The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) awarded its highest award for research, The Doreen Margaret Mashler Award for 2018, to two Indian scientists—Dr Mamta Sharma and Dr Pooja Bhatnagar-Mathur—for their work in the fields of plant pathology and biotechnology, respectively.
In the future, if crops become disease resistant and produce a greater yield, we will have to thank Dr Mamta Sharma for her efforts. In 2017, she led the team that developed the Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) method to identify a pathogen affecting the chickpea crop and over 500 other crops, globally.
She also established the Center of Excellence on Climate Change Research for Plant Protection to address the effects of climate change on insect pests and diseases.
Speaking about the award, Dr Sharma said, “The next few decades will see the introduction of cutting-edge technology in science and lead to huge opportunities in India. If youngsters pursue a career in science with focus, perseverance and planning, they can become leaders of innovation and address the unmet needs of the country.”
Dr Pooja Bhatnagar-Mathur’s research is equally impressive. Using innovative biotechnology solutions, Dr Pooja reduced the production of aflatoxin—a toxic compound produced by certain moulds, in groundnuts, and also made the plant more resistant to fungal infection.
She also worked towards the successful isolation and characterisation of the gene responsible for cytoplasmic male sterility in pigeon pea. As a result, ICRISAT filed its first ever patent in 2016-17.
Dr Pooja’s advice to budding scientists is, “Building supportive professional and personal networks is critical, but it is equally important is to know how research funding flows and works to deliver on your mission.”
The Doreen Margaret Mashler Award is an endowment by Dr WT Mashler and was instituted in the memory of his wife. Dr Mashler was the Chairman of ICRISAT’s Governing Board for three years and instrumental in its founding in 1972.
The awards will be presented to the duo during the ICRISAT Governing Board meeting in 2018. Kudos to the two scientists for their exemplary achievement!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)