India’s Future Scientists Undergo Orientation Upon Arrival in U.S.




The latest batch of the most promising Indian science students, around 84 undergraduates just arrived and 50 seniors already doing postdoctoral research across the U.S., gathered at the downtown premises of the Consulate General, May 22, for their joint orientation by high-level program administrators from India and by Indian-American scientists from hosting U.S. academic institutions. The orientation covered mutual expectations during the juniors’ 10-week stay in the U.S. and the support structures awaiting them career-wise upon their return home. This 2015 Khorana and Bose Scholars Orientation and first Science and Technology, Research Opportunities in India (Sci-ROI), event was co-hosted by WINStep Forward (WSF) based at the University of Wisconsin (UW), Madison, Wisconsin.

Khorana and Bose Programs (KBP) are designed to introduce top Indian and U.S. students to scientific and cultural ecosystems of leading U.S. and Indian institutions. The goal is to nurture future thought leaders across a broad spectrum of sciences, industry and society. KBP also intend to seamlessly bridge the academic and industrial communities between the two nations.

Consul General Dr. Ausaf Sayeed warmly welcomed the Indian scholars, many traveling abroad for the first time, encouraging them to call in case of any need, as they would a foster-parent. KBP founder-director professor Aseem Z. Ansari urged them to make the most of this unique opportunity and challenged them to become the next Khorana, Bose or Swaminathan. “We have great expectations of you and look forward to seeing your careers blossom and the changes you bring about in the future,” said Ansari.

Nearly a hundred Indian students in final year of undergraduate studies were selected to spend 10 weeks at research internships at nearly 30 leading U.S. universities, including Harvard, Stanford, MIT and Midwestern schools such as UW, University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign (UIUC), Purdue and University of Michigan. Similarly, nearly 25 American students at a similar stage of their careers, including M.D.-Ph.D. scholars, were selected as Bose scholars for 8-10 week internships at leading Indian institutions, such as National Center for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), IITs, IISERs and medical schools.

Government of India (GoI) support was further evident from presence of Tarun Mohindra, Science Attaché at Indian Embassy, Washington, and leaders of major Indian scientific agencies: Dept. of Biotechnology (DBT) Secretary Dr. Vijay Raghavan, Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) Secretary Dr. TK Chandrashekar and Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) Executive Director Dr. Rajiv Sharma.

Also speaking were Pofessor Bassam Shakhashiri, world-renowned educator who has promoted strong science education policies during his tenure as director of American Chemical Society and earlier at National Science Foundation. He urged the students to channel their passion for science into the well-being of society and thereby sustain strong appreciation for the sciences amidst the lay population. Dr. Nevan Hanumara, who manages the MIT TATA Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, reinforced this message. His team of students are trying to solve societal problems in India using their expertise in design improvement through mechanical engineering.

Sci-ROI was created by young postdoctoral fellow Dr. Sriram in response to the overwhelming need of Indian postdoctoral fellows in the U.S., who are exploring future academic, industrial and entrepreneurial opportunities in India. Chandrashekar and Sharma detailed how the current climate in India is full of opportunities with financial other support structures, for their research careers to take off. Sci-ROI thus responds to Prime Minister Modi’s Make in India directive of transforming brain drain into “brain gain.”

Funded by DBT, Khorana program is named in honor of Har Gobind Khorana, pioneering chemical-biologist who deciphered the genetic code, chemically generated the first synthetic gene and won the 1968 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine while at UW. It supports students researching at the interface of biology and physical sciences or technology.

S.N. Bose program honors Satyendra Nath Bose, whose groundbreaking mathematical treatments, first on his own in India and then with Einstein, underlie the fundamental principles of quantum physics. His breakthrough led to discoveries, with the latest Higgs-Boson awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize. Term “boson” for fundamental particles was coined by Nobelist Paul Dirac to honor Bose. The Bose program was launched by SERB, IUSSTF and WSF to support scholars from all sciences and engineering disciplines.

Present were representatives from major Midwestern colleges: UW Assistant Dean Martin Rouse, former Dean of College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dr. Ken Shapiro, UW Asia coordinator Kim Santiago, Dean of Graduate School at University of Texas Dr. Stuart Ravnik, and UIUC International Scholarships Specialist Caroline Ewing. Two former KBP scholars, Vivek Dwivedi and Hannah Cherrian, shared their experiences.