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Monday, June 18th, 2012


A sweetener 100,000 times as sweet as sugar, carrying almost no calories.

Meet monellin, a super-sweet, low-calorie protein from the serendipity berry, a vine from the tropical forests of Africa. Like other proteins, monellin is made of amino acids, which are joined to form two chains, wound together like a braid. Monellin's special sweetness arises from a kink in the braid that somehow tingles the taste buds. But if any food that contains monellin is heated to over 50°C, the chains unravel, the kink disappears and the sweetness is gone.

Friday, December 30th, 2011

In a chaotic world spinning towards an 'interesting' future, many are self-absorbed in deciphering ways to ensure that our personal endeavors and ambitions meet with success. Intellectual depth and scholarship can give way to Lemming-like dynamics where the herd decides the direction for our personal and institutional trajectories. Intellectual stampedes are certainly not required behaviour, yet few refuse to participate and fewer still strike new paths. There are a daring few who define new intellectual quests, and whose courage and leadership create a culture, the nurturing of which makes us all feel special. Today, we celebrate Obaid Siddiqi whose foresight, determination and quiet courage has transformed research in molecular biology in India at least twice and whose scientific successes span many fields of biology. While establishing institutional excellence and instilling an iconoclastic culture of independence and freethinking, these pioneering efforts have led to wide-appreciation, both of the beauty and value of Obaid's science and of his leadership in institution-building, as models to emulate.

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Striking that perfect balance between work and managing a family is never easy. And being a scientist does not make things any easier. Feeding a fussy infant with experiments tugging at your brain, dropping your children to school as a grant deadline looms in the afternoon: juggling all these requires tremendous skill and exceptional time management. That's when child care facilities are a godsend.

Child care centres play a big role in helping parents handle their careers. Knowing that this can boost an economy, many countries like Australia and Norway offer subsidized child care facilities to their citizens. In India, a day care facility is mandatory in government institutes. NCBS too has its own child care facility - but it's something that people here know very little about. I decided to find out more about it: how it works, what it involves and the people who make it happen.

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.
Saturday, June 25th, 2011
As in many parts of the world, soil salinity is a chronic condition in cultivable lands across most of India. Water provided by irrigation is saltier than rain, and so increased dependence on irrigation, and inadequate drainage systems, are causing soil salt to build up to toxic levels. Plant scientists are trying to develop crop varieties and management strategies that lead to higher salt tolerance. Pannaga Krishnamurthy and M.K. Matthew, from NCBS and their international colleagues* recently developed an elegant and practical technique to induce salt tolerance in rice, reported in the Journal of Experimental Botany.
Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Sandeep Krishna recently joined the NCBS faculty. As playful and fun to talk to as he professes to be below, he agreed without hesitation to take part in a hypothetical discussion. This is the set-up: Sandeep has just boarded a train to Chennai and, taking his seat, he finds himself next to the sharp-minded matriarch of the Bhatia dynasty, Mrs Lakshmi Bhatia. She has a vast reservoir of disposable cash and is eagerly looking for worthwhile projects to finance. Let's eavesdrop on their conversation as they watch the dry and dusty southern Indian landscape roll by...

So Sandeep, please tell me about this research that you do in Bangalore.

Sandeep: Sure. I do a lot of theoretical work. I'm interested in what one could call basic science, not that I think there is a sharp line between basic and applied research. We are trying to understand phenomena at many different scales, the way that organisms function, how they are built, why they are built that way, how they manage to interact with the environment. More specifically, I focus on cells and information: how do cells get information about their environment, how do they deal with, and make decisions based on, all this information? We know that there are regulatory networks that determine these decisions, I want to understand the principles that govern the operation and evolution of those networks.

Friday, April 15th, 2011

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.

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

NCBS is well known for its science. We address questions at the leading edge of biology. Given the quality of scientific research here, a person who has never been to NCBS might imagine it as as place with minimal focus on non-scientific interactions and activities. But the reality is just the contrary. We have a socio-cultural environment that is harmonious and vibrant.

Friday, October 29th, 2010

A hard fought battle between competitors and judges has boiled down to these final, but difficult decisions. The first NCBS photo competition has come to an end with the announcement of the judges decision for best photo and runner-up. Ashesh's brilliant image of the hole in the roof of the cave had a clear edge over competition with unanimous votes from all our judges. The winner was clear, but the heat was on for the second spot.

As judges and organizers alike deliberated, a close poll decided that the second spot would go to the photograph that made even speeding Bangalore traffic look beautiful. Venkatesan's creation of peace amidst the chaos blazed ahead to win our second prize.

As with the popular vote winners, the winners of the judges prize will receive cash awards reimbursable against the purchase of books, for Rs 1000 and Rs 250 respectively.Winners can contact the accounts section with the bills corresponding to their book purchase in order to receive their reimbursements.

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Is all work and no play dulling your neurotransmission? It's time to look lively and get sharp with the first in a series of upcoming photography competitions in NCBS! This is an opportunity for budding camerapersons to pick up their lens and get out of their labs. And everyone else at NCBS can join in by voting for their favourites. We are calling for photos in three thematic galleries.
Saturday, July 24th, 2010

A group of students in the MSc. Wildlife and Conservation programme in NCBS recently made a short (7-min) documentary film about a place that is host to a unique but fast disappearing population of birds. It is 50 km from Bangalore, yet hardly any of us know about the dangers faced by its wildlife. This is the story of how and why the documentary was made and what the students learned from the experience. (Watch the documentary, Awaiting Death on YouTube here.)

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Imagine a computer as sophisticated as is currently possible - a vast array of silicon-based interconnecting pathways. Even this would still be a primitive device compared to a mammalian Central Nervous System (CNS). The fundamental units of the CNS, the neurons, interact at junctions called synapses through their branched projections, the dendrites. The accurate and precise development of the branching patterns formed by dendrites is thus essential for the emergence of a functional network of neurons.

Monday, June 7th, 2010

A team of neuroscientists, led by Prof. Sumantra Chattarji at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore has identified  previously unrecognised synaptic defects in an area of the brain that is involved in the debilitating emotional symptoms of Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), the leading genetic cause of autism and mental retardation. The study is of potential therapeutic significance because it also shows that even a relatively brief pharmacological treatment is capable of correcting some of these defects in mice that were genetically engineered to model FXS. The work, done together with collaborators at New York University, will be reported in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of June 7-11.

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

NCBS recently became a new research node for the  Institute for Complex Adaptive matter (ICAM), an international organisation with over sixty institutional members. The vision of ICAM is highly inter-disciplinary with its researchers involved in the areas of correlated electronic materials, soft condensed matter, and biological matter. The concept that draws scientists from such divergent fields together is that all complex entities, biological and non-biological, exhibit some common principles of organization. By understanding how these “emergent properties” operate in one system, we may gain insights into the workings of other unrelated systems.

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

A team of students from Bangalore’s Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology were judged to have made the “Best Presentation” at the prestigious International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) Competition, held on Monday, November 2nd at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At iGEM, undergraduate teams from around the world compete to build innovative genetic devices in living cells, applying synthetic biology to solve problems in areas such as environment, energy, health, and foundational research.

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010
Ms.Meghna Krishnadas and Mr.Nishant Srinivasaiah were awarded the prestigious K.Ullas Karanth-J.Paul Getty Fellowships for 2008-09 recently at the National Centre for Biological Sciences. This Fellowship has been instituted to honor academic performance and out of classroom conservation activities among students of the Masters course in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, offered jointly by the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Centre for Wildlife Studies and Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program.
Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

There is probably no single topic of research that straddles as many NCBS teams as olfaction. Despite seeming the most mysterious of our senses, the sense of smell is actually the simplest sensory system to study, and NCBS teams try to understand it from every angle.

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

ETH, Zurich is an illustrious science-focussed university, ranked among the world’s best. But for its researchers, like their NCBS counterparts, life is not all work and no play.

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
From: The Times of India, Bangalore, 10 June 2009

BANGALORE: Bangalore’s pre-eminence as the country’s science capital just received further endorsement.The US-based National Science Foundation (NSF) has ranked the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) as the number one centre in India for US graduate students to take up research fellowships and short-term programmes. Two other Bangalore institutions — the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute for Information Technology — are among the top eight destinations for science research.

Doing science is one thing, explaining it is another. Geoff Hyde discusses science communication.Click here for the Blog

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