What Does it Take to Become a Scientist or Innovator?

Hasan Jawaid Khan

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THEY FOUND WHAT? THEY MADE WHAT?
Author: Shweta Taneja
Publisher: Hatchette Book Publishing India Pvt. Ltd., Gurugram
Year: 2021
Pages: 285
Price: Rs 399/-

 

IN the middle of Ladakh, at a height of 3,100 metres, in a village called Uleptokpo, young Sonam Wangchuk knew what it was to live in the midst of water shortages. In the summer, melting glaciers would provide water but by springtime, when it was planting season, the region would face a drought. Obsessed since his childhood with coming up with a solution to provide a steady supply of water, he eventually came up with the idea of an Ice Stupa, an artificial glacier that stores water during the winters and releases it during late spring when the farmers need water for planting – a technique he has been requested to replicate in Sikkim and Switzerland. A serial innovator who was immortalised in the film 3 Idiots when his story inspired Amir Khan's character Phunsukh Wangdu.

Innovative thinking was also the hallmark of Archana Sharma who started exploring physics at a young age, soon discovered particle physics and got hooked to it. Her inquisitiveness and her thirst for knowledge in her area of interest fetched her a post-doctoral opportunity at CERN where she was eventually hired as a full-time scientist, the only Indian scientist at CERN at that time.

The stories of innovative discoveries and ingenious inventions of twenty Indian scientists and technologists have been profiled by Shweta Taneja in her recent book, They Found What? They Made What? Interestingly presented and crisply written, the author delves into the circumstances and early motivations that fuelled the inquisitiveness of the profiled scientists and technologists.

So, we have Anil Bhardwaj who was as fascinated by the night sky as he was with electronics from a very young age and who went on to be deeply involved with India’s mission to the Moon and later the Mars mission. Mitali Mukherjee was a molecular geneticist who went on to lead the Indian Genome Variation Consortium (IGVC) to create a genetic map of India. An encounter with an Ayurveda expert led her to explore the integration of Ayurveda and genetics and the establishment of a new field of research – Ayurgenomics.

Then we have Ramgopal Rao who got the idea of developing an electronic nose that could detect bomb particles from his pet dog. Ramgopal went on to win the Infosys prize and is currently the Director of IIT-Delhi. And there is Vidita Vaidya whose interest in brain and its working led her to become an established neuroscientist and build models of how our brains are affected by stress and also grief and trauma experienced as children.

Designed in the form of a flip book, the book contains boxes with exciting facts and information pertaining to the field of science being discussed, exercises and also experiments. The book is a breezy read with interesting anecdotes that could be inspiring for young innovators and scientists.