No, its not the title of Chetan Bhagat’s next novel (though it could well be). A colleague in the School of Life Sciences pointed me to a new site, Nature Index, “A global indicator of high-quality research” that “tracks the affiliations of high-quality scientific articles. Updated monthly, the Nature Index presents recent research outputs by institution and country.”

niThe 15 in the title above, is the overall ranking of the UoH, relative to all Indian institutions, based on our publications in all scientific fields, with 6, 8, and 22 being the rankings separately in Chemistry, Life Sciences and Physics. This is for the year 1 September 2013 to 31 August 2014, and presumably other time periods can be queried on the NI site as well.

There is reason to be pleased. We are the highest ranked University overall, and above us are only institutes like TIFR, RRI, IISc and consortia like the entire IIT system or all the CSIR laboratories put together. And this has happened in spite of the poor funding for science in the country, and for Universities in particular. As we are painfully aware, the real level of funding that we have to contend with has been very very meagre…

The ranking is based on the Article Count, namely the number of articles published from the institution. More formally, “a count of one is assigned to an institution or country if one or more authors of the research article are from that institution or country, regardless of how many co-authors there are from outside that institution or country” in computing the AC. There are other measures that can make us look even better such as the Fractional Count (FC), “that takes into account the percentage of authors from that institution (or country) and the number of affiliated institutions per article. For calculation of the FC, all authors are considered to have contributed equally to the article”, and the equation in the title then becomes, if we use the FC, 8=6+11+19. And to normalize, the corresponding equation for another Central University with which we share many similarities is 18=22+3+29.

In all these lists, there are no Universities that are ranked above us in Chemistry, one in the Life Sciences, and very few in Physics, so these country specific rankings say as much about us as about the funding patterns, the focus on research, and on infrastructure and support. Nevertheless, if anyone out there is looking, its pretty clear which among the Central Universities really is a University of Excellence.

The Palamuru Seven

37On Monday the 27th January, I was in Mahbubnagar,  at Palamuru University, to attend the Annual Convention of the Andhra Pradesh Akademi of Sciences (APAS), to keep an old commitment, namely to deliver the Sitamahalakshmi Memorial Lecture. And I was fortunate in at least two ways…

The first was that I got to see- after too many years- Ranga, aka Professor S Ranganathan who taught us Organic Chemistry so brilliantly at IIT Kanpur. Ranga, who is now at the IICT in Hyderabad, retired from Kanpur after decades of teaching generations of chemists. His classes were wonderful, and he was one of the first to seriously try to get some of us interested in biology- I remember him and Balu (Professor D. Balasubramaniam, also now in Hyderabad, and at the LV Prasad Eye Institute) inviting a number of people in ’73 or ’74 to try to educate us philistine M Sc students of the exciting things that were going on in biological chemistry. Some of my classmates took the bait, but it didn’t work out in my case… But more of that in another post, maybe.

The second was that I got to see seven of our colleagues being inducted into the Akademi at one go- the largest contingent from anywhere to be so elected! In the alphabetical order of the handout, here they are :

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M. Ghanshyam Krishna of the School of Physics was elected Fellow. His work focuses on the growth, characterization and applications of thin films.

Subramanyam Rajagopal of the Department of Plant Sciences, School of Life Sciences was elected Fellow. (OK, so the photo is an older one, and he does not sport the mustache now…) His group is working on bioenergy related to photosynthesis and phytomedicines. His major research contribution was on abiotic stress effects on photosynthesis apparatus of cyanobacteria, algae and higher plants.

Samar Das, of the School of Chemistry, was also elected Fellow. The focus of his research effort is to synthesize metal-oxide based inorganic compounds and to exploit their host guest, ion exchange and catalytic properties.

Pradeepta Panda of the School of Chemistry was elected an Associate Fellow. His  work is on the design and synthesis of various porphyrins.

S Srilakshmi of the UCESS was elected an Associate Fellow. She is a geophysicist, and the only woman in the group.

S Srinath of the School of Physics was elected an Associate Fellow. His areas are Magnetism, Multiferroics, Oxides, Nanomaterials  and  Thin films.

S Venugopal Rao of theACRHEM was elected an Associate Fellow. He does a lot of things, as you can see on his homepage, but to mention a few areas of his interest,  Semiconductor Nonlinear Optics: Optical frequency conversion techniques [Second Harmonic Generation, Sum Frequency Generation, Difference Frequency Generation], Optical Parametric Oscillators/Amplifiers in the near- and mid-infrared spectral region and construction and characterization of femtosecond/picosecond Ti:sapphire lasers.

And in addition, there were many other colleagues from the UoH there: they had already  been elected to the Akademi in earlier years. The President, Dr Ch. Mohan Rao, being an alumnus, made the presence of the University even stronger, and drove home the point that we are the preëminent research university in AP. And, of course, also in the country. Nice!

The Secret Life of Plant Biologists

It is always a pleasure to bring to the notice of the wider UoH community that a colleague has been honoured for his excellence in research: Professor A S Raghavendra of the Department of Plant Sciences has been named a Corresponding Member of the American Society of Plant Biologists.

The award will be formally presented during the opening session of Plant Biology 2012, ASPB’s annual meeting in July in Austin, Texas. First given in 1932, the Corresponding Membership Award honors up to three distinguished plant biologists residing outside the United States with life membership in the ASPB, a professional scientific society, headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, devoted to the advancement of the plant sciences worldwide. 

With a membership of some 4,500 plant scientists from throughout the United States and more than 50 other nations, the Society publishes two of the most widely cited plant science journals: The Plant Cell and Plant Physiology. 

The citation reads: Agepati Srinivasa Raghavendra (University of Hyderabad, India) is nominated for pioneering work in photosynthetic carbon metabolism and stomatal guard cell function. Agepati also has introduced innovative techniques for the rapid isolation of highly active mesophyll protoplasts from pea and Arabidopsis, monitoring cytosolic pH by fluorescent dyes, and developing a reconstituted system of isolated mitochondria and peroxisomes.

One more feather in the cap of the Department of Plant Sciences… Bravo!

Awards for Life

Three of our colleagues in the School of Life Sciences have been recognized by the DBT (the Department of BioTechnology). Sharmishta Banerjee and Ravi Kumar Gutti  of the Department of Biochemistry have been given the 2011 Innovative Young Biotechnologist Award while Niyaz Ahmed Associate Professor in the Department of Biotechnology has been given the National Bioscience Award.

Here is something I found on his website: Dr Niyaz Ahmed graduated in Veterinary Medicine in 1995 and obtained further degrees in Animal Biotechnology (MS) and  Molecular Medicine (PhD). He joined the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics – Hyderabad, as a tenured  Faculty Member (Staff Scientist) in 1998 and since then contributed a significant body of applied research in the area  of infectious disease biology and genetics. Amidst his busy research career Niyaz is an ardent supporter of the PLoS  lead contemporary approach to Open Science, Open Access to Science and Open Evaluation of Science. He is a  Section Editor (Microbiology and Genomics) of PLoS ONE and has overseen/handled peer review of dozens of  landmark articles there. Dr Ahmed is the co- founder of the ISOGEM, a scientific society headquartered at Sassari, Italy and serves as its General Secretary.