Encouraging networks of volunteers to participate in research projects serves two purposes: to do research that is not possible otherwise, and to engage the larger community in the process of science. Citizen science programs have taken these ideas to new heights by partnering with the general public to contribute through their computers, brain power or observations. These contributions are used to explore for extra-terrestrial life, understand protein folding and collect ecological data. In some countries, massive datasets of high quality have resulted from the efforts of volunteers who make the time to contribute to these projects. In India, organized citizen science is now picking up steam.
After spending a year-long sabbatical at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, and just before heading back to Marseille, Thomas Lecuit recently gave his final talk to a packed audience at NCBS. It was full of surprises as the live natural performance of his children occurred in concert with their father's talk, on "Tissue Dynamics".
Here, Thomas Lecuit shares his thoughts about his life-time spent uncovering the secrets of tissue morphogenesis.
Samrat Mondol, a PhD student in Uma Ramakrishnan's lab was recently chosen for the prestigious Fulbright-Nehru Doctoral and Professional Research Fellowship. This will fund his visit the University of Washington for the next nine months. Samrat will be provided with a scholarship, stipend and air travel to conduct research, audit courses and gain experience from the research milieu at the University.
The Human Frontier Science Program supports novel, innovative and interdisciplinary basic research focused on the complex mechanisms of living organisms; topics range from studying systems by molecular and cellular approaches, to cognitive neuroscience. It encourages novel collaborations that tackle problems at the frontier of the life sciences by bringing biologists together with scientists from fields such as physics, mathematics, chemistry, computer science and engineering. Such projects, beyond the reach of individual laboratories, are supported by grants that draw together teams of scientists from different countries.
At the end of 2010, 10th HFSP Awardees Meeting was held in Kerala from 31st Nov-3rd October. Prof. Ramanathan Sowdhamini was appointed as Principal Investigator for a project which will enable a focused thrust over a wide range of areas: bioinformatics, experimental biochemistry and biophysics, and mathematical modelling. These will all be applied to help understand the biology of a group of mechanosensory proteins called myosins.
On 14th of March our wildlife students along with 5 faculty members left for the Andaman Islands for 2 weeks to be trained in marine ecology as part of the Master's course in Wildlife Biology and Conservation. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an archipelago of over 350 islands, provide extraordinary opportunities for wildlife studies. The islands have almost 90% forest cover, and the mangroves and evergreen forests form habitats for species of about 200 birds, 85 reptiles, 60 mammals and thousands of invertebrates. Many of these are found nowhere else in the world. The coastline consists of sandy beaches, rocky shores, coral reefs, shallow and open seas, making this an incredible place to study marine ecology. From the conservation viewpoint too, there is much to think about here. Thirty-eight of the islands are permanently inhabited, and the flora and fauna, along with the many indigenous tribes (such as the Jarawas, Sentinalese and Great Andamanese) face a variety of pressures from an accelerating influx of settlers from the mainland.
In 1492 Christopher Columbus set sail to find India, but never did. Roll forward the centuries, and the suave biological pirate, Vivek Malhotra, a more successful veteran of Indo-Spanish reconnaissance, will shortly attempt landfall in Bangalore. Vivek, also professor at the Centre for Genomic Regulation, is one of a crew of 11 scientists from Barcelona, and he shares co-captaining duties with Enrique Martin-Blanc, professor at The Molecular Biology Institute of Barcelona. What draws the Indian and Spanish teams together is a commitment to fundamental biological research of the highest calibre. Over the course of two days, April 6-7, the visiting scientists will deliver lectures at NCBS and participate in discussions with their colleagues aimed at forging collaborative scientific links between the two sides. Full details and the programme can be accessed using this link.
One of the leading US research centres, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, home to 15 Nobel laureates since 1987, recently announced an international early career scientist program, which will support up to 35 scientists working in selected countries outside the United States. The program will support investigators who "are, or have the potential to become, scientific leaders". India is one of the eligible countries for applicants. The International Early Career Scientist Program will select and support highly qualified scientists who are in the critical beginning stages of their independent careers. HHMI International Early Career Scientists will receive very attractive five-year grants—$US250,000 in the first year and $US100,000 for each of the following four years. While applicants will be currently working outside of the US, they must have trained in the United States at the doctoral, medical or postdoctoral level. Applications close February 23, 2011 and full information can be found at this site: http://www.hhmi.org/research/competitions
The NCBS news site has just celebrated its first year of existence, so it is time to take a closer look at what was achieved in 2010. The interest in the news site has been much greater than I would have ever expected. We have been monitoring its access using Google Analytics, which tells us that overall there were 95,007 pageviews in 2010, from 28,704 visits. The average visit lasted 3:24 minutes and perused 3.31 pages. Visitors logged in from 115 countries including such exotic locations as Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati and Côte d’Ivoire. The cities tally was even more remarkable - 1,518 - and many of the place names also tantalise as travel destinations: San Cristobal de la Laguna (Tenerife), Dnepropetrovsk (Ukraine), and Steamboat Springs (USA). I see there is an obvious need to extend the evaluation of our reader base by some on-location reporting!
Finally, we have another reason to believe that everyone is hard at work within the walls at NCBS! Faculty, students and researchers have lit up the world stage and brought back accolades. Here, we present a list of the prize winners from 2008 and 2009. We hope to follow up soon with a list from 2010!