Living my dream

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KARTHIKEYAN SUBBARAYAN’s trystwith Germany’s scientific community began at IPK-Gatersleben

Karthikeyan Subbarayan
Karthikeyan Subbarayan

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’S 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 Ghent 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 led me 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.

Gaining confidence

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. 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. There are 16 Indian Ph.D. scholars and scientists working here. 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 the Gatersleben indoor stadium. Sometimes I visit Leipzig's traditional restaurants and pubs. At Leipzig, my favourite food is chocolate. Chocolate is so loved in Germany that it is engrained into the culture.


The DAAD (The German Academic Exchange Service) offered scholarships and I got the chance to participate in DAAD scholarship-holders meet ’12 in Gottingen, home of 44 Nobel prize winners. This event inspired me to present my paper at the 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.



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