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Annual Report 2007-2008

Research Training Fellowships For Developing Country Scientists (RTF-DCS)

DST provided an annual grant of Rs. 20 lakhs beginning 2007-2008 FY to Centre for Cooperation in Science & Technology among Developing Societies (CCSTDS) Chennai, a unit promoted by Indian Science Academies & Indian National Scientific Agencies, for execution of 10 Research Training Fellowships to Developing Country Scientists (RTF-DCS) annually.

This program of fellowship is intended for researchers from developing countries- Asia/Africa/Latin America/Arab region who have aptitude for research and are desirous of working in an Indian research / academic institution for 3-12 months time period to equip themselves with research and complementary skills so as to improve their pursuit of PhD study or diversify their research competencies. Each fellowship consists of return international travel cost, board and lodging expenses for period of stay in India and one time grant to allow fellow's exposure to research related events within India and access to scientific litera­ture.

National Selection Committee, at its meeting on Oct. 8, 2007, shortlisted following first set of candi­dates for RTF-DCS Fellowship:

  • Nigerian scientist for bioassay guided investigation of Nigerian medicinal plants in attenuating alu­minium induced neurobehavioral deficit-implication for Alzheimer's disease (at CIMAP Lucknow for 3 months);
  • Nigerian scientist for investigating cerebro and cardio protective properties of extracts of chromolaena ordorata and secundaca longependunculata (at CDRI/ITRC Lucknow for 3 months)
  • Cameroon scientist for investigating antioxidant activity and phytochemical changes occurring during blanching and canning of selected fruits and vegetables (at CFTRI Mysore for 3 months);
  • Sri Lankan scientist for high energy physics related work including utilization of access to CERN-GRID info access for detector simulation related research (a TIFR Bombay for 6 months)

Fast Track Scheme for Young Scientists

FAST track scheme for Young Scientists has evolved as one of the prestigious and popular programmes at the national level. The scheme encourages Young Scientists to take up R&D in innovative and challenging areas that they might have identified during the course of their research work. This has resulted in training of scientific manpower required to meet the challenges in the future. Screening and monitoring mechanism was strengthened further for getting “quality” output from these scientists, thus making them candidates for receiving prestigious awards in national and international forums. Special efforts were made to identify and encourage active young scientists working in institutions in remote areas.

During the current year, sanctions have been issued for 232 new projects costing a total of about Rs. 3030.9 lakhs including 307 ongoing projects in various disciplines. Several projects in frontier areas were supported. This support has helped young researchers to undertake independent research.

Some significant outcome from ongoing projects is given below:

  • In a project on supramolecular chemistry, sulphur-bridged molecular rectangles, selenium-bridged mo­lecular rectangles and manganese based molecular squares were synthesized and characterized. The sulphur bridged molecular rectangles were used for studying molecular recognition properties with aro­matic compounds like anthracene, pyrene, chrysene and benzanthracene. Further studies in this direc­tion are in progress.
  • Several triaza and tetraaza macrocyclic ligands and their complexes with Cu(II) and Ni(II) have ben synthesized. It has been found that the Cu(II) complexes of the triaza macrocyclic ligands mimic the structural part of the “Rotamase Enzymes”. The involvement of the Namide of the quaternary amide group in bonding is a rare observation in the coordination chemistry. The implication of this bonding is the weakening of the C-N bond and subsequent hydrolysis or cleavage of the bond. The Ni11 chemistry of the tetraaza macrocyclic ligands represents the1st case of a detailed study to understand the nickel chemistry in a set of 12-membered macrocyclic ligands. The Ni2+ - Namide bond distances are the shortest among the literature examples and show a very tight bonding.
  • In a project on development of methodologies in solid state NMR, systematic analysis of the existing decoupling schemes, such as continuous wave (CW), two-pulse phase modulation scheme (TPPM) and its variant SPINAL were made. An adiabatic sweep of the modulation frequency in the TPPM pulse scheme framework has been developed (named swept-frequency TPPM, SW-TPPM). This performs better than the existing schemes till a magic-angle spinning (MAS) speed of 20 kHz. More importantly, the sequence has a great robustness with respect to the variation of experimental parameters such as the pulse duration, pulse amplitude, pulse phase and 1H irradiation offset. This attribute makes the experi­mental implementation of this scheme easier. This work has been extended on heteronuclear dipolar decoupling in MAS conditions and certain sequences, namely, SWf tan –TTPM and SWf inv –TPPM schemes were introduced to the study of liquid crystals under static conditions. These sequences were shown to perform much better than the existing schemes with a high degree of robustness. It has also been demonstrated the success of SWf –TPPM decoupling sequence in half-integer spin quadrupolar systems with possible application to improving the resolution of 17O signals coupled to 1H and eluci­dating the O-H hydrogen bond parameters.
  • Several novel receptors for molecular recognition studies have been designed and synthesized. It has been found that fluorescence signal output of anthracene, triphenylamine motifs of the designed recep­tors can be used for selective recognition of dicarboxylic acids; and an alcoholic functional group can be used as hydrogen bond donor in a designed receptor for selective recognition of á-hydroxy and keto acids. This information is expected to help in building up chiral sensors from chiral amino alcohols for chiral recognition. It has also been found that the naphthyridine-based sensor is effective for selective recognition of tricarboxylic acid (e.g. citric acid) and was also able to distinguish diastereomeric fu­maric acid from maleic acid. Another interesting observation is that adenine can be used as hydrogen bonding synthon in the construction of fluororeceptor for dicarboxylic acids.
  • A large number of polymetric materials based on cycloaliphatic systems –polyurethanes, polyamides, poly (ester-amide)s and polyester-polycarbonate blends has been successfully developed. A U.S. Patent has been filed for developing novel melt transurethane process for eco-friendly synthesis of polyure­thanes under solvent free and non-isocyanate conditions. Other important achievement is the develop­ment of self-organization approach to produce polyurethane nano-structures which appeared as a cover page article in J.Polym. Sci. Polym. Chem. 2007, vol. 45, issue-12.

Under Engineering Sciences, during the reporting period the Expert Committee took a conscious deci­sion of supporting candidates without having Doctoral degree if their project has some ‘novel' or ‘unique' idea either in basic research area or in applications oriented research. Under the Engineering Sciences broad area, 62 proposals have been recommended for support out of 161 new proposals considered during the period. These proposals under implementation by Young Engineers and Technologists are in the advanced area of Engineering R&D such as Processing of Aluminum alloys; Development of electronic tongue; Mi­crowave sintering of alloy powders; Arsenic removal by ion exchange process; Intelligent video surveil­lance; Development of nano-composites based engineering polymers; Diversity in radar imaging; Develop­ment of micro-combustors etc.

As a part of the monitoring and review process Group Interaction Workshops (GIW) were organized at reputed Engineering Colleges including National Institute of Technology (NIT). This effort is aimed at widening the net of Engineering Sciences researchers at the root level. During GIWs invited talks by reputed experts are also planned along with talks by the DST official on various schemes of DST.

During the period, 52 ongoing /completed proposals have been reviewed so far as against 45 projects during last Financial Year. The individual projects were rated based on the outcome presented by the indi­vidual scientists. The summary of the ratings is as follows:

Rating No of Proposals

Excellent

1 (ongoing.)

Very Good

25 (14 projects completed, 11 ongoing)

Good

23 (19 projects completed, 4 ongoing)

Satisfactory

3 (3 project completed)

Five PIs who were awarded projects earlier have been chosen for the INAE Young Engineers during the last 2 years. 1 patent application has been filed in a project and 2 patents in 2 other projects are likely to be filed shortly. Several interesting results were reported in Physical, Mathematical and Earth & Atmospheric Sciences.

The studies undertaken under FAST Track scheme (in life sciences area) have led to many interesting observations and results including:

  • Purification and determination of crystal structure of schistain and heterodimer disintegrin molecules isolated from the venom of saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus). It has a novel form of closing at one end and diverging at the other. The achievement assume significance considering its application in develop­ing useful framework for the design of synthetic polypeptides as potent antagonists of integrins, which are implicated in a number of important biological processes such as angiogenesis, tumor invasion, inflammatory responses, platelet aggregation and tissue repair. The study has given lead to develop potent anti-cancer and anti-thrombotic agents.
  • Considerable gender differences exist between relationship of GH-IGF-1 axis and body composition. Fasting GH levels showed inverse correlation with VAT area in both genders IGF-1 levels correlated inversely with BMI, %BF and truncal body fat in women only. IGFBP-1 levels showed significant inverse relationships with measures of generalized obesity and abdominal fat distribution in both gen­ders, the relationships being stronger in men. Fasting insulin showed significant correlation with ab­dominal fat distribution in women only, the relationship being strongest with SQAT. Insulin and HOMA correlated positively with TNF-á in both genders, but the relationship was significant only in men, indication that sub-clinical inflammation may have a role in the genesis of insulin resistance. This is the first study to evaluate the influence of –308 G/A polymorphism of TNF-á gene on measures of body composition in Asian Indians. The TNF-á protein levels were not different in the presence or absence of polymorphism. The measures of generalized and abdominal obesity, abdominal fat distribution, lipid parameters and measures of insulin resistance did not differ in the presence or absence of TNF-ene polymorphism studied. The study is based on the data obtained from 171 subjects (95 males and 76 females).
  • Determination of the crystal structure of the Entamoeba histolytica calcium binding protein-1 (EhCaBP1) at 2.4Å resolution. Two of the four expected EF hand motifs could only be modeled into the electron density map. The studies revealed that unlike CaM, the first two EF hand motifs in EhCaBP1 are con­nected by a long helix and form a dumbbell shaped structure. Owing to domain swapping oligomeriza­tion, three EhCaBP1 molecules interact in a head to tail manner to form a triangular trimer. This arrange­ment allows the EF-hand motif of one molecule to interact with that of an adjacent molecule to form a two EF-hand domain similar to that seen in the N-terminal domain of the NMR structure of CaBP1, calmodulin (Figure 4.1) and troponin C. The oligomeric state of EhCaBP1 results in reduced flexibility between domains and may be significantly responsible for the more limited set of targets recognized by EhCaBP1. Thus the trimeric state observed in the crystal structure is the most probable functional and natural state of the protein compared to the monomeric form found in the NMR structure. These crystal­lographic and biochemical findings expand the range of structural diversity observed for the EF hand family and suggests its essentiality for target recognition and specificity.


Figure 4.1: A superposition of CaM on trimer of EhCaBP1 revealing the
similarity of the assembled domain to CaM N-terminal domain.

Assistance for Participation in International Conferences

The objective of the scheme is to provide travel assistance to the Indian Scientists working in educa-tional/academic institutions and National R&D laboratories enabling them to participate in the International Conferences/Workshops etc. This provides an opportunity to the Indian scientists to interact with their for­eign counterparts which enable them to present their findings and results at an International level for a better peer reviewing.

During the current year, 1253 candidates supported out of total number of 3746 applications received up to 31st December, 2007. Out of this, about 389 young scientists were supported towards travel grants to participate in International Conferences/Workshops, training programme etc. Some of the outstanding sci­entists were given 100% travel grants as a very special case. Some of the important conferences were International Conference on Materials for Advanced Technologies, IUGG General Assembly, Solid State Dosimetry, Fluid Dynamics Conference & Exhibition, Meeting of Nuclear Medicine, International Confer­ence on Plasma Science, International Chemical Conference etc.

Probe-Pilot Program

  • Uttaranchal PROBE (U-PROBE)

Under this program, new project has been initiated in Himachal Pradesh and Technical Resource Center has been established at Regional Center of GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment & Development (GBPIHED) in Himachal Pradesh at Mohall, Kullu Distt. Program Advisory & Monitoring Committee on U-PROBE (UPAMC) met under the chairmanship of Prof. V. R. Gowariker on 15 th May, 2007 to review the progress of the project and future action plan to be adopted after the completion of the project March, 2008.

  • NCR-PROBE

In addition, the Expert Committee on NCR-PROBE met under the chairmanship of Prof. B. L. Deekahstulu on 15 th February, 2007. On the recommendation of Expert Committee two new Technical Resource Centers at Jamia Hamdard University/Department of Physics and Indian Environmental Society, New Delhi were established. A Teachers' Training Workshop for Teachers of participating schools was held at IIT Delhi, in addition to Awareness programmes conducted in several schools. An Inaugural workshop for Nanotechnology in Schools was also held.

  • PROBE-Orissa

Under PROBE-Orissa, the three Technical Resource Centers were established at (a) Organization for Social Change and Rural Development (OSCARD), Bhubaneswar, Orissa; (b) Action Research for Health and Socio-economic Development (ARHSED), Patnagarh, Boolangir Distt., Orissa; (c) SUPRATIVA, Cuttack, Orissa.

A project to impart training to the trainers of various schools and TRCs has been funded in IMMT (RRL, Bhubneswar).

Empowering Youth Through Geo-Informatics & Participation For Local Area Development (Eygiplad)

A collaborative programme, “Empowering Youth through Geo-Informatics & Participation for Local Area Development (EYGIPLAD)” has been developed in collaboration with the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS). Goal of the programme is to enable the youth to utilize the technologies of Geo-Informatics in local problem solving and build the capacity of the rural youth in modern technologies related to watershed management.

Under the programme, five blocks in different zones of the country has been identified which have NRDMS activities, under Rashtriya Sadbhavana Yojna (RSY) programme of NYKS and having develop­mental priority of the District authority. Three levels of training have been imparted to selected NYKS volunteers in awareness about Geo-Informatics, application of Geo-Informatics in watershed management and in spatial information generation for Watershed Management. As a result village and watershed level spatial resources profiles have been developed by the volunteers (Figures 4.2 & 4.3).

Figure 4.2: A participatory mapping of the Theirait village, LungleiFigure 4.3: Route map prepared through GPS survey
in Almora

Awareness Programmes - Geo-Informatics Applications

Ten Training programmes in the area of Remote Sensing and GIS applications have been supported to various participating agencies in the programme. The focus of the training courses was to apprise the partici­pants with the state of the art technology in Remote Sensing and Geographical Information System. Efforts were also made to provide hand on training with specific exercises with a view to ensure the interest and adoptability of such technologies by the participants in their day to day work culture

A critical mass of personnel in stakeholder/ user organisations need be exposed to the emerging tools/ technologies being developed under NRDMS Programme. Training and user awareness thus form an important component of the Programme's activities. A training workshop was conducted at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay on ‘Schema Generator Utility' on 16-17 April 2007 (Figure 4.4) to enable scientists and GIS practitioners develop spatial databases from Geography Mark up Language (GML) Application Schema and related geo-spatial data. It has been decided to set up A ‘Centre of Excellence on Geo-Information Science & Technology' at Kerala University, Thiruvananthapuram with the active support of Kerala S & T Council to promote research and conduct training in frontier areas of Geo-Information Science & Technology.


Figure 4.4: Training session on ‘Schema Generator Utility’ at IIT Bombay (16-17 April 2007)

Science Olympiad Programme

The Indian teams again performed very well in the International Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology Olympiads. The medal tally this year was as follows: in Mathematics : 3 Silver and 3 Honourable Mention; in Physics : 2 Gold, 2 Silver and 1 Honourable Mention; in Chemistry : 2 Gold, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze; and, in Biology : 1 Gold, 3 Silver medals.

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