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News Category: B4 Program


2017 SAI Symposium: Life Sciences Panel [VIDEO]


The fascinating life sciences panel at the 2017 Symposium featured:

Parvathi Sreekumar: a bioscientist based at the Department of Crop Physiology, University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore. She is a member of the inaugural cohort of SAI’s Boston Bangalore Biosciences Beginnings (B4) Program and is spending a year at Harvard as a postdoctoral fellow.

Muhammad H. Zaman: Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor of Biomedical Engineering and International Health at Boston University. He is using quantitative tools to understand tumor metastasis, developing robust technologies for high-value healthcare problems in the developing world, particularly in the area of maternal and child health and working on health and innovation policy issues in developing nations.

Conor WalshJohn L. Loeb Associate Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the John A. Paulson Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

Venki Murthy: Professor of Molecular & Cellular Biology and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Neurobiology at Harvard University.

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Inaugural Harvard B4 Fellowship Opens New Doors for Postdocs


Left to Right: Venki Murthy, Ramya Purkanti, Gayatri Ramakrishnan, Parvathi Sreekumar, and Praveen Anand

One year ago when Parvathi Sreekumar earned her PhD in Crop Physiology at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore, India, she never would have guessed that today she’d be halfway around the world, learning computational biology and bioinformatics to study bacteria in Philippe Cluzel’s lab. Yet here she is in Cambridge, along with three other research fellows from Bangalore who were awarded the inaugural Boston Bangalore Biosciences Beginnings (B4) Fellowship, co-sponsored by the South Asia Institute (SAI) at Harvard University and the Institute for Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology (IBAB) in Bangalore. The four fellows, selected from over 52 applicants, earned their PhDs in different fields from different institutes in India, but all now share the unique experience of spending 11 months pursuing research in a completely new direction at Harvard. “Being part of this fellowship is broadening my research exposure and equipping me with new skills that I can go home and implement in India. I’m grateful that students from diverse fields are being given an opportunity like this,” says Sreekumar.

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Building Budding Brain Biologists: Harvard’s inaugural B4 Program in India


In the gleaming academic fortress of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore, India, MCB professor Venkatesh Murthy and Advisor/Preceptor Laura Magnotti spent two weeks over winter break giving 25 engineering and computer science students a crash course in something completely different: neuroscience. The Boston Bangalore Biosciences Beginning (B4) Program, which is administered by the Harvard South Asia Institute, hand-selected the participants from about 150 undergraduate and graduate student applicants from all over India. It is supported by the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology and the Government of Karnataka’s Department of Information Technology & Biotechnology. Through a series of five daily sessions consisting of three lectures, one presentation by a local scientist, and one hands-on demo that included activities from dissecting a goat brain to recording action potentials from a cricket leg, the students gained a comprehensive knowledge of the field of neuroscience, basic concepts, and how to apply them. “Teaching this short winter course to smart and enthusiastic students without much of a neuroscience background was gratifying because we could see in real time how excited and awestruck they became about the brain,” says Murthy, director of the B4 program.

Why teach neuroscience to students who are committed to degrees in other fields? “The educational system in India is very narrow. There are no general education requirements; once a student enters university, they pretty much only take courses in their declared field of study,” says Magnotti. Murthy himself was educated in that system at the Indian Institutes of Technology: “I only learned about biology as a research endeavor when I came to the US for grad school, and then I ended up making a career out of it. If India’s brightest students don’t know that some of the questions and ideas they come up with can be applied to solve problems in other fields, they might never do that.” The three NCBS PhD students who were teaching assistants for the B4 course – Siddharth Jayakumar, Sahil Moza, and Mostafizur Rahman –  agree. “I honestly wish I had access to such a course when I was a curious undergraduate student in India thinking about the brain,” says Moza.

Neuroscience is a logical gateway for bridging the gap between engineering and biology. “In the B4 program we describe neurons as electronic circuits, and axons as cables,” explains Magnotti, “and lots of theories from engineering and electronics are easily applicable to neurobiology. These are real applications of the concepts the students have already been learning, so they don’t have to start completely over in order to explore the new field of biology.”

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SAI hosts knowledge exchange workshop on neuroscience


EQ4C2831On January 7, SAI, in partnership with the Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology (IBAB), hosted a Knowledge Exchange Platform on neuroscience for students in Bangalore to interact with different players in the science ecosystem.

The students were part of the Boston Bangalore Biosciences Beginning (B4) Young Scientist Development Course on neuroscience, a 2-week immersion course run by SAI and IBAB to to introduce Indian students to the excitement of brain science.

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Meet our B4 Fellows


As part of SAI’s Boston Bangalore Biosciences Beginnings (B4) Program, five postdoctoral fellows from India will spend a year at Harvard working in a science lab under the mentorship of a Harvard faculty member. The fellows have range of specialties, including plant physiology, computational biology, evolutionary cell biology, and molecular genetics.

The program is supported by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and Department of Information Technology & Biotechnology and Science and Technology, Govternment of Karnataka.

 

Meet the fellows:

GayatriGayatri Ramakrishnan

Home institution: Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Field/specialization: PhD in Computational Biology
Harvard faculty mentor: Prof. Martha Bulyk (Harvard Medical School)
An overview of the research you will conduct at Harvard: I have begun to work on structural basis of DNA-binding specificity of transcription factors. In simple terms, the study aims to understand and analyze: a) rules that aid interactions between DNA and certain biomolecules known as transcription factors (that “activate” a gene); and b) rules (mutations) that could potentially damage such interactions. The inferences from such a study are valuable in directing experiments on genetic diseases in human and cancer research.
What are you most excited about for your year at Harvard? Exchanging ideas and having healthy discussions with pioneers and experts in science.

 

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Reversing Brain Drain: City has Best Critical Mass of Neuroscientists


Reversing Brain Drain: City has Best Critical Mass of Neuroscientists

BENGALURU: Harvard professor Venkatesh N. Murthy, one of the foremost neuroscientists in the world, was amazed by the state of-the-art laboratory at Bengaluru’s National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS). The place seemed better than his own lab at Harvard.

“My lab is pretty well settled but my colleague Sumantra ‘Shona’ Chattarji’s laboratory is fantastic,” he says. For Murthy , that only reflects the position Bengaluru has taken in neuroscience or brain research. “Bengaluru has the best critical mass of neuroscientists in India,” he says.

Murthy is in the city for a two-week workshop to introduce neuroscience to engineering students. This is under the Boston-Bangalore Biosciences Beginnings (B4) programme funded by the Centre and Karnataka.

“In honest and direct terms, the research being done is world class. The qualifier is that it’s still very small. NCBS has maybe 5-8 people and the Indian Institute of Science has 10-15 people who are card-carrying neuroscientists,” he says.

Other institutions such as Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad and the National Brain Research Centre at Manesar are “somehow not as prominent,” the 43-year-old says.Even a premier institute like Nimhans has no identity outside India because “clinical people are not doing basic research, unlike in the US where graduates aspire to be both doctors and scientists.”

Tamil Nadu-born Murthy studied mechanical engineering at IIT Madras. At Harvard since 1999, his research focusses on understanding odour-guided behaviour in terrestrial animals.Indian engineering students are, he says, asking the right questions unlike in his time. “I wonder if it has to with the startup culture. Scientifically though, I’m not sure if they are as mature as US undergraduates, who are deliberately exposed to a variety of subjects requiring critical analysis. And biology here is still a lot of memorisation and less of quantitative skills.”

Brain research in India, and Bengaluru in particular, received a fillip with Infosys (BSE 1.60%) cofounder Kris Gopalakrishnan’s Rs 225-crore grant for a brain research centre at IISc. Murthy, however, is cynical of private funding. “It’s good that money is coming in for research. But, for instance, a multi-billionaire might fund research into autism because he has an autistic child or something. However, what we need is much basic research to understand the brain and how it is wired,” he says.

Murthy believes India can bring back scientists who were part of brain-drain to the West, by making research attractive.”I’m one who drained,” he laughs, adding: “It rarely works when you try to prevent people from leaving. Now, it seems to be the right time to come back because, I’m told it’s not a huge problem to get grants and resources. Even if it’s not as extravagant as NCBS, it can be attractive enough to do good science.”

Written by Bharath Joshi for The Economic Times (source)
Updated: Jan 12, 2017, 11.54 AM IST

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Engineers, techies delve into the mysteries of brain


The following article, published in The Times of India covers the Harvard South Asia Institute Boston Bangalore Biosciences Beginning Program (B4), which aims to aims to build a scientific research corridor and will engage scientists from India and Harvard through exchange programs: 1) Science and Technology Fellowships at Harvard and other peer institutions in the Boston area. 2) A two-week Young Scientists Development Course in Bangalore. The program builds upon SAI’s Resonance Course on Neuroscience in 2013.

 

72By Sreemoyee Chatterjee

BANGALORE – Imagine a human brain controlling the movement of a prosthetic arm just like a real one or a robot with motor skills exactly similar to that of humans or a machine with 100% vision accuracy like that of humans. A bunch of 25 young students of technology is now learning the multidisciplinary dimensions of neuroscience at a two weeklong workshop in the city.

The Harvard South Asia Institute workshop seeks to introduce Indian undergraduates and postgraduates to the excitement of brain science. Interestingly, all participants are either from electrical, mechanical, chemical or software engineering backgrounds or are students of bioscience and are driven by an eagerness to know all about the brain.

Venki N Murthy, professor of molecular and cellular biology and director of undergraduate studies in neurobiology at Harvard University, and Laura Magnotti, advisor, neurobiology concentration at Harvard University, are conducting the workshop at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bengaluru.

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Engineers Can Look Beyond Pure Engineering


Engineers Can Look Beyond Pure Engineering

25 students in two-week long residential programme being conducted in Bengaluru

Bengaluru: Harvard University’s South Asia Institute (SAI), along with the Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology in Bengaluru, has launched a Young Scientist Development Course for 25 engineering students selected from top institutions across the country.

Over the last week, select students were introduced to neurosciences and how they could apply their engineering skills in the field. They were trained by both professors from Harvard University as well as those from science institutes in India.

The two-week long residential programme is being conducted at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bengaluru. It is part of B4 (Boston-Bangalore Biosciences Beginnings) and will conclude on January 11.

The aim of the programme is to help students adopt a multidisciplinary approach to their education and chart a career beyond pure engineering.

“The world might not need too many software engineers in the next few years. Most of what software engineers do today, such as coding, will be automated,” said Raghav Singh, R&D, IBM Cognitive Computing. He was a panellist at one of the workshops on Saturday.

But the likelihood of engineers becoming redundant is far from remote possibility. There are many untapped avenues that engineering students can get into. Neuroscience is one of them. To help students explore their options, a knowledge exchange platform was organised for students to connect with government representatives, industry executives and scientists.

The two-week residential course is sponsored by the Department of Biotechnology and the Karnataka Biotech and IT Services (KBITS).

Originally published by a staff reporter for The Hindu (source)
January 07, 2017 21:35 IST

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Call for Applications: Young Scientists Development Course in India


Call for Applications_B4Young Scientists Development Course in India
December 29, 2016 – January 11, 2017

Bangalore, India

This course introduces Indian students to the exciting gamut of brain science. Highly talented students from across India will be chosen to participate in a two-week immersion workshop that will allow them to explore some of the most exciting research topics in neuroscience.

Click here to read more and apply.

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