Columns @IndiaBioscience

YIM 2024: Meet the organisers

Ankita Rathore

The 16th Young Investigators’ Meeting (YIM 2024) is scheduled to take place from 11 to 15 March 2024 in central India at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. We interviewed the YIM 2024 organisers: Karishma Kaushik, IndiaBioscience; Lipi Thukral, IGIB, New Delhi; Ragothaman M. Yennamalli, SASTRA Deemed to be University; Varun Chaudhary, IISER Bhopal; and IndiaBioscience team. We asked them a few questions about the upcoming meeting, and here is what they had to say.

YIM 2024 meet the organisers titleimage
YIM 2024 organisers. Left to right: Karishma S Kaushik (IndiaBioscience), Ragothaman M Yennamalli, (SASTRA University), Lipi Thukral (IGIB), Varun Chaudhary (IISER Bhopal), and IndiaBioscience team (From left to right: Shwetha V, Arushi Batra, Vijeta Raghuram, Rohini Karandikar, Manjula Harikrishna, Ankita Rathore). Credits: Compiled by Ankita Rathore

1. Have you attended a YIM before? How was your experience?

Karishma S Kaushik: I had the opportunity to be a Young Investigator (YI) at YIM Guwahati in 2019, a co-organiser for the first virtual YIM in 2021, a mentor at the second virtual YIM in 2022, a speaker at YIM 2023 in Gandhinagar & Ahmedabad, and now, as part of IndiaBioscience, I am involved in organising YIM 2024 in Bhopal.

Ragothaman M Yennamalli: Yes, I was on a panel for faculty who recently joined India at YIM 2018 in Chicago, USA. I spoke about my experience as a faculty member in a private university.

Varun Chaudhary: No, this will be my first YIM. I am looking forward to it.

Lipi Thukral: I was selected for one of the YIMs but couldn’t attend.

Manjula Harikrishna: Yes, I have been part of the organising team for 8 years now, providing me with a tremendous learning experience. Each YIM is distinctive, and I feel privileged to have collaborated with and learned from diverse team members at different levels throughout these years. 

2. Why did you choose to be a part of the organising team for YIM 2024?

Rohini Karandikar: As an Associate Director, being part of the organising team entails significant responsibility. Personally, I enjoy working with a team, especially when striving to achieve substantial goals.

Ragothaman M Yennamalli: I believe that being part of the organising team is the best way to understand how the future of science in India is shaping up. The individuals participating in YIM are the future leaders who will shape the Indian science scene.

Varun Chaudhary: YIM serves as a vital platform connecting YIs and postdoctoral fellows (PDFs) with seasoned mentors and institutional leaders. It was exciting to hear that IndiaBioscience was planning to bring YIM to Bhopal. For me, it offers a great opportunity not only to actively contribute to the event but also to collaborate with like-minded individuals on the organising team. 

Vijeta Raghuram:I have been attending YIMs since 2021. However, due to the pandemic and a maternity break in 2023, this is going to be my first in-person meeting. This time, as an organiser in the thick of planning this mega event alongside my colleagues, I feel excitement at a whole different level! 

3. What do you think the participating YIs and PDFs can hope to gain from this YIM?

Karishma Kaushik: To begin with, I strongly recommend that selected YIs and PDFs leverage this YIM to gain a better understanding of the diverse opportunities to engage with the wider life science community and ecosystem in India. This principle guided the design of the YIM 2024 program, which includes sessions focused on funding for life science research in India, human-relevant research, research ethics, science communication, outreach and journalism, biotech entrepreneurship, pedagogical practices, advances in publishing, and many more. 

The YIM 2024 program has been designed to provide a comprehensive overview of the various aspects, intersections, and considerations when engaging with the life sciences in India.

Ragothaman M Yennamalli: There are three key aspects: Firstly, networking. Secondly, finding their tribe of scientists to collaborate and be peers. And lastly, seeing how Indian science has evolved in all these years.

Varun Chaudhary: YIs and PDFs can gain insights into recent research trends and career development strategies. This opportunity allows them to learn about the challenges of starting a research group in India and receive early career guidance from established mentors.

Lipi Thukral: A lot is said about how much science operates outside the lab. You learn about the Indian science ecosystem and what works or doesn’t. This is difficult to grasp within the walls of your lab.

Behind the scenes of YIM 2024 at IndiaBioscience office. Credits: Collage by Ankita Rathore
Behind the scenes of YIM 2024 at the IndiaBioscience office. Credits: Collage by Ankita Rathore

4. Any specific session/​talk you’re looking forward to at YIM 2024?

Manjula Harikrishna: This is the first time that all the team members will be giving a talk about their respective verticals. I am excited about my presentation, where I will discuss the IndiaBioscience Outreach Grants over the past 5 years!

Karishma Kaushik: I would highlight the Ask Us Anything’ sessions at the PDF Satellite Meeting! These sessions promise to be open, spontaneous, and interactive, fostering communication between the PDFs and institutional representatives. I am eager to hear about the primary concerns on the minds of postdoctoral fellows when contemplating a return to India as faculty. 

It will be interesting to observe how directors and heads of institutes present opportunities and solutions to the prevailing challenges and considerations in the life sciences in India.

Ankita Rathore: Along with science communication interns Anuja Vartak and Sindhu M, I will be conducting the icebreaker session on the first day of YIM 2024. I am excited to interact with PDFs and YIs and share ways for them to engage with the science communication vertical at IndiaBioscience.

5. What do you think is unique about this YIM 2024?

Arushi Batra:I have never been a part of YIM before, so this marks my inaugural participation in this event, and I’m excited to be part of it for the first time. This year, we’ve incorporated tailored workshops designed to address the needs of YIs and PDFs. We also have Exhibition in a box’ by Science Gallery Bengaluru at YIM 2024.

Rohini Karandikar: The childcare grant is a new addition to this year’s YIM, allowing attendees and resource personnel to address their childcare needs while attending the event. I am honoured to be one of the awardees.

Ankita Rathore: We hosted an informational webinar for prospective applicants this year, along with a pre-event session for selected applicants just before YIM 2024! Also, this marks the first time we are bringing all four of our interns to YIM.

Karishma Kaushik: A unique and special aspect is the inclusion of two international mentors (out of 3) from the Global South (Bangladesh and Chile). I think this is very relevant for the selected group of YIs and PDFs to understand the opportunities and challenges, and I will add unique rewards, of doing science in their home country.

Vijeta Raghuram: In the past YIMs I attended, teaching practices received limited attention. This year, there’s a dedicated talk on novel pedagogical approaches by Tamralipta Patra. Additionally, I’ll be utilising this opportunity to represent i wonder…’ and deliver a talk about school science education and how scientists can contribute to it.

6. Which aspect of work are you looking at this YIM?

Ankita Rathore: The science communication team, consisting of myself, social media intern Anuja Vartak, and science writing intern Sindhu M, is managing all social media, website content, and feedback from participants for YIM 2024. I am pleased to have extra hands-on deck this year for the science communication vertical. 

As a team, we have managed to get a photobooth this year on the gala dinner night, and I am excited to see the social media updates of participants during #YIM2024!

Arushi Batra: Along with Digital Initiative intern Agastya Singh, I will be focusing on the audio-visual aspects of the program. Currently, we are in the process of counting and calculating the number of microphones, speakers, and connectors needed – a task that has its moments of humour! Also, on the fourth day of the meeting, we will be recording RADIO PDF podcasts.

Shwetha C: I am managing travel settlements for the participants, coordinating local travel, shipping printable materials, and handling all things finance-related for YIM 2024!

Manjula Harikrishna: I am involved in several major tasks, including planning, creating and updating the meetings page, managing the application process, coordinating with mentors, participants, directors/​institute reps, and special invitees at various levels, designing creatives/​collaterals in collaboration with the team, and handling accommodations. 

Rohini Karandikar: I am involved in managing arrangements at the venue and handling food at YIM, both at Courtyard by Marriott and IISER Bhopal. I am also responsible for managing the printing and shipping of posters and brochures for the meeting with the help of the team.

Vijeta Raghuram: I was in charge of developing the abstract book, the PDF database, and a variety of posters and brochures. I have been working with Shrutika Raut on these tasks; she is an intern from the Education vertical at IndiaBioscience. I am also involved in the arrangements of food and venue at Courtyard by Marriott and IISER Bhopal.

7. Please share a Behind-the-scenes” story of YIM 2024?

Karishma Kaushik: During our pre-YIM planning visit to Bhopal, the Gond art across the airport struck me as my first impression of the city. The subsequent encounter with a sizable Gond mural on the IISER Bhopal campus was truly awe-inspiring. Remembering a Gond artist family’s work on Twitter, discovered through a mutual connection, I found the post and reached out to Gangotri and Devlal Tekam, accomplished Gond artists from Patangarh, Madhya Pradesh.

The artwork for YIM 2024 was specially commissioned from them by IndiaBioscience. This collaboration provided a wonderful opportunity to work with local artists and showcase a traditional art form from one of central India’s largest and oldest tribal communities.

Ragothaman M Yennamalli: Ensuring the smooth execution of the agenda in every meeting and ensuring that we are all on the same page was a positive experience, as meetings seldom start and end on time with every agenda point covered.

Lipi Thukral: The judging experience and providing comments on why some applications succeed was memorable. And, of course, everyone applies on the last day!

Arushi Batra: I would say that sartorial discussions during coffee chats are my favourite. We are hopeful that we could pull off wearing saree while running around for YIM preparations at the venue. Fingers crossed!

The co-organisers and team IndiaBioscience take this opportunity to extend a warm welcome to YIM 2024 attendees!