Over forty Class X-XII students, majority of them from village and tribal schools, presented their research findings at the third “Discovering Little Scientists” conference held here at IISER Pune from June 29-30, 2015. The meeting was the culmination of a summer vacation research programme for these young scientists organized by the Moving Academy of Medicine and Biomedicine, Pune.
The Academy headed by Dr. M. G. Deo, former director of Cancer Research Institute, Mumbai, was established with an aim to bridge the gap between science education and current research. The Academy runs initiatives to promote research-oriented medical education and to nurture science talent in youngsters from rural parts of the country. The summer vacation research programme is organized as a part of the latter initiative, which is supported by the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust. In order to tap into the intellectual capital, especially from rural parts of the country, students with a keen interest in science were selected and given the opportunity to carry out research projects.
Students from schools in Khed and Parinche villages and from tribal schools of Mangaon and Indave, along with a few students from Pune participated in the programme. They were given training for recording information, carrying out relevant tests using kits and chemicals, and using computers for analysis and presentation. The students then went back to the field to gather, record, analyse and interpret data, which was presented at the conference.
The conference was inaugurated by Dr. W. N. Gade, vice-chancellor of Savitribai Phule Pune University, in the presence of Prof. L. S. Shashishara, Dean, Research & Faculty, IISER Pune. The great enthusiasm and acumen of the little scientists was evident in their presentations. The topics covered a broad range. Some students carried out a comparative analysis of prevalence of disorders like anaemia, thalassemia, diabetes, and hypercholesterolemia or overall health profiles of rural, urban and tribal population samples. Analysis and comparison of soil and water samples from multiple sites, testing of antibacterial activity of neem extract, and characterization of some microorganisms and protein samples were some of the other projects.
The students also interacted with several scientists from various fields. Dr. R. Gangakhedkar (National Aids Research Institute) placed in perspective, the HIV scenario in India. Dr. H. P. Borgaokar (IITM, Pune) spoke about climate change, while Dr. Suhita Nadkarni (IISER, Pune) introduced the exciting world of cognitive neuroscience. Prof. K. N. Ganesh (Director, IISER Pune) described how Chemistry forms the basis of all things, and Dr. Surendra Ghaskadbi (Agharkar Research Institute, Pune) gave the students a glimpse into processes that regulate the embryonic development of various organisms. In the last session, Dr. A. A. Natu told the students about lessons that cutting-edge technology has learnt from nature, followed by Dr. Rohini Godbole’s (IISc, Bengaluru) exposition on the physical basis of the structure of all matter.
The conference and the research experience of two months have given the students an exposure to the way science works and perhaps they will build on this base to enter into a career in this field.
– Reported by Apurva Barve