All entries by this author

The Space Roboticist

The Space Roboticist

The first motorized vehicle Vandi Verma ever operated was a tractor. “I must’ve been 11 years old at the time,” she says. During school vacations, she visited her grandparents, who lived in a village in central India. At their farm, her uncle let her take a few turns behind the tractor wheel. Later, when she was a teenager, her father, who was a pilot with the Indian Air Force, taught her how to drive a car. That was unusual in India at that time, where […]



Sea Monkeys Churning Waterbodies

Sea Monkeys Churning  Waterbodies

When I was a child, I saw these ads for sea monkeys in comic books. I would’ve liked to have sea monkeys as pets back then. A “bowlful of happiness,” that was also easy to care for? What’s not to like? There are monkeys  in India but I definitely didn’t want one as a pet. Though they look wild, I knew they could be trained to do a variety of things: pick coconuts off a palm, pick peoples’ pockets, or dance in a dress to […]



Patna to Poughkeepsie

A while ago, I emailed the writer Amitava Kumar of Patna who teaches literature at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie. When I email a writer, it is because: I like their work, their writing has touched me in some way, and I want to record my appreciation. Fan girl stuff  really — nothing more. But this time, I was also writing to tell A.Kumar about an Indian woman whose remains were interred in a cemetery in Poughkeepsie, a woman whose story obsesses me. She was the first […]



Mobile Stethoscope for Diagnosing Lung Disease

Mobile Stethoscope for Diagnosing Lung Disease

A team from MIT has built a  mobile stethoscope:  Plug  it into a smartphone and the companion app transforms the device into a low-cost diagnostic tool, which health workers and non-specialist physicians can use to diagnose lung disease. Diseases of the lungs — such as pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, and lung cancer — cause more than 14 percent of deaths worldwide. Others like asthma reduce the quality of a person’s life. These diseases hit the developing world the hardest, because the major […]



Curtailed Careers of Women in China

Women enter the workforce the same time as men but they typically take some time off during their child-bearing years. Instead of being allowed to stay on longer to compensate, they have to step down sooner in China. Women scientists retire at 55, while men retire at 60. I can’t come up with any good reason for why this should be the case. This also tells me that someone should be looking at such policies across the globe. From the letters to the editor in […]



Startup Research

Startup Research

Many facets of entrepreneurship haven’t been fully explored yet – at least not by those outside the industry. But independent researchers are digging into some of the compelling questions surrounding startups, technology, and the current surge of interest in all things innovation. Here are some of the most interesting ideas being highlighted by the latest entrepreneurship research, as featured in the newest edition of the prominent research journal Science. Read more here. html. pdf.



On Single-Sex Labs

On Single-Sex Labs

India’s first Nobelist C.V. Raman maintained a strict separation of sexes in his laboratory, his student Anna Mani recalls in this profile by Abha Sur.    Raman would mutter “Scandalous!” every time a male and a female student walked together by his window. With a touch of amusement, Mani noted that Raman must have had an uncanny sense, for even while bending over a microscope, he would be able to catch a glimpse of an “offending” couple. She remembered one incident vividly. She was talking […]



Tengo poco Sanskrit

Tengo poco Sanskrit

I am a Tam-Brahm, which is short for Tamil Brahmin. My ancestors were Hindu priests. You can expect people from such families to have a smattering of Sanskrit, the language of liturgy. My great-grandfather worked in a temple in Mylapore — not Kapaleswarar’s, but a smaller temple. There must’ve been some regular pay for this job, but it couldn’t have been much.This ancestor had migrated from the village  to Madras. Though he did his old job in the new setting as well, his sons reaped […]



Probiotic-laced Parfait to Detect Liver Cancer

Probiotic-laced Parfait to Detect Liver Cancer

Eating a spoonful of probiotic-fortified yogurt, followed by a quick urine test, may someday be enough to tell if cancer has spread to your liver. In a study published in this week’s issue of Science Translational Medicine, researchers present a rapid, non-invasive way to detect liver cancer that’s shown promise in tests in mice. Their approach: use the body’s digestive system for transit and use bacteria as reporters. Cancers commonly recur in the liver long after the cells have disappeared from other organs. Researchers are […]



Smart Brain Implants

Smart Brain Implants

Can a tiny chip implanted in the brain help control dark or depressive thoughts? For decades, doctors have been placing small devices in people’s brains to help patients with movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease. But increasingly, physicians have been experimenting with using similar neurological implants in patients with cognitive and emotional disorders like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. There is strong interest in using these types of neurological prosthetics in returning soldiers who suffer from mental disorders, particularly those who may feel suicidal. A recent […]