The winds of change are blowing at TIFR-NCBS. Today, on 21st February 2023, Satyajit (Jitu) Mayor passes the baton to our new director, LS Shashidhara. The NCBS community expresses its heartfelt gratitude to Prof. Mayor, under whose leadership the size and diversity of science at NCBS have grown multifold!
Jitu’s able stewardship of the institution as the Dean from 2008-2013 and as the Director from 2013-2023 has been critical to NCBS’s journey. During his tenure, he nurtured the vibrant Bangalore Life Sciences Cluster, which comprises the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), the Institute For Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine (DBT-inStem), Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP), and most recently, Tata Institute for Genetics and Society (TIGS). The BLiSC campus is a unique ecosystem bringing together fundamental research, translation, innovation, and application of science to societal needs.
Large, significant and impactful institutional programs of science like the Accelerator program for Discovery in Brain disorders using Stem cells (ADBS), Blife, Centre for Chemical Biology and Therapeutics (CCBT), Centre for Neurodevelopmental Synaptopathies (CNS), Chemical Ecology, Simons Centre for the Study of Living Machines, and the MSc. Program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation flourished under Jitu’s leadership. Through IndiaBioscience, he provided leadership for and supported India’s biosciences community with their annual conference, Young Investigators' Meeting (YIM), website and other networking activities.
Jitu strove to remove barriers between science and the humanities. He initiated the Archives at NCBS, a public collecting centre for the history of science in contemporary India. Today, the Archives is an exciting space for discussion, dialogue and cataloguing of the past. The centre also hosts the Obaid Siddiqi Chair in the History and Culture of Science to further foster a diverse and inclusive community of academics across disciplines.
Jitu strongly felt that NCBS could play an important role in Bangalore's growth. This spurred him to establish the Bangalore Sustainability Forum, a collaborative group for discussion and action to ensure a viable and green future for our city. He also supported and influenced the formulation of the Bengaluru Science and Technology Cluster (BeST) to facilitate seamless interactions and collaborations between organizations within the city.
When the pandemic challenged us, Jitu led a response to COVID at the BLiSC campus, in collaboration with governmental agencies, through scientific contributions, testing, sequencing and innovation while keeping our working environment safe.
Most importantly, Jitu has been an amazing role model, an inspiring scientist, mentor, and colleague. A brilliant, kind, insightful and gentle person whom everyone in the NCBS community relied on! We thank him for his leadership and service to the campus! Jitu will now focus more on his research, which is currently at an exciting stage and promises breakthroughs in our basic understanding of cell biology.
“As I bid adieu, I would like to welcome my successor, Professor LS Shashidhara.”, says Prof Satyajit Mayor congratulating and introducing Prof Shashidhara.
“Shashi was, until recently, a Professor of Biology at IISER Pune and continues as Honorary Professor at Ashoka University. He specialised in Genetics, Molecular Biology and Evolutionary biology. His group has identified key mechanisms that specify organ development and regulate growth control during embryonic development. They have also expanded their study to examine the status of these evolutionarily conserved mechanisms in epithelial cancers in humans.
He did his undergraduate and post-graduate studies in Genetics and Plant Breeding at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, India and studied the regulation of chlorophyll biosynthesis for his PhD at the University of Cambridge, UK. During his postdoctoral studies at the University of Cambridge, UK, he initiated what would be his life-long work on the function of Hox proteins in appendage development in Drosophila. Shashi was a JC Bose National Fellow and is an elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). He has served in the past as Vice-President of the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) and is the current President of the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS).
Shashi has also been very involved in the promotion of science and science education and has had many experiments in this area, including working with the Ministry of Education on the training of high school and undergraduate teachers in adopting inquiry-based teaching methods. Beyond conventional education and research, he has organized several career workshops for scientists in science journalism, science policy, climate education, administration and management. He has also served on the Board of IndiaBioscience from almost the very beginning, reflecting his commitment to the Life Science research community in India.
It has been my privilege to serve as the NCBS Director for all these years, and I hope my successor will also enjoy the extraordinarily strong support that I have relied on and received. May we continue to strive for excellence in science and preserve a culture of creativity and inclusivity that our campus has always symbolized.”
Shouldering the new role today, Prof Shashidhara shares his vision, “In less than 30 years of its establishment, NCBS stands tall in the landscape of Indian biological sciences research, with exciting science and contribution across all scales (from single molecules to ecosystems). It is an honour to lead such an excellent organization and a humbling experience to follow in the footsteps of former Directors Obaid Siddiqi, VijayRaghavan and Satyajit Mayor. The challenge in front of me is to ensure NCBS continues to excel in all fields of biology and, at the same time, it realigns to the fast-changing global S&T landscape such that it continues to contribute to new academic demands of biological sciences in the post-pandemic years.
I envisage NCBS, with its global excellence, high levels of confidence and resources built over the past 3 decades, (i) continues to contribute new knowledge to the world, (ii) develops/adopts new technology platforms (experimental/computational) to accelerate discovery, and (ii) catalyzes mission-mode projects in fundamental science connected to climate change, food, nutrition, health, environment and biodiversity. This it does in close collaboration with medical and agriculture institutes and governmental and non-governmental organizations working on public health, forest and environment, and specifically with the other members of the Bangalore Life Science cluster, including the Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine (inStem), Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) and Tata Institute for Genetics and Society (TIGS), all focusing on development and adoption of advanced and sustainable technology for health, nutrition and environment. While continuing to do excellent research in fundamental science, I also envision NCBS working with TIFR and its other constituent centres to capture the imagination of young research scholars and provide them with an opportunity to learn about careers and opportunities that do not yet even exist but will be created by this new generation of scholars.”
We are excited to welcome Prof. LS Shashidhara as our new director and look forward to working with him in the future!