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Brains Drawn Back To Roots -

Its A Reverse Brain Drain of Sorts. The Saha Institute Of Nuclear Physics Is Pulling Some of The Best Minds Back Home

Subhro Niyogi | TNN (The Times of India, 26th September 2011)

   Satyaki Bhattacharya joined the Experimental High Energy Physics laboratory at Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP) earlier this year after doing a post-doctoral degree from University of California & San Diego, US, and a stint in Delhi University.
Oishee Chakraborty from National Institute of Health and Harvard University, US, joined the Structural Genomics Division of SINP around the same time as did Padmaja Prasad Mishra, who had left Pennsylvania State University in the US to join the institutes Chemical Science Division. Less
than a month ago, Arti Garg, joined the Condense Matter Physics Division at SINP from University of California, Santa Cruz.
There have been others as well Kaushik Sengupta from North Western University, US; Subir Sarkar and Suchandra Dutta from CERN in Geneva, Switzerland; and Biswarup Satpati from CMERI, Durgapur. Three othersMala Das, Mrinmoy Mukhopadhyay and Debasish Das who did their research at the institute, joined SINP instead of leaving for following the usual trend of migrating to greener pastures.
SINP the cutting edge research institute in the city has catalyzed a reverse brain drain. Over the past nine months, the 62-year-old institute has not only been able to retain bright young researchers, it has also managed to woo Indians working in top notch institutes across the world.
All these researchers say they were always keen to work and contribute at home if the right kind of facilities were available.
According to Oishee, the lack of world-class infrastructure was a major stumbling block for researchers here but not any longer, with state-of-the-art laboratories in surface physics, nano science and genomics and top-of-the-line computing hardware like CRAY computers blurring the distinction.
Earlier, the gap between facilities in Europe or America and laboratories in India was so wide that a researcher had to wait for twothree years for equipment to take an experiment forward. Two years ago, we made a major thrust in developing research infrastructure and now, that gap has virtually disappeared, said SINP director Milan K Sanyal.
For Satyaki, who has been associated with the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) experiment at CERN since its development stage, says he took the call when he was convinced that he could continue to be associated with the project even after relocating to India. Since much of my work is linked to CMS, I did not want the link severed. SINPs collaboration with CERN meant that I could remain connected. And when the institute decided to build a strong group in CMS so that it can compete with other groups worldwide, I jumped at the opportunity, Satyaki recounted.
Of the four experimental stations at CERN, SINP was involved in just one. From April, we have become involved in a second one and took four scientists on board particularly for this purpose, Sanyal explained. Recently, Sanyal signed an agreement with CERN director general Rolf-Dieter Heuer.
Not just CERN, SINP has close collaborations with top-rated laboratories in Germany, US, Japan and France, increasing the scope of SINP researchers to work on global projects. Another factor that helped someone like Arti take her time to decide on joining SINP was that there was no deadline for applications. There was no pressure, so I could weigh my options and decide, she pointed out.
Money may not be a big lure for scientists, but it does matter when India offers a pittance of what overseas institutes pay. After the Sixth Pay Commission revision, however, that gap has reduced significantly. Many scientists, particularly those in IT and engineering, find it difficult to return to India after working abroad because they enjoy a salary that enables them to lead a certain lifestyle. Now, the scene has changed with the pay packages at Indian institutes like SINP becoming attractive. You dont feel as though you are making a huge sacrifice to return to India, Arti said.
The global meltdown also spurred the homecoming. Employment opportunities and funds took a hit in the West. In contrast, the scenario is much better in India with funding available for traveling abroad to do research or invite top scientists to deliver lectures, Sanyal pointed out.
The huge number of papers published by researchers at SINP in top-rated global journals also drew everyones attention, including young Indian researchers looking for vibrant opportunities back home. Last year, researchers at SINP published 270 papers in top international journals like Physical Review Letters; Journal of Biological Chemistry; Molecular Biology of the Cell; Proteomics Clinical Applications; Leukemia,
British Journal of Haematology; Journal of Cosmology & Astroparticle Physics; Journal of High Energy Physics and Reviews in Modern Physics.
The director also attributes the change in the perception about SINP to the environment at the institute. We have been able to offer an open atmosphere to carry out basic research. There is no pressure on researchers to deliver immediate results. Cutting down on red tape has made access to the institute and the system in general easy, says Sanyal.
It was good enough for Padmaja to grab the opportunity and introduce a new technique of single molecule imaging at SINP. He had learnt how to do from Nobel Laureate Steven Chu at Pennsylvania University. A few years ago, the scene was very different in India with limited opportunities. Now, that has changed drastically, he said.
The recent recruits, mostly assistant professors, are also excited about the large pool of motivated students in the country. In any case, several of the bright students in the US are from India, Arti pointed out. Satyaki has already had success with one of his students beating research associates from rest of the country and abroad to bag the best poster award in the prestigious Lepton Photon conference at TIFR.
Though SINP has taken great strides, Sanyal and his team Sunanda Banerjee, Subrata Banerjee and Bikash Chakraborty are not content to rest on the laurels. Recently, the institute had extensive reviews done on the work and output with scientists from Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, Argonne National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory and major institutes in India assessing SINPs progress in the key areas of particle and nuclear physics, condense matter or material physics, theoretical physics, bioscience molecular mechanism of diseases and plasma physics.
Around 60% evaluators were from overseas. The feedback was extremely positive. There were some good suggestions on how to consolidate the research activity to become more important internationally and we are working towards achieving those targets. SINP is now poised for a big surge, Sanyal added.

Country Song

SINP was inaugurated by Nobel Laureate Madame Irene Joliot-Curie on 11, 1950. It got autonomy only a year later
Founder Meghnad Saha wanted it to be a multi-disciplinary institute and decided to concentrate on particle accelerator, nuclear physics, electronics and radio instrumentation, neutron physics, nuclear chemistry and theoretical nuclear science
Right from the inception, the institute set a trend in state-of-the-art experimental facilities. The Cyclotron and Transmission Electron Microscope were the first to be set up in the country
SINP has five broad subject areas of research: experimental nuclear & particle physics; condensed matter physics including surface physics & nano science; plasma physics; biophysical science including chemistry; and theoretical physics including mathematics
Debasish Das, Biswarup Satpati, Mrinmoy Mukhopadhyay, Padmaja Prasad Mishra, Kaushik Sengupta, Arti Garg, Mala Das and Oishee Chakraborty


Last Updated on Friday, 11 April 2014 19:09
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