From pipette to pen: My journey in Science journalism

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Nature has always intrigued me. Science, therefore, which provides an opportunity to unravel the hidden treasures of nature has been my favourite subject. My career path was pretty well crafted: a graduation and post-graduation in biological sciences, and a doctorate with specialisation in Molecular Biology. I have enjoyed every second of my life in the lab! I loved everything, from pipetting to making chemical cocktails, looking for tiny beings under the microscope and experimenting with beautiful plants. I have been fortunate to study in the best schools and universities in Delhi, which provided me mentor-ship from excellent teachers.

My PhD supervisor gave me the opportunity to study the role of a tiny molecule called microRNA in governing various plant processes such as leaf development. Recognising the potential of Genetic Modification (GM) technology for addressing the issues of food security, I wrote a competitive research grant in to help design crops that could provide good produce yields even under adverse climatic conditions. I felt empowered when I got a full-fledged fund to carry out the project that was so close to my heart. But what kept me bothering me was the continuing debate around GM technology and resistance from the public to accept them as food.

The ban on GM crops in India made me realise that a revolutionary technology cannot reach its potential if it is not communicated to and is accepted by the public. Towards this goal, I decided to work towards science communication and public engagement to raise public awareness for scientific know-how. However, I faced two major issues to accomplish this task: my jargon-laden language which came from years of training in science and lack of know-how to approach and pitch science news stories to media editors.

Determined to try my hand at science writing, I attended two major workshops: Workshop on Science Journalism for Women in Science organised by National Centre for Biological Science and British Council under the Newton Bhabha Fund* and also a Science writing workshop organised by Current Science. These workshops taught me the essentials of science journalism and improved my writing skills. It also helped me to network with like-minded individuals and apprised me of new opportunities in this field.

My first by-line in Current Science magazine gave me a kick and I decided to write and publish science news stories on a regular basis.

Two years into science communication, and I had contributed almost 70+ science articles published in more than fifteen media platforms – digital and print.

Soon, I decided to work full-time as a science communicator and joined the “Vigyan Prasar”, which is the science communication wing of the Ministry of Science and Technology. My work involves generating ideas for the science TV programme aired on Doordarshan and it gives me intense satisfaction that the programme to which I contribute to, reaches numerous Indians, especially children who would be motivated to study and pursue science, and contribute to building a better future for themselves and the society.

*British Council through the Newton-Bhabha Fund in partnership with IISER Pune has delivered workshops for women scientists on opportunities for widening participation of women in science. The programme aims at providing opportunities for diverse expertise in allied science careers to ease the transition of women in the field of science. Since 2016, the workshops have trained over 300 women scientists, providing access to training and professional development in Science Administration & Management and Science Journalism.

Contributed by Dr Aditi Jain, Science Communicator, Vigyan Prasar, Dept of Science & Technology

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