Monday, 8 January 2018

PhD jobs: Explore posts abroad

Nature published my letter to editor in November 2017. Please read. It is about employment opportunities of PhDs in foreign countries particularly Asia. I wrote this in response to an editorial lamenting lack of jobs for fresh PhDs in academics in own country.

PhD recipients who are unable to secure an academic post in their home country (Nature 550, 429; 2017) should consider postdoctoral, teaching and research jobs in universities abroad, where their skills are in high demand.
Universities in the Middle East, China and southeast Asia are recruiting research talent from outside those regions. Many offer perks such as tax-free salaries, research grants and housing. To promote local research, some countries also host campuses of British, US and Australian universities.
For example, several US universities have campuses in the Qatari capital Doha (Carnegie MellonTexas A&M and Northwestern); in the United Arab Emirates (New York University); in China (Duke University); and in Singapore (Yale University). China hosts the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Guangdong province, as well as some UK institutions (the universities of Edinburgh and Nottingham, for example). The University of Nottingham also has a campus in Malaysia, as do two Australian institutions (Swinburne and Monash universities).
In return, new postdocs who move to work in these countries will broaden their outlook in a different and hospitable culture.
doi: 10.1038/d41586-017-07235-3

Sunday, 12 November 2017

History: Ingenious solutions sparked by a crisis

Researchers have taken to recycling laboratory helium in the face of dwindling supplies resulting from the blockade of Qatar (Nature 547, 16; 2017). Such extreme situations have also prompted other scientists to devise imaginative alternatives in the past.
In the First World War, for example, German naval blockades caused a shortage of acetone and butanol, both essential for munitions. Chaim Weizmann at the University of Manchester, UK (a scientist who later became president of Israel), promptly invented a process for making both chemicals in bulk from starch fermentation using the bacterium Clostridium acetobutylicum.
And a British naval blockade, in turn, propelled German scientists into hijacking another fermentation process to create glycerol, needed to synthesize the explosive trinitroglycerine. They used bisulfite to divert the fermentation of sugars in yeast into glycerol instead of ethanol (
The link of my letter
# Dear Readers, This is a letter to editor of Nature journal written by me and published by Nature. Copyright belongs to Nature.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Interview of Satyajit Ray on Mozart, Beethoven and Western Classical Music

Dear Readers

In 1994, I recorded Satyajit Ray's interview from Calcutta Radio on Western Classical Music. Interviews were taken by Bulbul Sircar, a famous Calcutta Radio presenter. Ray's opinions on Mozart Beethoven and others are worth of listening. He also mentioned how he got influenced by them.He openly told he did not like Milos Forman's treatment of Mozart entirely. From his biography I also got to know he was offered by BBC to make  a film on Don Giovanni. Sitting in Calcutta he got influenced by the best of Western Classical. Now sadly Calcutta is losing its edge and with waning of interest in Western Classical Music it seems appropriate to revisit the legacy of Satyajit Ray the maestro.

These are not my creation. Copyright must be of Calcutta Radio and Ray himself. I dont intend any copyright violation. This is just for your listening pleasure. Also note Bulbul Sircar's interviewing skills. She was a classy anglicized aficionado of music whose unmistakable accent made it worthwhile. Bulbul Sircar represents a culturally rich past of Calcutta.

Dear Zindagi - a review

I watched Dear Zindagi with great interest because it’s made by Gauri Shinde whose first film English Vinglish was eminently likeable. And to be truthful I watched Dear Zindagi six months after its release. So already I knew the storyline, the reviews. However every viewer has a personal opinion about every film which may not be observed by others. Hence I take this liberty of reviewing it late.

First of all I must congratulate the director to put mental illness on map of Bollywood. Alia, a young spunky photographer whose only problem seems to be lack of romantic relations in otherwise happy-go-lucky life where occasionally a landlord creates trouble. One starts to know her deep-seated trouble once the handsome middle aged SRK comes in as a therapist. With what can be termed as Hollywood style therapy sessions in Goa beaches, nice outdoors, quite contrary to what actual therapy looks like, she discloses how maladjustment with her parents in childhood has haunted her. Now SRK doles out Whatsapp or Facebook meme type one liners to soothe this young mind. I am not against psychotherapy and definitely a therapist as attractive and unconventional as SRK will boost clients reaching out to therapy at least. My problem is with Freudian psychotherapy that our director preaches. Today almost after 80 years of Freud it is well known many mental illness like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia etc has neurological basis and with advances in research there are now ample medications which can ease the symptoms of these illnesses. For example before therapy Alia was already taking sleeping pills which she admitted did not help her. Now-a-days many doctors suggest insomnia may be due to major depressive disorder which only sedatives cannot tackle. Use of antidepressants which target neurotransmitters like serotonin or norepinephrine may rescue the patient. The director entirely overlooks the pharmacological cure that may be available. Only talk therapy doesn’t help many of these patients.
Hence my objection to the premise of this film is ignoring medical aspect of mental illness and putting entire focus on Freudian therapy. Also the therapy shown here was too unstructured and relied on pop psychology. Moreover there is too much reliance on past events of life in early childhood. It is true our upbringing or nurture definitely has an impact on our personality development. But today’s psychologists do not agree to that. There is Cognitive behaviour Therapy or Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy ( of Albert Ellis fame) which helps in retraining human thoughts and rectifies behavioural problems. Just a catharsis (talking out, crying etc) may not empty the chest of the sufferer and cease the illness.
Whatever may be my critique, I liked the movie because of 2 reasons – firstly in a highly insensitive Bollywood where they mock the mentally ill at least there is an attempt to show the mentally ill very humanely and creating awareness about its treatment. It’s true in our country we have lot of insensitivity to gender, caste, mental illness etc. This movie tries to dispel the myth of mental illness. In fact in regional languages there have been better films on mental illness – 16 Park Avenue ( Bengali/English) and Devrai ( Marathi). Secondly I have faith on Alia Bhat’s acting skill. SRK was refreshing but it was Alia who stole the show. If you want to watch then watch Dear Zindagi for Alia. The mirth, the spunk, the unknown sadness, the catharsis-she showed it all with such elan. I particularly liked the tenderness in the last scene when she bade farewell to the therapist with whom she developed near-platonic bonding, the difficulty of leaving the person whom you entrusted with your deepest secrets and who in turn transformed your life was palpable by the little hug she gave to a reluctant SRK in the end ( was he afraid of Transferance?). This was the truest humane moment of this movie. I also liked SRK's advice to Alia on an outing how important it is not to find all possible qualities in your partner. There can be some relations for gossip, some for intellectual talks, some for night out, some for profession but we expect our partner will be a collection of all. Overall this movie is a welcome change in Bollywood and makes a mark.

Disclaimer:   I am neither a psychiatrist nor a psychologist. Opinions are based on personal observations and wide readings.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

India: Motherland or fatherland?

I am a question...Is India our motherland or fatherland ? Every Independence day we say "Bharat Mata ki jay"....even Vande Mataram suggests we think India as our mother...however our National Anthem says " Bharat Bhagya Vidhata" or " Adhinayak" ...which suggests we think of India as fatherland....we never sing" Bharat Bhagya Vidhatri" Or "Adhinayika" we pray to a father figure in our anthem but in Vande Mataram we imagine India as mother and while we say Bharat Mata we think of her as feminine.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Onnyo Basanto Review

I could not but help write a few lines about this movie in Bangla....I read the story in '99 or 2000 in a Pooja Suchitra Bhattacharya...I did not know this favorite story of mine has been converted into a is all about as somebody suggested in a phrase : Proposed Bride's confusion.....the character Tannistha(Amrtia Chatterjee) is torn between two men her fiance, a ruthlessly ambitious goal oriented man and another an ambition-less small scale businessman who makes perfumes for should see the end, I should not tell you, but the acting , the capturing of non verbal subtle gestures were touching, indeed moving....Kamaleswar Mukherjee as the father of the bride was effortless ( I knew he was a film maker !!, unaware of his fabulous acting skill)....Moments between Amrita Chatterjee (the bride) and Koushik Roy ( the failure) were subtle yet soothing and gentle....and hats off to the director Aditi Roy, this one and her first film Aboshesey show she has a talent...a talent to touch and evoke fine emotions, a talent to explore enormous layering and possibilities in a relationship.She made an emotion alive which is very rare and which I call " Brooding stillness " or " Gentle Brooding"....pangs or aches of heart which made my eyes moisten several times.....
I wish all of my friends understood Bangla ( no subtitles)....the new wave Bangla cinema is here to stay I guess....

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Mutluluk ( Bliss) : A review

Yesterday evening I watched this fantastic movie in Youtube. It is about a girl in a village who is raped. The girl is now thought to be soiled and hence requires banishment. However she is escorted with a man from his village to Istanbul. After a brief sojourn in Istanbul fails to accommodate them they go to a resort-like place where they are befriended by a lonely professor in a yacht and tours with him. How this boat-tour changes the relationship between the girl and her man and how this professor shares his wisdom is a treat to watch for those who like humane storytelling. I enjoyed the transformation between the two. The scenic beauty of Turkey also adds to the experience. Go watch it.