Thursday, October 5, 2017

Nobel Prize to Organic Chemistry: Decreasing Frequency

Today, on 4th October 2017, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. I was eagerly waiting to see any name from Organic chemistry field, but got disappointed as this year also no prize for hardcore Organic chemistry.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017 was awarded to Prof. Jacques Dubochet (University of Lausanne, Switzerland), Prof. Joachim Frank (Columbia University, New York) and Prof. Richard Henderson (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, U.K.) for their extraordinary contribution to the developing of Cryo-Electron Microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution. Many congratulations to all of them for their hard work and recognition and also felt happy to read more about Cry-Electron Microscopy technique.

If we trace back. since last seven years, no one from pure Organic Chemistry area got Nobel Prize. Recent one in the year 2010 for Palladium chemistry in Organic synthesis for Heck/Negishi/Suzuki and prior to that one in the year 2005 for Alkene metathesis to Chauvin/Grubbs/Schrock team and in 2001 for Chirally catalysed hydrogenation reactions to Sharpless/Noyori/Knowles team. This simply means, the frequency of getting Nobel prize in Organic chemistry is reducing, although there being many deserving Organic chemists worldwide. One reason could be, the current research trend of organic synthesis area is not matching with changing selection criteria of this highest scientific award.

We Organic chemists may claim of being the only applied discipline among other disciplines of Science, producing huge number of molecules having vast applications from biotech, pharma to material science areas. We have many deserving Giants in Organic chemistry field, who are famous for Total synthesis of complex natural products, new reactions/method development, synthesis of novel applied molecules etc etc., but when we see research areas of award recipients in recent past, it brings the feeling that we are far away from current day trend and it is a kind of warning too.

Just simply making new chemistry or molecules is not enough. There seems to be an immediate need for changing the trend and research focus. Today, the research outcomes that have INTERDISCIPLINARY FLAVOR, bearing significance to solving the REAL WORLD PROBLEMS are having more recognition in Scientific society.....

Monday, October 2, 2017

On The 10th Anniversary Of My PhD Degree Award Day.

On Sept. 30, 2017 exactly 10 years passed I got the PhD degree awarded at Kyushu Institute of Technology, Japan. In other words it is the 10th anniversary of my PhD degree. I celebrated that special day on social media and in that excitement I wrote a refreshing mail to my supervisor. As he is now 70 years old retired Professor, spending most of his time at home, easily available for interaction, replied quickly with happiness and full of regards wishing better future. It is very special day as it was one great milestone of my life.

Yes! It was my dream and ambition to pursue the highest academic degree, the PhD in Organic chemistry discipline. I could have taken some gap to pass CSIR-JRF exam and directly enter the course, but situations were not in favor of me. Therefore, I chose to work after M.Sc. While continuing my job, I kept on chasing my dream for which I gave a big fight. I knocked many doors, wrote mails, contacted many people, begging for admission to doctoral course. Later I got entry to NCL Pune, for which I must thank some of my friends/well wishers. Here again one more hurdle came, as the administration cancelled the policy of applying for SRF after working as RA for 1-2 years and made CSIR-JRF as compulsory requirement. Then, I had only one option left is to try for PhD abroad, which many of my colleagues were trying. I too followed the same process by taking guidance of my reporting scientists at NCL, Pune. On one fine day, I got admission for PhD at Kyushu Institute of Technology, Japan under the supervision of Prof. Norikazu Nishino. On 3rd October, I flied to Japan and started my dream course. Those three years of PhD course were hardest in my life. I worked very hard as it is culture in Japan. I still remember those sleepless nights, the toughest boss and his hard training. Published some papers and also presented my work in some conferences at Europe (Poland) and Tokyo, Japan. Finally after successfully defending my thesis work, I got awarded the PhD degree. That’s how I achieved my GOAL and I have to thank many of my friends and family who directly and indirectly helped and supported me in many ways.

Like a usual doctorate, I too carried out two Postdocs for more than five years. The first Postdoc was at Florida State University, USA, spending two years in the laboratory wherein Taxol synthesis was made a history. For second Postdoc, I again moved back to KyuTech, Japan to work for three years in the emerging area of solar cell research. 

Having spent almost eight and half years in academia in abroad, acquiring vast experience in various research fields of interest, I decided to return back to my home land India. I dreamt of a career where in I will have enough freedom and flexibility to do what I want to do. As there is a saying that, “Sometimes reality becomes the strangest fantasy of all”, I found getting into my desired job was not so easy. Huge competition, need for papers published in top-tier journals, less number of openings and many more. For time being I dropped the idea of joining academia and thought of opting for other alternative paths where my training/skills can be explored. Finally the destiny brought me to the Industrial world and I started my career in the corporate organization as Scientist, nature of job being custom synthesis and contract research.

Industrial jobs are totally different from academic jobs. Here you don’t need multiyear Postdoc experience or more number of publications etc. Industrial jobs mainly need how skilled/trained you are to reach the target in given time. Maintaining timelines, meeting targets, planning, results and more importantly how efficient you are as a team player and as individual contributor are the crucial requirements in any industrial jobs.  

Now when I look back and ask myself, what was purpose behind doing PhD, I usually get confused what to answer. I am also unable to answer, whether I really explored all the experience and trainings to bring them to reality. The journey of life takes many turns and many times we fail to notice those turns. We dream of something and something else happens, but that doesn’t mean one has to give up ones passion, the goals, and the ambitions. In today's competitive climate, when the secure jobs are lacking, to be successful is all about having the strong drive to push forward even when you are struggling.

I always receive many mails from future aspirants asking for guidance for joining PhD course and also information about Postdoc jobs. To all of you I can tell only one thing that, PhD is not a degree, it is a training course to make you a professional researcher. It opens up the gate for the research career. In broad sense all these PhDs, Postdocs are simply stages coming in the huge canopy of research profession. You may aim for academic career or industrial life, but for both options PhD is the first stage and without PhD further journey will not continue. Postdoc training is necessary when you opt for academic career otherwise it is not helpful in anyway. Also moving to industrial job after Postdoc will simply delay your professional growth in industry.