We don’t see them on TV, in textbooks or in newspapers, and most of us can’t name a single one. But there are thousands of women scientists in India, who perform experiments in laboratories, peer through powerful telescopes and camp out in harsh and extreme conditions.
31 Fantastic Adventures in Science presents the stories of thirty-one trailblazing women who work in a diverse array of fields, from environmental biotechnology to particle physics, palaeobiology to astrophysics.
Read on for a peek into 6 such stories-
Bushra Ateeq- Cancer biologist
‘She started her scientific journey by studying the damage that occurs in fish DNA on account of the fish being exposed to chemicals used in agricultural fields. The results of her study horrified Bushra. If these chemicals can cause so much damage at the chromosome level, surely they might also be affecting the human body when we consume food and water from toxic environments? she pondered. This was the moment Bushra’s scientific interest shifted from simply studying mutations to studying human diseases like cancer.’
Jahnavi Punekar- Palaeontologist
‘The end of the Cretaceous period is especially interesting to her as it marks the demise of the big dinosaurs. What killed so many dinosaurs? Was it the impact of a big meteorite crashing into earth as is popularly believed or was it a ginormous volcanic event that occurred around the same time? Jahnavi is trying to find out.’
Uma Ramakrishnan – Molecular ecologist
‘Finding out the whys in nature felt like detective work,’ Uma says. Why do elephants have trunks and why are goats great at climbing mountains? These were fascinating mysteries to the young Uma. Today a molecular ecologist working in Bengaluru, Uma leads the scientific minded bandwagon to save the Indian tiger from extinction. She is a special kind of conservation ecologist. Instead of spotting the animals with hidden cameras, she analyses the genetics of the animals from their poop and hair.’
Vidita Vaidya- Neuroscientist
Honoured with the biggest science award, the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize,Vidita is ‘trying to figure out which connections in the brain are responsible for the way we feel. Which brain connections are activated when you’re happy or jealous or stressed? Why do identical twins sometimes react differently to the same situations? Why do medicines for depression work for some people and not work for some others?’
Hansika Kapoor – Psychologist
‘One of her recent big projects researched negative creativity. ‘Negative creativity is when one uses creativity for a goal that is not considered “good”,’ Hansika explains. One example is finding a new way to cheat in an exam. Hansika set out to find if there was a difference between brain activity when creativity was used for good versus when creativity was used for bad.’
Vanita Prasad- Environmental biotechnologist
On a routine visit to a vegetable market, Vanita wondered, ‘What happens to all the vegetables, fruits and flowers that no one buys? Where does all the waste go? Can we make the waste useful?’ Today, Vanita works with an upgraded version of an old technique of breaking down waste to create useful energy which can supplement the needs of a big country like India.
Find out what drew them to science, read about how they deal with the difficulties and pressures of their work, and learn how they push the boundaries of human knowledge further and further every day.
Get your copy of 31 Fantastic Adventures in Science today!
The seemingly random number, 31, is meant to convey a sense of continuity—a tribute to the fact that the scientists featured in this book are only 31 of the thousands of inspirational stories out there.