finding reaffirms that even organisms without muscle and nervous systems can evolve mechanisms that make them fast enough to outsmart prey with advanced sensorimotor capacities.
Bacteria: one of the most abundant and well-studied organisms. But a finding published in Nature Communications today makes one wonder: do we really know them that well? Despite bacteria being the focus of profuse research, scientists have only now discovered an entirely new form of gene regulation in the bacterium Escherichia coli. The discovery of this new system provides valuable information on bacteria which are often used as model systems to study topics ranging from cell functioning to human diseases.
The Science Journalism Course is back at NCBS, now accepting applications for its 2012 batch. But what was it like to be part of the first course held in 2011? What are its alumni doing now? That's something this year's prospective participants will be curious to know.
The Royal Society elected NCBS director K. VijayRaghavan a Fellow of the Society on 19th April 2012. Out of six scientists of Indian origin elected as Fellows this year, VijayRaghavan is the only one based in India.
The Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) has awarded two International Human Frontier Science Research Grants to NCBS faculty, Satjayit Major and Sanjay Sane. They are among the 86 scientists to receive the program's research grants this year.
Just as banks store away only the most valuable possessions in the most secure safes, cells could also be prioritising which genes to guard most closely. A study published yesterday in Nature shows that bacteria have evolved mechanisms that protect important genes from random mutation, effectively reducing the risk of self-destruction. The study answers a question that has been debated for half a century and could provide insights into how mutations that cause diseases including cancers, arise.
The Nikon Small World Competition 2012 is now open and invites participants to upload photographs online. Videos pertaining to the theme "Small World in Motion" are also invited for the Small World in Motion Competition 2012. The deadline for both competitions closes on 30th April 2012.
Scientists studying Alzheimer's, amyloidosis or similar diseases caused by malformed proteins won't have to sift through pages of literature anymore. Searching for information including the structures of proteins involved in diseases like these is now easy, thanks to 3DSwap, an online database developed by a team of researchers at NCBS. 3DSwap is a freely-accessible database of proteins recorded in diseases caused due to protein malformation.
Upinder Singh, professor at the University of Delhi's Department of History, was at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) on 15th February 2012 to talk about her ongoing studies of violence in ancient India. In a second talk on 16th February, hosted at Bangalore's National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), she focused on how ancient relics, inscriptions and sculptures deepen our understanding of religion in ancient India. Both talks were hosted by NCBS as part of the Science and Society program.