To start with, I would like to thank the SOT to give me this opportunity to make an International ToxScholar visit, interact with students back home in India, tell them more about what I do as a researcher, and to bring awareness to them regarding some very important toxicology issues. I clearly recollect from my days as an undergraduate or master's student in India, toxicology was never taught as a distinct subject. This has not changed much and most of the students are unaware of toxicology as a possible specialization and job area. Therefore, this opportunity has been very satisfying due to the student exposure regarding the importance of this field. I challenged students in India to think about issues they could help resolve as toxicologists.
During my visit, I went to four institutes covering the north as well as a bit of south India. Namely, these were NIPER Hyderabad, Delhi Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, Baddi University of Emerging Sciences and Technology, and Shoolini University. While NIPER is a research-based institute with only Master's and PhD students, the other three are universities and have courses for undergraduates too. Hence, I had an opportunity to interact with undergraduates, graduates as well as PhD students. During the last phase of my visit, I also interacted with high school students during INSPIRE camp, funded by the government of India. I am pictured with dignitaries at BUEST, Baddi.
During this trip, with a determination to bring awareness to students about the increasing air pollution and water pollution in India, I inserted some examples into my slides about the ongoing lead pollution in Calcutta, arsenic pollution in the state of Bihar, and air pollution in the capital city of India, Delhi. Additionally, my slides described some main concepts in toxicology as well as job opportunities in India and abroad in this area. To further make the seminar interactive, I pushed those in attendance to think about the different issues. Discussing what is the pollutant in each case, what are the safety levels, what happens if the safety levels are exceeded, and what would be the health as well as environmental impact.
It was exciting to see how the students reacted to my questions and to the answers and comments. The changing expression on their young faces showed that the realization of how important toxicology is has dawned on them. Many students asked me "What could we do?" This took me to my imminent reply "be a toxicologist."
These students at DIPSAR, Delhi, were curious about toxicology. Being a developing country, India lacks an organized system or means to take the scientific data and constructively make regulatory changes to curb different kinds of pollution. Therefore, I hold this chance to be able to talk to students about important issues extremely influential. In a parallel INSPIRE camp organized at Shoolini University, I was given the opportunity to talk to high school students about science in general, as well as toxicology as an important upcoming field. Their questions consisted of "How can I be a scientist?" To tackle which, I had to casually tell them about my life progression.
Overall, International ToxScholar outreach was an exhilarating experience and I will forever hold it dearly in my heart. The next application deadline for International ToxScholar funding will be October 2018.