More women in science: an effort through research fellowships
The first Prof Hema Ramachandran Fellow presents her findings
Ms Kausalya Sakthivel’s research fellowship began in March 2022. She is the very first recipient of the Prof Hema Ramachandran Fellowship for Women Scientists in India. Her six-month fellowship ended on September 30, and she delivered a presentation of her findings on the topic: ‘Identification of Echinochloa weed species in rice fields for selected districts in TamilNadu using a Chloroplast DNA Marker and examining incidence of Bispyribac herbicide resistance’ at M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in Chennai on Thursday October 6.
“I come from a farm family in Pollachi, and was keen to explore new aspects in plant biotechnology. The fellowship gave me this opportunity,” smiles Kausalya. She had just finished her post-graduation in agricultural biotechnology at the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University in Coimbatore, and was looking to explore research work before taking on a PhD. Kausalya is grateful for the mentoring she received from Dr Gayatri Venkataraman throughout her fellowship, and recalls the timely support in the form of weed samples from Dr R Rengalakshmi (Ecotechnology programme) and Mr Kalaimani, Biotechnology.
“Despite the short time for research, I was able to complete pot-based herbicide trails because of these weed samples and also completed my report just as the fellowship ended,” she recalls. Kausalya regrets not being able to do more replications, but her fellowship guide – Dr Gayatri “is happy that her research insights from examining Echinochloa weed diversity in the lab are interesting to reconcile taxonomic tools and molecular makers for species identification.”
So, what is the highlight for Kausalya: “It is the friendship-relationship I am lucky to have experienced here… There was no student-faculty hierarchy at MSSRF at all!” She emphasises that the Prof Hema Ramachandran Fellowship is well-suited for young women scientists interested in exploring research, and “together with mentorship from MSSRF, it is a well-matched collaboration for better gender equality in science.”
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.