Khorana and Bose Program orientation and the launch of the Sci-ROI at the Indian Consulate in Chicago

By
Vipul Patel

WINStep Forward and the Consulate General of India, Chicago, co-hosted the 2015 Khorana and Bose Scholars Orientation and the very first Science and Technology, Research Opportunities in India (Sci-ROI) event at the Indian Consulate on Friday May 22, 2015. The Consul General, Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, welcomed the scholars to the US (for many the very first time they had traveled beyond India’s borders) and with great warmth asked them to consider themselves as part of his own family. Dr. Aseem Ansari, the founder and director of the Khorana and Bose Programs encouraged the scholars to make the most of this unique opportunity and challenged them to become the next transformative thought leader such as Khorana, Bose or Swaminathan. “All of us have great expectations of you and look forward to seeing your careers blossom and the transformative changes you bring about in the future,” Dr. Ansari told the scholars.

The Khorana and Bose Programs are leadership programs that are designed to spark the imaginations and broaden intellectual horizons by introducing the top Indian and US students to scientific and innovation ecosystems of leading US and Indian institutions. The goal is to nurture and inspire future thought leaders across a broad spectrum of sciences, industry and society. The programs also intend to seamlessly bridge the academic, industrial and entrepreneurial communities in US and India. 108 Indian students in their final year of undergraduate studies were selected as prestigious Khorana and S. N. Bose scholars and will spend 10 weeks at nearly 30 leading US universities, including Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Caltech and Midwestern schools such as University of Wisconsin – Madison, University of Illinois –Urbana Champaign, Purdue, University of Michigan. Similarly, nearly 15 American students at a similar stage of their careers, including MD-PhD scholars, were selected as S. N. 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.

The Khorana program is named to honor Har Gobind Khorana, a 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 a faculty member at University of Wisconsin – Madison. Khorana Program is funded by the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and supports students whose research interests are at the interface of biology and physical sciences, medicine, and technology.

The S. N. Bose program honors Satyendra Nath Bose, whose groundbreaking mathematical insights, first on his own in India and then with Albert Einstein underlie the fundamental principles of quantum physics. His fundamental breakthroughs led to several discoveries with the latest, the Higgs-Boson, being awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics. The term “Boson” for fundamental particles was coined by the Nobelist Paul Dirac to honor S. N. Bose. The Bose program was launched by the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), in collaboration with Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) and Winstep Forward (WSF) to support scholars from all sciences and engineering disciplines.

The support of the Government of India, was abundantly evident due to the hosting of the event at the Consulate, the attendance of Mr. Tarun Mohindra, the Science Attache from the Indian Embassy in Washington D.C., and from the extremely high level delegation that came to speak to the students. Speaking to the Khorana and Bose Scholars at the Orientation were the leaders of the major Indian scientific agencies: Dr. TK Chandrashekar, Secretary of the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), Dr. Rajiv Sharma, Executive Director of the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF), and via internet Dr. Vijay Raghavan, Secretary of The Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

Also speaking were Professor Bassam Shakhashiri, a world-renowned US educator who has promoted strong science education policies during his tenure as director of the American Chemical Society and earlier at the National Science Foundation. He spoke to the Scholars about using their love of science to promote development of society as well as sparking a strong appreciation of science in the general non- scientist population. Dr. Nevan Hanumara also had a similar message of using science to benefit society. Dr. Hanumara manages MIT’s Tata Center in Cambridge, MA. Nevan and his students are currently trying to solve societal problems in India using their expertise in design improvement through mechanical engineering. He encouraged the young Scholars to place emphasis on utilizing their future research to solve tackle societal issues.

Representatives of major Midwestern universities as well as other universities interested in hosting Khorana and Bose scholars also participated in the event. In attendance from the University of Wisconsin Madison were Dr. Ken Shapiro, former Dean of International Programs, Assistant Dean Martin Rouse, Ms. Kim Santiago of International Alumni Association and Professor Parmesh Ramanathan, chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Dr. Stuart Ravnik, Dean of the Graduate School as well as Professor Uttam Tambar from University of Texas Southwestern (UT-SW) attended to mark the partnering of their institution with WINStep Forward to host Khorana and Bose scholars. Their interest in the Khorana scholars, as well as the interest of Yale University was a result of the outstanding performance of former Khorana scholars who had joined the graduate programs at their institutions. Ms. Caroline Ewing from The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign also came for the event. Former Indian and U.S. Bose Khorana Scholars also attended the Orientation. Vivek Dwivedi, currently a graduate student at MIT and Hannah Cherian a US scholar who is now a MD-PhD student at University of Michigan, were excited to share their experiences with the current group of Scholars, who not only included Indian Scholars coming to the U.S. to study, but also the 2015 American Scholars going to India for their summer research.

Concurrently, WINStep Forward and Consulate launched the very first Sci-ROI, Science Research Opportunities in India, event. Sci-ROI was organized by a young postdoctoral fellow Dr. Sriram working with Dr. Ansari and the WINstep team. Sci-ROI was created in response to the overwhelming, yet unmet need of Indian post-doctoral fellows in the US who were interested in exploring future academic, industrial and entrepreneurial opportunities in India. The visiting leadership of SERB and IUSSTF, in an interactive session, answered many of the questions of the large group of Sci-ROI scholars. Secretary Chandrashekar and Dr. Sharma talked about how India's current climate for researchers is ripe with opportunity and presented details of many fellowships and grants the Government of India is making available to young scientists in order for them to start their careers in India. The program also contributes directly to Prime Minister Modi’s efforts to bring highly trained young scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs back to India. Beyond postdoctoral fellows, Sci-ROI will enable a wider cross section of the talented Indian diaspora to contribute to the “Make in India” directive of the Modi government.

The event was highly successful judging by the Scholar feedback. One Scholar, Mr. Kaustav Bera, wrote, " Thank you for the wonderful time we had in Chicago and for meticulously arranging every detail of it. I had one of the best time of my life -meeting new people, making new friends and visiting extraordinary places. I am sure the other scholars too will agree to this. I wanted to say all this personally but unfortunately I was not in the hostel while you visited us on Friday night."
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