Downtown

Science City sets young minds thinking

Eureka league: A short-term workshop on research in physics and chemistry has inspired a group of students to consider taking up research studies. Seen here is a practical session at the laboratory of the Inorganic Chemistry Department, Madras University, Guindy. Photo: R. Ragu   | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

Mohana from Sivakasi, a postgraduate student in chemistry, knows what she wants to do after completing her course: she would take up research and identify a drug for treatment of cancer.

“The present generation of anti-cancer drugs, one of which is cisplatin, contains the heavy-metal platinum, which causes many side-effects, including damage to healthy cells and tissues surrounding the malignant tumour. Now, I want to discover or identify a complex, based on ruthenium and flavonoids, which will have fewer side-effects,” she says.

For Arun and Mano Balaji from city colleges and Muthu Shankar from Karaikudi, the goal is to solve the power crisis. While Arun wants to achieve this through nuclear energy, Mano and Muthu want to enhance the power generated from solar panels.

“I want to come up with cost-effective panels. My approach would be to harness the energy from the colours in the VIBGYOR spectrum,” says Muthu.

Mano, who has the same objective, wants to try out with rare-earth materials. One boy wants to get into IGCAR and another wants to be a part of the research team of India-based Neutrino Observatory at Bodi West Hills in Theni. John Peter wants to make an earth-shaking discovery in the field of medical instrumentation.

These students began to think along these ambitious lines after attending a three-week internship course, Summer Training Programme, funded by Science City and conducted on the campus of the Madras University at Guindy.

The short-term course exposed these students to various fields that offer a scope for research.

“These days, enthusiasm for pure sciences and research is low. To revive the interest in them, Science City has been organising this programme since 2002, free of cost. This programme was conceived by nuclear physicist V. Devanathan. He considers those in the 21-35 age group to have an advantage over others when it comes to thinking of and executing innovations and therefore it is essential to equip them,” says Devasenapathy, principal scientific officer at Science City.

Teaching faculties and researchers from the University of Madras, Indian Institute of Technology –Madras, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkam, and Anna University, handled the sessions.

“The programme helps in identifying students with an aptitude for research work. There is a need for research in synthetic chemistry catalysis, nano-chemistry, medicinal chemistry (discovery of drugs) and polymer chemistry,” says Balasubramanian, professor, inorganic chemistry department, University of Madras, who is one of the resource persons.

“In this workshop, students have the opportunity to perform experiments with radioactive isotopes. Due to safety considerations, not all institutions are allowed to possess them. Here at Madras University we have them, as the institution holds a licence issued by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Body,” says Dr. A. Stephen, assistant professor, Department of Nuclear Physics. He is the secretary of the Summer Training Programme in Physics.

The programme focuses on rural students. Of the 40 seats, 30 are reserved for them.

Science City conducts the short-term research orientation programme every year in May and June. Besides, physics and chemistry, a similar programme in mathematics is also conducted. Many students felt that a programme in biology should also be introduced. For students from other districts, accommodation and food are provided.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 11:52:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/science-city-sets-young-minds-thinking/article6180153.ece

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