Sunday, 22 May 2016

Underwater communication

Opening you eyes and talking underwater for humans is very difficult as the vision becomes blurred and sound wave reporting in water is not smooth as it is in air.

Sound wave needs some medium (air, water) to travel. It cannot travel in vacuum such as outer space. Sound waves in air and water have similar pattern but its reporting and reception varies.

Wonder, how fishes and aquatic life makes it so easy? It is the biological phenomenon called as electro-reception.  Although all animals have the potential electro-reception i..e., to generate electric signals. Animals possessing electro-reception function helps them in mating and locating objects such as predators or prey.

The range of electro-reception is about one body length which is enough to sense and protect yourself from the prey or predator. Different species have different modes of reception and some have evolved only to react to these signals. Humans have zero electoreceptive potential which makes it dangerous for humans to swim in sharks zone. On the other side sharks 2/3rd brain is devoted to olfactory organs. This part is very interesting and novel to explore about. Since sharks usually does not attack humans, it is purely by accident. As sharks respond to electro-reception (food/target) but will not give the idea of the taste. Therefore, they usually attack the humans to try the taste which ultimately results into bleeding. This makes the case more vulnerable as the salts in blood enhances the electric field which gives them the clear target to attack continuously.

Over here, scientists are trying to develop an electric field artificially to prevent the sharks from swimming in family beaches or the range of family beaches.

So if you want to study sharks, focus on electo-reception.....

Friday, 13 May 2016

Struggle in undergraduate research

Voluntarily choosing a research project to work on, in a laboratory or field site during your graduation or masters will give you a really hard time. Considering that you have to complete your academic assignments and presentations along with coping with the college attendance. I understand that you are not confident enough yet and your college assignments have a deadline to meet while it is also important to perform well academically for your parents and future job opportunities. But let me tell you one thing, studying in Indian private universities will produce puppets out of you, only suitable for picking up calls and answering for your superior. This will only lead to brain drain specifically in developing country. The four- five years of your undergraduate/masters life are stepping stones to your future and you would only be making the best out of them from the lab or field experience you gain  in becoming a successful researcher or a conservationist, environmentalist, climate change expert so on and so forth , the opportunities are vast. 

The first step is to figure out the area of research you are interested in working in or are even just curious to know about. It can be anything; there is no hard and fast rule that it should be related to the subjects you’re being taught. Today researchers are working on implementing an interdisciplinary approach. Your field of interest can be anything from oils, nutrition, turtle, wolf, big cats, squirrels, cancer, metabolic engineering, statistics, robotics etc. The next question or hurdle is to simply start working on your area of interest; which will be difficult if you are not an avid reader and have no clue how to start. The easiest way to start is to download science and business related applications like science today, business today and UN news to stay up to date about the happenings in your area of interest or areas affecting it, from around the world. Documentaries are one of the most efficient ways to enhance your knowledge and find out about your area of interest. 

Here are the some links which you can refer to. 


The next step is to conduct secondary research and design a rough research hypothesis which usually changes with the evolution of the project. You don`t have to worry about making mistakes because you are just an undergraduate student and that’s how you’re going to learn. In the next article, i will be discussing more about the steps involved in developing your first research article, project or scientific note as an undergraduate student.

Think wild and free. Be Creative. 
 Cheers :) 

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Lipid Staining: Explore your own detection tool….


Lipid droplets are found in almost every level of biological kingdom. Also, they are being characterized in almost every cell, which play an important role in energy storage, cell membrane repair, and substrate synthesis etc. The method of lipid staining to visualize lipid droplets under the microscope, that we are using today is a step up from the conventional methods but it will take little more advancement to optimize the protocol and use it in different fields of study.
Lipid staining using different type’s dyes is a very efficient and cost effective tool to screen 1000s of species for neutral lipids. Fluorescent stains enable the researchers to visualize the lipids and oil droplets under the fluorescence microscope. However, even with today high tech microscopy, it`s not so simple to take high-resolution photographs of lipids. There are many problems such as an accurate sample binding and sample leakage when viewing sample under a microscope.
It is likely to become a favorite tool for observing neutral lipids at preliminary steps for large-scale production various industrial and medical applications. Therefore, optimized protocol should be designed for large-scale sample study. It requires modification of the available protocols in the given literature to obtain the common calibration curve for efficient binding and fluorescence when studied for cellular imaging. These dyes are the one of the most vital methods for detecting cytoplasmic lipids.
The increase in technological advancements in staining and microscopy is helping the researchers to quantify lipids under various conditions and less time

Lipid Staining and fluorescent microscope

It provides us an inexpensive tool to measure the neutral lipid content by excluding the requirement of expensive gravimetric analysis. Considering this fact, it is very essential requirement to conduct an easy and repeatable measurement of lipid.  It is estimated that lipid measurement using GC-MS, HPLC, or TLC will cost you around $50 to $100 per sample (including technical team and equipment requirement).  On the contrary, in terms of signal fluorescence and my finite experience, there are no significant achievements in lipid staining methods.
The different staining system provides us with different signal intensity that varies with factors associated with intracellular environment. To ensure the best lipid staining method, the researcher needs to optimize the conditions according to species requirement. In this article, I will explain the use of fluorescent dyes (Nile Red and BODIPY) for lipid detection and measurement. In addition to this, the article will also discuss the insights about various factors (concentration, incubation temperature, staining temperature etc) associated with the protocol.   
Indeed, there are some disadvantages of using dyes to estimate the exact quantity of neutral lipid as it has potential to bind to other proteins (non-lipid parts) hydrophobic domain of which might interfere in fluorescence. 

There are two major fluorochromes which are used to study lipid droplets are Nile red and    BODIPY 

Concentration (ug/ml)
Staining Temp
Incubation Temp (min)
Target Molecule
Wavelength  (Ex/Em)
Nile Red
2 -7
Lipid Droplets

Table 1: Various specific parameters needed to keep in mind while using dyes to quantify lipids.
Our idea is to identify the conditions where dye is strongly colored, completely soluble, and unable to interact with unwanted domains. All the above-mentioned parameters (Table-1) can be changed accordingly, which can effectively target your sample molecule. 

Why lipid Staining is the future?

It provides a rapid and cost effective method to calculate neutral lipid content avoiding time-consuming gravimetric method.
They give quick response and require less number of equipment.

How to improvise the protocol?

As of now, there is no standard protocol defined for staining, which is necessary to be optimized for replicable results. There are two major steps in this procedure (i) dye enter the cells (ii) dye incorporates with cytoplasmic lipids.
To improve the lipid estimation using fluorescent dyes, there are a number of techniques to optimize the staining conditions, which can be applied to increase the efficacy. For ex: We can use solvents as stain carrier such as ethanol, DMSO, chloroform, acetone etc. to improve permeation issues. But these solvents have the potential to bring variations in fluorescent measurement. Literature studies have also mentioned that repeated use of Nile red in acetone changes the solute concentration. In my lab, I am using DMSO as a solvent carrier as it is efficient for diffusion across the cell membrane.
I will advise you to use solvent concentration 1% to 2%, and all experiments with dye are strictly conducted in dark room. Some researchers advised to use BODIPY but it varies from organism to organism.
To improve the permeation of stain inside the cell wall and poor fluorescence signal, several physical and chemical methods have been advised such as liquid nitrogen.
The maximum fluorescence has been observed in DMSO concentration between 20-25% (v/v). In another approach, lipid staining was increased by multifold times by adding glycerol (0.05g/ml) and keeping the sample in dark shakers for 5 min at 42°C can further increase it. We can also vary the temperature range from 37°C to 50°C
Varied electric field and microwave irradiation have also been exemplified to increase the efficiency, which have shown high fluorescence and low variability. 

Fixation for lipid droplets
Fixation is used to preserve the cell component exactly.  Different methods can be used for fixation like incubating the cell mixture with cold methanol and acetone for 5-10 mins.  Personally, I have used 0.1% osmium tetroxide for 24-48 hours (depends on tissue thickness) after fixing the sample with 10% formalin for 24 hours. Also, the fixation methods will have different results in different cell types.

Things that can be done
·         Optimize the physical and chemical conditions to increase the permeation of dye inside the cell without destroying the host machinery.
·         For ex: optimization of staining and incubation temperature for separate dye in relation to different algae species.
·         Optimization of dyes concentration.
·         Conditions that will only lead to binding of dye only to target molecule i.e., TAG (Triacylglycerol)
The important finding of this article is that lipid staining is the most effective tool for studying the structure of lipid droplets in cells. There is, however, a requirement to optimize the various factors, which could induce certain, changes such fixation strategy, dye concentration and incubation time etc. Thus small chemical and physical changes could indicate the onset of new technology which will aimed to study lipid droplets. 

Judith Rumin, Hubert Bonnefond, Bruno Saint-Jean, Catherine Rouxel, Antoine Sciandra, Olivier Bernard, Jean-Paul Cadoret and Gael Bourgaran.The use of fluorescent Nile red and BODIPY for lipid measurement in microalgae. Biotechnology for biofuels, 8:42,2015

Philip Green Span, Eugene P Mayer, and Stanley D Fowler, Nile red: A selective fluorescent stain for intracellular lipid droplets. The journal of cell biology, Vol 100, March 1985

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Renewable Energy Status in India

With more than 20% of the Indian population or one in every five persons are living without any access to electricity (World Bank Indicator). The Indian government is working on developing various policies to develop renewable energy projects for both investors and land owners who provide their land to public sector for harnessing the energy. According to current power scenario, India has installed 34.35 GW of Renewable energy which produces approximately 7% of electricity. 

Source: MNRE, GoI ; CEA Statistics, GEF National Workshop in India • MNRE 

With the current policies and plans in place, one can be sure that India is on the verge of becoming solar and wind hub. Presently, India has installed the capacity of 22.2 GW of wind energy holding the 5th position globally; and 11th position with the capacity of 3.3 GW of solar energy.  According to various references, India has been expanding its solar network in every sector. For ex : Andhra Pradesh (AP) police department has collaborated with New and Renewable Energy Development Corporation of AP (NREDCAP) to install solar panels at 118 police stations in AP. Various states in India are directing the administration to harness the maximum possible energy from renewable sources. Solar energy has also brought the hope of happiness in the lives of people of Koraput district where villagers have been living in the darkness for decades. Village officials said that people are safe and feel more confident with lights. And it is expected that administration will expand this network in neighbouring remote villages. In the recent, Union budget are planning to give subsidy to farmers to switch to solar water pumps. This will reduce the pressure on farmers to depend on diesel -engine pumpsets and ensures the continuous supply of energy.

Moreover Modi government in its bid to achieve maximum energy through renewable energy, has collaborated with many private and public companies to speed up the process of sustainable development by developing cost effective and energy efficient products. It is estimated that power requirement will be increased by 200% at the end of 2030 (GEF National Workshop in India • MNRE). And Indian government plans to harness approximately 175 GW from renewable sources. Although if the government wants to achieve this target by 2022, it will have to focus strongly on infrastructure, land management, public-private partnership, and land owners. 
One of the biggest issues faced by power sector is the massive financial debt of billion dollars by state utilities which is also preventing them to buy the additional share of renewable energy, despite the favorable policies and subsidies for stakeholders at every level. The government will also face some serious technical challenges in maintaining the solar grids and wind farms as the energy generated from these technologies depend on the climate variations. The Indian government would have to develop robust grids and manage the flexible operation of coal and nuclear plants. 

Considering the status of renewable energy in 2010, the capacity of renewable energy has almost doubled at the end of 2015 financial year. The major key drivers of renewable energy plans in India are supporting the government in its assistance in adapting the inexhaustible sources of energy by providing various incentives. In addition to that government has also attracted various foreign investments in renewable energy projects. 
India has massive unused source of renewable energy which is scalable and suitable to meet the needs of people in rural areas of India. The government of India is trying to achieve the target of harnessing the capacity of 41,400 MW of renewable energy by 2017. It is estimated that renewable market will be nearly 10.51$ billions by the end of 2017 financial year.

According to current statistics, the demand of power is constantly increasing. Also, India is becoming the fastest economy beating China and with key initiatives like “MAKE IN INDIA”, it is expected that India will focus on developing highly diverse network of energy sources of both conventional and unconventional sources. Indian government needs to propose a combination of hybrid technology to satisfy the needs of electricity in both urban and rural regions.

Nikunj Sharma

Friday, 30 October 2015

For the love of Pangong tso

List of abused tourist is long and never ending. People come and enjoy their part and leave with some irreversible damages to the environment. Latest and sad entrant to the list is Pangong tso (tso for lake in Ladakhi). Located in the Himalayas situated at a height of about 4,250 m (13,900 ft) and is 134 km (83.3 mi) long. Most of its part lies in Tibet and is claimed by India.

Once it was featured in mani ratnam’s movie dil se in song satrangi re there was no stopping the affair between Bollywood and Pangong tso. Long gone are the days when only the enthusiasts could make it across the rohtang pass to reach Leh and then to the Pangong lake and gone are the days when you would be alone on the Leh - Manali highway for countless kilometers on your bike. Its appearance in the movie ‘3 idiots’ triggered a tsunami of tourism in this region.

With increased Chinese intrusion in this region it became more important for India to strengthen its claim over this region. As a result the Inner Line Permit (ILP) was abolished and now Indians are free to visit this place without any permission, thus going one step further to trigger that wave of tourism in the region. Where the increased tourism meant more income and better lifestyle for the people of Leh and Ladakh it also meant a huge overload of tourism wastage generated every month. The serene mountains, the shining blue lake never saw so many people in their lifetime.

Although boating is banned in this lake for security reasons, driving big SUVs into the lake for a ‘perfect click’ and littering in and around the lake has worsened the situation for Pangong tso. Never seen hikes in the temperature have been recorded in the area. Today we cannot say that people are not aware enough that they don’t know about the concept of garbage disposal and simple dustbins or simply the term global warming. People have become insensitive towards the need of our environment.

We the people of India need to realize that these tourist destinations are in important source of local as well as global economy,we need to collectively protect them so that our future generations can see them in their true colors and you don’t have to point to a barren piece of land and say that there used to be a beautiful lake here which used to freeze in winters without being salty in nature. Let’s come forward and help Pangong tso to flourish as it has been forever.

Arun Dahiya

Thursday, 15 October 2015


In recent years, the management and mitigation of the various phenomenon brought about by anthropogenic manipulation of the environment has assumed considerable importance. Many countries, including India, have endeavoured to develop innovative techniques to curb environmental degradation and optimize the use of their natural resources. The need for adoption of environmentally sustainable practices has been globally recognized and numerous projects have been developed to that end. Here are a few examples from India and around the world:

Use of Ducks To Treat Grey And Black Water, India
Treatment and management of sewage is a serious issue in India. The average wastewater generated per capita per day in India is around 121 litres. Also , it has been found that around 73% of sewage generated in Indian cities finds its way into rivers and other water bodies sans any treatment. Economic, easy to maintain and sustainable solutions are needed for efficient sewage management in our country and the Indian green service, a trust operating out of Tamil Nadu, has taken a step towards that. Developing an ingenious way to reduce the biological oxygen demand while ensuring aeration, the IGS has used ducks and catfishes to treat the municipal sewage generated at Vellore. The infrastructure consists of five treatment tanks, inhabited by around 150 ducks. The ducks take up all algae, insects, worms and other organic matter as food. This results in increased penetration of sunlight which acts as a natural disinfectant, preventing mosquitoes. The constant paddling action of ducks facilitates increased aeration. After about a month, 10-15 catfishes are introduced in the tanks. These consume the algae on the side walls and other small organisms that escape the ducks. In this manner, 3,00,000 litres of water is recycled each day. In addition to recycled water, the rearing of ducks also results in other commercial gains. Their droppings serve as good source of manure and their eggs are consumable and provide a good source of income.

Rice-Fish Culture
Excessive use of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides results in rampant pollution of the groundwater and rivers in addition to soil degradation. A notable solution to this problem, practiced in rice growing countries like India, China and Bangladesh is Rice-Fish Culture. It involves farmers introducing small, indigenous fish into their rice fields. The fishes provide a source of fertilizer with their droppings, eat pests and help to circulate oxygen around the rice fields while being protected from birds among the dense rice plants. Farmers have reported that keeping fish can increase rice yields up to 10% while also providing an additional supply of fishes. This practice results in better crop yield while significantly reducing the pollution caused by the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Waste Handling And Management, Germany And Singapore
Management of municipal wastes, both solid and liquid, is an uphill task for any growing economy. While most countries struggle with staggering figures and insufficient infrastructure, Germany and the city-state of Singapore lead by example. Power generation and recycling take care of 98% of Singapore's solid waste while only 2% is sent to landfills. Almost 3% of the country's electricity needs are met by its waste-to-energy plants and the recycling rates are at an all-time high of 60%. The European Union has set a target of 50% waste recycling to be achieved by 2020. In Germany, this target has been already met with 62% of their waste being recycled as of 2010. The target for biodegradable municipal waste, set for 2016, was met in 2006. Both Germany and Singapore have displayed exceptional capacities in waste handling by following one simple methodology: reduction in amounts of landfills and a move towards incineration as final disposal. Also, an increased stress reduction and recycling of wastes- looking at disposal as a final option.

Potatoes From Briny Soil, Netherlands
Approximately 70% of the world's freshwater is used by the agriculture industry. Studies have shown that the worldwide salinisation of agricultural land will escalate under the influence of climate change. To combat this issue, the research facility 'Tested on Texel' in Netherlands is testing the possibility of agriculture under salty conditions. The research focuses on cultivation of vegetation, including potatoes, in briny soil. The 'briny potato' has a very rich mineral composition and an exceptionally good taste. Similar projects have been started in Egypt.

Water Square, Netherlands
Only about 50% of the land in the Netherlands exceeds one metre above sea level and most of the area below sea level is manmade. Netherlands is a very densely populated country with insufficient land available to combat the increasing frequency as well as intensity of rains. The idea of water squares was conceived to compensate for the unavailability of land to harvest rainwater. A multifunctional water square has been created in the city of Rotterdam with temporary rainwater catchment area at the square and a special public area for the citizens.

Ajinkya Puranik

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Exotic beaches, a rich heritage, scenic mountains and even a hot air balloon ride over a world’s wonder… Welcome to Incredible India. Earlier people used to buy an air ticket and fly abroad to see and experience these things. But for the last few years domestic tourism has gathered a tremendous growth and more and more Indians are choosing Indian places instead of foreign destinations. From the time immemorial to many people India is considered as a land of rich heritage, culture and history.

Whether it is British, Mughals, Afghans or Portuguese India still blossoms with a touch and mix of these cultures together in one place. This rich culture of India has played such a strong role in rising index of tourism in India that it can be seen from the fact that the Indian government has set up Ministry of tourism and culture. Aim of this ministry is to promote cultural tourism in India. According to the World travel and tourism council tourism generated around 6.4 trillion USD or say 6.6% of nations GDP in 2012. It provides employment to over 39.5 million people and around 7.7% of total employment in the country.

A report by travel and tourism competitiveness states that India stands at 65th place in tourism out of the 144 countries. Moreover India’s receipt from tourism was ranked 17th in the world. So, such a large industry can make a rapid growth if we promote Indian culture and heritage globally. India is the country with unity and diversity. India is a beautiful amalgamation of religions, regions, languages, believes, customs, traditions and even different foods and music. Over the decades and centuries India has preserved its cultural heritage, be it architectural extravagance of its forts, palaces and havelis, or various religious influences as seen in various temples, mosques, churches or gurudwaras, or even traditional folk music and dance.

Considering all this, India is the most preferred place to visit to experience all these diverse things at one place. But there is also a different side to this story. Our environment is taking a big hit with rising tourism. For example the Pangong lake in Ladakh is being polluted at such a rapid rate that the average temperature of that place has risen considerably. With such a blooming industry we need to control its side effects on our environment.

Thus culture can be used as a catalyst in the growth of tourism in India but with a responsibility to control environmental pollution and hence the global warming in the country.

Arun Dahiya