The Gandalf life-the thoughts of an exam invigilator


none shall cheat

Being a fresh professor, just out of the Post-Doc oven, i was quite excited about my FIRST-EVER invigilation duty with a conviction that no cheat shall pass my hawk-eye.

On the anticipated morning, as soon as I entered the examination hall, i could sense the eagerness in the students. they know me! Some of them knew it would be detrimental to look anywhere else but the sheet because I embodied the invigilator that comes with a sense of finding the truth. To be absolutely sure, I wiped my glasses vigorously with the end of my cotton shirt. I scanned the examination hall very carefully. Visibly excited, I felt the surge of a super power that could see right through the students, to the core of their souls and judge if this student is worthy or unworthy of giving an exam (which most probably does not matter in the long run anyways). Feeling this way, I instinctively thought about Gandalf – the righteous old fool from Lord of the Rings. Ever so watchful, ever so powerful, being a decision maker of a perhaps not so significant exam!

While scanning through the students, my good sense told me that there are most probably 3 types of ‘examinees’.

The first category (just like every gradation, where you start from the top and expect it to be the cream of the lot, I will be as cliched as possible) consists of students that wrote, wrote and wrote and never looked up till the last minute. I assumed that these students have been studying all day long (or better all year long), waiting for this day to show their mettle and as soon as they looked at the paper, realized that they have all the answers and decided to make use of the three hours they got, acquiring the gratification of a great test (for how long, I don’t know).

The second category looked at me as I passed, perhaps afraid, perhaps collecting their thoughts before they wrote. This was a rather peculiar batch. Although I wanted to do a body scan and check every student, I resisted the impulse of frisking each one of them. Every time I passed by such a student, he/she fidgeted. But as is in the court of law, according to the presumption of innocence, everyone charged with a penal offense (here, cheating) is presumed innocent until proven guilty. So, I had to delay these very specific activities till I could notice an abnormal twitch on the innocent.

and then was the third category. The ingenious cheats that never got caught, doesn’t matter how much I looked. They had mastered the art of deception at such an early age, the future managers, leaders and what not! Those were the ones (in my imagination) that cheated as soon as I turned.

I came up with an original idea (pun intended). I so perceptively strategized that If I were to sit at an empty desk, just as a student, I could camouflage myself and wait for that one invigilator moment! Unfortunately , I was unsuccessful and the 1 hour exam time passed peacefully (dreadful moment as an invigilator).

Update: With three exams down and no cheat caught either I am a poor invigilator or the students are honest

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Another place, another time, another me


starting a new phase of life with positivity and motivation, like a true scientist.


Hi guys, ūüôā

I have some good news for you. I have finally transitioned from my Post-Doc phase to a teaching position (associate professorship) at a leading research University (Shoolini University) in India. Not that I did not enjoy my Post-Doc, but after 4 years of ‘Post-docking’, I felt a need to move to the next stage and honestly, I am in a great phase of my life- starting my own research group, coming back to my own country, living near my father and all this while living amidst beautiful mountains of Himalayas away from the pollution (both noise and air) of a big metropolitan. My apartment, as well as the University, are both nestled in lower Himalayas. Every day I wake up to birds chirping and early morning view of the opposite mountain. While at work, my walks from our one department to the other yields a view to behold.

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View from balcony

I am calmer, sharper and happier at the same time!

although I have a little bit less time right now, I will try to keep you updated as much as possible. I will soon publish the next experiment in ‘curiosity series’ to keep you hungry and motivated for science.

WhatsApp Image 2019-02-22 at 8.15.37 AMEarly morning view from Shoolini University

Arsenic exposure in India- What’s in your drinking water!


Arsenic exposure is on rise in India, making it crucial to discuss the adverse effects of arsenic poisoning in the human body.


Arsenic (As), our topic of interest today, is a chemical element found in many minerals. It usually occurs in trace quantities in all rocks, soil, water and air. As¬†is currently classified as groundwater contaminant in many parts of South-East Asia including many parts of India. According to WHO guidelines, the permissible As¬†level in drinking water is 0.01 mg/l (10 őľg/l). WHO has recognized¬†As¬†as a major health concern in these areas. The states in and around the Ganga-Brahmaputra Fluvial plains i.e.¬†West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Chhattisgarh are considerably affected.¬† ¬†

Arsenic exposed states

Figure 1 Map of India with the states in and around Ganga-Brahmaputra Fluvial plains indicated! The image was generated using viz.socialcops.com

Currently, WHO has warned that the long-term intake of As-contaminated groundwater causes Arsenicosis which can lead to cancer of skin, bladder, kidney and lung and disease. Arsenicosis also causes inhibition of essential enzymes, in extreme cases, resulting in multi-system organ failure and death. The common symptoms of Arsenicosis include skin discolourations and hard patches on palms and soles. In some cases, discolouration of blood vessels of legs and feet may also occur. Recent scientific evidence also suggests an association between the intake of As-contaminated water and onset of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Reproductive disorders are also implicated. 

arsenicosis

Figure 2 Classical skin discoloration and hard patches on palms and soles with arsenicosis. The image is taken from the UNICEF report on countrywide arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh in the early 1990s.

The inorganic forms of As, As (III) and As (V), are highly toxic (As (III) being the most toxic) and lead to chronic toxicity. Methylated As are also highly toxic. Other than the natural sources that result in As leaching from sediments and soils, industrial processing, wood preservatives, acid mine drainage and burning of fossil fuels increase As levels in water. When smaller amounts of As are ingested, it is excreted through urine. However, larger amounts accumulate inside the human body and lead to adverse effects as discussed above. 

Recent reports of As exposure in the Indian subcontinent

As discussed above, people living in and around the GangaBrahmaputra Fluvial plains are at risk of As poisoning. Proximity to Bangladesh, an already As-exposed country, should be noted. Reporting of cases of As poisoning are on the rise. In the reference section, you will find some news articles reporting new Ascases (as new as 2017). Due to the location, Bihar is the most affected state (see the news article). 

What can we do?

Unfortunately, you can not remove As¬†from drinking water by common methods. Boiling water actually concentrates As¬†as it evaporates. Reverse osmosis (RO) is able to remove As¬†from drinking water although the water may require pre-treatment if it is muddy. In affected regions, it may become crucial to remove As¬†using RO filter technology to reduce the chronic on-going As¬†exposure.¬† As many of these parts come under ‘poor to very poor’ category, the water treatment should be done at the treatment plant as it may not be possible for poor people to remove As¬†from water on their own.

While As is present in small quantities in the freshwater sources, it is unclear at this time as to what are the exact industrial sources which are responsible for increasing As levels to such harmful amounts. Well-organized studies will be needed to assess the sources and to restraint the activities.

References

  1. Image for arsenicosis–¬†https://www.unicef.org/bangladesh/wes_385.htm
  2. Guidelines for drinking water quality, 4th edition, WHO, 2011 –¬†http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/254637/9789241549950-eng.pdf;jsessionid=437B74206E9107228E8933548ED67DE4?sequence=1
  3. NEWS article resources for As- 1.poisoning- https://edition.cnn.com/2017/04/28/health/arsenic-water-pollution-cancer-india/index.html 2.https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/19-of-indians-drink-water-with-lethal-levels-of-arsenic/articleshow/62226542.cms 3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3719954/ 4. https://scroll.in/pulse/835431/ignored-arsenic-contamination-in-bihars-water-has-led-to-an-explosion-of-cancer
  4. If you are interested in reading in more detail, go to WHO website. 

Airborne Particulate Matter (PM2.5) Adverse Health Effects


Hi guys, I recently blogged about pm2.5, important to know when thinking about air pollution. if you are wondering about what is pm2.5, it may be a good read. For the ones, who would like to check it out, here is the link-

https://aidindia.org/airborne-particulate-matter-pm2-5-adverse-health-effects/

Misunderstood


While sitting at my newly arranged desk and raring to take on the next project I have in mind, I end up discussing with a colleague how I have been misunderstood many a times by my relatives, my parents, my friends and my boyfriend. Let’s say, every move to explain what I do as a scientist has been not exactly successful. Putting me in an alien zone that cannot be shared with the people I most care about. Alienating me from conversations that everyone enjoys.

So here comes my attempt to bring people together from every walk of life so that they can enjoy science too. Science is serious, funny, exciting, boring all at the same time. It is a way of life just like all the others ways and for me equivalent to my daily needs. If I do not at least think about or understand some part of life by using science, I feel incomplete. With this blog, I will attempt to share my views, my daily rants and some exciting science ideas going around in the world. Some days when I have more time, I will tell you what happened and some days when the schedule is tight, I will share a few lines. I hope people will start looking at us ‚Äėthe scientists‚Äô as fellow human beings and appreciate our really human natures.