TIFR PhD student wins Sun Pharma Science Scholar Award-2020

Praachi Tiwari is a senior PhD student pursuing her doctoral work under the guidance of Prof. Vidita Vaidya at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. Her work aims to explore the circuits underlying anxiety and depression, and possible therapeutic interventions. She received the prestigious Sarojini Damodaran Fellowship for her collaborative project at Prof. Gal Richter-Levin’s lab in Israel. Praachi has recently been awarded the Sun Pharma Science Scholar award -2020 in the Pharmaceutical Sciences category. Here, Praachi talks about her strategy and planning to win this prestigious award.

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The year 2020 not only came as the year of unfortunate global crisis, but it also marked my penultimate year of PhD tenure at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. While stuck in a pandemic and wondering what will happen next, I focused on consolidating all my work from the previous years for publication. It was around this time that Sun Pharma Science Foundation, whose sole mission is “to promote Medical and Pharmaceutical Research in India by Rewarding Excellence and Identifying Sources of Knowledge and Expertise,” announced the opening of nomination procedures for the Sun Pharma Science Scholar Awards-2020. The nominations were open for all Indians working in India as well as abroad. There are two categories of nominations for the Sun Pharma Science Scholar Award- 1. Bio-medical Sciences, and 2. Pharmaceutical Sciences. My nomination was submitted under the Pharmaceutical Science category.

After assessing initial applications from all participants, a few were shortlisted for the final round to be held via an online platform. Each participant presented their work in front of a panel of jury that consisted of eminent scientists from across the nation. It was remarkable that the five shortlisted participants under the pharmaceutical science category were all women pursuing research in different fields of science In this round, I presented my research work entitled “Chemogenetic excitation and inhibition of forebrain excitatory neurons: Impact on mood behaviors across life span.” My work aimed to understand how G-protein coupled signaling changes in different epochs of life can affect mood-related disorders. Given that the G-protein coupled neurotransmitters are strongly implicated in modulating mood-disorders, exploring the broad role of Gq/Gi signaling in programming mood states can provide insights into the possibility for a potential therapeutic target against such disorders.

Despite the tough competition, there had to be only two winners. I was humbled to be announced as one of them, along with Ms. Dhanashree Surve from BITS Pilani.

Working in the lab.

I have been fortunate enough to be scientifically nurtured and mentored by some truly remarkable scientists. My PhD journey at TIFR under the guidance of Prof. Vidita Vaidya has been a transformational experience that not only helped me in understanding the qualities that a good scientist possesses, but also provided me with the resources and counsel required for inculcating these qualities. This helped me in critically looking at my work, understanding the caveats, the strengths and weakness of my work, the gaps in the literature and how it can be addressed through my work, which eventually allowed me to logically and analytically answer questions asked by the jury.

Sun Pharma Science Foundation is a unique organization that provides an excellent platform for early researchers in basic and translational fields of science to present their outstanding work to the community, and rewarding excellence and expertise. Getting the opportunity to present my PhD research work on such a platform was indeed an incredible experience. Winning the award was an added bonus.

Written by: Praachi Tiwari

Edited by: Vikramsingh Gujar (Copy Editor, Volunteer, Biopatrika)

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