In his Memoirs, Professor Padmanaban gives a graphic account of his evolution as a scientist, his passion to do science and the lucky circumstances. The book clearly brings out his strong belief that societal applications are an integral part of good scientific research. The chapters elaborate on the scope of research in life Sciences and Biotechnology in contributing to better healthcare and modern agriculture in the country. As a scientist, who worked at the bench for many years in India and Chicago to usher in modern techniques in life science research, he demonstrates that it is possible to attend to national needs, while being deeply involved in one's own research priorities. Finally, he does not hide his humbling thoughts that while science is a powerful instrument to do good to society, it has its own limitations.
Professor G. Padmanaban is essentially a home-grown scientist with over 45 years of indulgence in Life Science research at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. His experience spans a life-time ranging from that of a student, faculty, Director and now to a senior scientist at IISc. He grew up with the initiatives in the country to promote modern life science research and biotechnology. He played a key role in ushering recombinant DNA technology in the country and has significant research contributions in the areas of eukaryotic gene transcription and malaria parasite biology. Professor Padmanaban has been a mentor to several researchers in the country. He is deeply involved in promoting new entrepreneurs in the biotech industry and works closely with DBT, CSIR, and other agencies. He strongly believes that biotech can contribute significantly to alleviate human suffering. He has not hesitated to take up uncompromising positions even in controversial areas such as nuclear explosion or transgenic crops in agriculture. The country has honoured Professor Padmanaban with several awards including Padma Bhushan.
Ever since I read the book Surely you are joking Mr. Feynman! -Adventures of a curious character by Richard Feynman and Ralph Leighton (narrator), based on the tapes of Feynman, I have been wanting to write my memoirs. Beyond the motivation part, comparison with Feynman would be irrelevant! He had a brilliant mind, was eccentric and multifaceted and won the Nobel Prize.
I am essentially a home grown scientist. In my over 40 years of involvement, I have seen the growth of science, especially life sciences, in India in the context of global science. I have more often faced questions like, how did I get into science? What would I advice the younger generation regarding a career in science? Where does India stand in the area of biotechnology (BT), a sunrise, knowledge-driven industry? There is al 0 considerable interest internationally as to how India is evolving as a destination for biotechnology. Next to information technology (IT), biotechnology is a serious option for India to find strategies for its progress and also attract international attention.
Indian Institute of Science (IISc) is a premier institution in India and has alumni and admirers all over the world. As a scientist and as one who served as its Director, I have a close perception of this great institution founded by J.N. Tata. There are many who would love to know as to how IISc is evolving in the global context.
Many are curious to know about the life of a 'successful' scientist, a profession very few people in India outside of science understand. What drives a genuine scientist to spend all the thinking hours on research? How does a scientist evaluate himself or herself? Science in general is not a paying profession, at least in India, and how does the family survive and accept the reality in the context of a booming middleclass. Should science be for its own sake, just curiosity driven, or has it also social dimensions in terms of utility?
This is an account of my experience in which I have also made an attempt to deal with the value systems in a scientist's career. Chapters 1 to 3 are short, covering events in childhood, school, college, and Indian Institute of Science (IISc), leading to a faculty position at the IISc. Chapters 4 to 9 cover my international exposure, evolution as a biotechnologist, and experience as Director, IISc. Chapters 10 to 13 cover my views on the changing perception of US and other developed countries on Indian science and India as a whole, India's performance and its strategy and potential for the application of biotechnology to agriculture and medicine. The ambitions of a scientist in general and me in particular are covered in chapter 14. Chapter 15 is short, dealing with my family. Chapter 16 is devoted to science in the realm of public perception and my own assessment of science as an intense practitioner for over 40 years.
I have to thank a lot of people for whatever I have been able to accomplish in my career. My family, mentors, students, associates, collaborators, friends and professional contacts have all contributed one way or another to let me live a life that I have truly enjoyed. I have avoided mentioning names of individuals except in a few cases so that attention is not diverted from event to individuals. But, there is one teacher who has been my role model, Dr. Abdul Kalam.
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