Karthikeyan Subbarayan’s tryst with Germany’s scientific community began at IPK-Gatersleben.

Life's opportunities as well as my own curiosity led me to Germany as a post-doctoral scientist. After schooling from a municipal elementary school and Anderson Higher Secondary School, Kanchipuram, I did my undergraduation and postgraduation at Madras Christian College (MCC) and VELS University, Chennai, respectively. During my initial college days, I was a member of the Scrub society of the MCC and was involved in the institution's conservation activities to preserve the 365-acre campus. Later, it drove me to apply biotechnological strategies to conserve medicinal plants during my master and doctoral studies in VELS University.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST), India, sanctioned a travel grant to present my doctoral work in a conference at Gent University, Belgium, which provided an opportunity to expose myself to the European scientific environment. Later, I was selected from among the 194 worldwide applicants for the Leibniz-DAAD postdoctoral fellowships. This paved the way to IPK-Gatersleben, Germany. The Genebank at IPK represents one of the largest cryo-collections in the world. Here, my goal is to reveal the undisclosed stress factors in order to improve cryopreservation methodologies.

Deutschland

My experience in Germany has been invaluable. Germans are friendly by nature. In addition to my research activities I learned German and this enabled me to understand the German culture. Above all, the exposure helped me to understand myself. Living away from the comfort zone of home and homeland, made me confident, dynamic and flexible. This is exactly what today’s employers are looking for.

Every place in Germany is picturesque. The place where I lived Gatersleben is a village, and it is here that the international research institute and a world-class industry are located. It is temperate throughout with warm summers and cold winters — prolonged periods of frost or snow are common.

At the IPK, the scientific library and documentation include classic library services and special care databases such as continuous updating and maintenance of the publications, presentations and posters of the scientists. At IPK there are 16 Indian PhD scholars and scientists. We presented Indian values at the ‘The open day festival’ organised every year by IPK which provides a platform to communicate with the Germans. My weekends are usually spent at Gatersleben-Indoor stadium. Sometime I visit Leipzig's traditional restaurants and pubs. At Leipzig, my favourite is chocolate. It is one of the most popular flavours in the world, and in Germany there is no exception. Chocolate is so loved in Germany that it is engrained into the culture.

Inspiration

The DAAD (The German Academic Exchange Service) offered scholarships and I got the chance to participate in DAAD scholarship-holders meet ’12 in Gottingen, a home of 44 Nobel Prize Winners. This event inspired me to present my paper at the historical Linnean Society, London, in October 2012.

The writer is a post doctoral fellow at In Vitro Storage and Cryopreservation, Group//Genebank Department, Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK), Germany.