The third Regional Young Investigator Meeting (RYIM) 2023 – 24 was held in the serene and picturesque city of Bhubaneswar at the (DBT)-Institute of Life Sciences (DBT-ILS), from 4 to 6 December 2023. Based on the theme ‘Fostering academia-industry crosstalk’, the RYIM Bhubaneswar introduced young investigators (YIs) and researchers to the idea of building impactful collaborations between academia and industry.
A total of 64 participants, from 8 different Indian states registered for RYIM Bhubaneswar. The maximum number of participants were from Odisha, representing various state universities and institutes across the state.
The first day of the meeting started with introductory and keynote talks, and then covered talks that touched upon various challenges in a typical academic researcher’s life, such as focusing on work-life balance, managing research students, and securing and managing funding.
Multiple opportunities for researchers
The first talk of the morning session highlighted the opportunities at various educational levels beginning from postgraduates, PhD researchers, postdoctoral fellows and was presented by Amaresh Panda, DBT-ILS. He was followed by Suryakanta Mishra, Odisha Public Service Commission (OPSC) who highlighted the roadmap for potential candidates interested in OPSC services. Mishra covered important aspects including eligibility criteria, subject areas, and timelines from advertisement to placement in the services. The third talk was given by B. Ravindran, DBT-ILS who discussed the dos and don’ts of grant writing. His talk extensively covered the tricks of writing a strong research proposal. All the talks were followed by elaborate interaction amongst the participants and speakers.
What do recruiters want: A panel discussion
A panel discussion focusing on the theme ‘Recruiters’ Perspective’ included speakers B. Ravindran, DBT-ILS; Pankaj Alone, National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER); Suryakant Mishra, OPSC; Mamoni Dash, DBT-ILS. The panel discussion was moderated by Rajeeb Swain, DBT-ILS. The panel discussed the transit of YIs from fellowship schemes to regular positions with personal anecdotes. The pros and cons of relocating to India through specific fellowships were discussed. The other topics covered during the panel discussion included expectations during hiring, decision-making on the hiring mandate, OPSC mandate and upcoming hiring within OPSC.
Outside academia: Industry, grant-writing and publishing
The next session began with Gautam Banerjee, TATA Chemicals, who discussed the significance of fixing deadlines, process-oriented work-culture and the importance of accountability when working in industry. Next in the line-up was a talk by Ramray Bhat, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, who focused on the much sought-after aspect of academic research– international funding! Bhat emphasised the role of key factors such as sustained dialogue in international collaborations, and mentorship in grant-writing. Bhat also appreciated the efforts of the International Grants Awareness programme (iGAP) by IndiaBioscience — an initiative that increases awareness, and provides education and guidance to researchers across career stages for international grant applications.
Switching gears from academia and industry to publishing, Nidhi Gulati, Springer Nature, shed light on the diverse roles that the publication industry offers for professionals in the life sciences. Gulati also brought up an important point that professional opportunities in the publication industry, such as those related to scientific writing, editing, and content design and creation, can provide challenging and fulfilling career paths for PhD researchers in India. In the next talk, Vinita Bal, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Pune engaged the audience with a historical and numerical account on [the lack of] gender parity in academia in India and ways in which policies and programs can be built and implemented to bridge the gender gap.
On the second day of the meeting, Karishma Kaushik, IndiaBioscience discussed the many ways in which IndiaBioscience facilitates science for the benefit of the communities – researchers, students, and society at large. Importantly, her talk highlighted ways in which IndiaBioscience bridges the gap between academia and industry via career workshops, compendia related to collaborations and diverse career paths, and external partnerships with biotechnology and publishing companies for a range of programs and initiatives. Towards the end of the talk, Kaushik also presented findings from the recently published YI survey. This elaborate report by IndiaBioscience presents data on the challenges faced by independent life science researchers in India across mentorship, hiring, funding, infrastructure and administration. This section of the talk led to an engaging discussion on the nuances of these different issues, and the possible solutions.
A series of enlightening talks
The second talk of the day was delivered by Narottam Acharya, DBT-ILS, Bhubaneswar. Acharya covered crucial aspects in research, ‘Ethics in research and publishing’ with his talk that included short enactment videos. These videos showed scientists enacting situations related to research ethics such as the maintenance of laboratory records as an asset of the research laboratory, and not of the researcher.
The next talk by Praveen Vemula, Institute of Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine (inStem), Bengaluru, presented multiple examples of academia-industry collaborations from a research laboratory. In one of the case studies, the talk showcased translational research that has helped produce novel biomaterials. For example, Vemula’s group designed an inflammation-responsive hydrogel that specifically targets inflamed tissue at the precise time, preventing damage to nearby healthy tissue. Through the other examples, Vemula demonstrated the impact that translational research can have on people and lives. He is a serial biotech entrepreneur, with multiple translational products and patents from his research group.
The final presentation of the day was by T. Pavan Kumar, CSIR-IMMT, who discussed the role of intellectual property in research – a lesser known area that is essential for protecting scientific knowledge, especially in the context of academia-industry collaborations and translational research.
Workshop: Crafting Your Career (CYC)
On the final day of RYIM Bhubaneswar, IndiaBioscience, represented by Karishma Kaushik and Rohini Karandikar, conducted a Crafting Your Career workshop for undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students.
The workshop covered essential skills for industry such as interviewing etiquettes, elevator pitches, and CV and resume-building – all required to “stand out” of the crowd while seeking job opportunities. One of the participants remarked that they really liked the interactive sessions, and thought they were fun, interactive and insightful. Another participant mentioned,
I learnt about making time for self-assessment, to know what I need in my career and how I will make the best use of my potential.
At the end of the workshop, three participants received science books sponsored by Taylor and Francis (T&F) for their active participation and interaction in the workshop.
The meeting introduced students and young investigators to multiple dimensions of academic research. The focus on academia-industry led to in-depth discussions on various aspects of application of research for human benefit. The CYC workshop introduced tips and tools for students aspiring for a career in science. Overall, the workshop successfully created a local network of researchers from various disciplines in life sciences and facilitated exchange of ideas.