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Young Achievers

Madan Babu Mohan

Madan Babu Mohan
Success sits lightly on the shoulders of young Chennai-based scientist, Dr. Madan Babu Mohan (25), the youngest recipient of the prestigious Max Perutz prize for outstanding research conducted at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, UK in October last year.

"The focus of my research is study of molecular proteins within living cells which dominate cell function. Proteins exhibit differing dominant characteristics at various times. Understanding the behaviour of molecular proteins and discerning a pattern can help in the identification and tabulation of harmful bacterial pathogens within cells. This knowledge can assist in prevention and eradication of deadly diseases," explains Mohan.

Madan’s interest in biology was kindled by an inspiring high school biology teacher at the M.C.T.M Higher Secondary School, Chennai. And when biotechnology was introduced in the class XI curriculum of the state board exams, it paved the way for further studies in the subject. After passing the class XII exam with flying colours, he joined the Centre for Biotechnology at Anna University in May 2001 and graduated with a first rank and gold medal in industrial biotechnology.

Though India’s tertiary education system is under severe criticism for dumbing down academic standards, Mohan believes there are "islands of academic excellence" which are committed to contemporisation of Indian science, and scientists. Among them, the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science (est. 1909) and the Indian Academy of Sciences (est. 1934). While still an undergraduate, Mohan was a ‘Young Fellow’ at the Indian Institute of Science for three years and was also awarded a summer research fellowship at the Indian Academy of Sciences.

The strong foundational education in biology and biotechnology that Mohan availed has certainly stood him in good stead. He was awarded the LMB-Cambridge fellowship to research computational genomics at the MRC-LMB/ University of Cambridge and completed his doctoral thesis in three years (October 2004). Coterminously he was awarded several other prizes and fellowships from foreign universities including the ISCB Student Award to attend RECOMB 2002 in the US. Currently this young scientist is in India on a short vacation following completion of an assignment as visiting fellow at the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) affiliated with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA.

Madan attributes his achievements to the strong support of his parents, teachers and faculty in foreign unive-rsities. He has a message for students: "Identify what interests you and pursue it without being unduly influenced by your peers. It’s important to always look for opportunities, to communicate with people with similar interests and move ahead," he says. "There is so much to be done. The question of what determines cell size and shape is, as yet, unanswered and I plan to answer it one day," he says adding that he is keen to return to India to continue his scientific research.

Hemalatha Raghupathi (Chennai)

Aditi Sharma

Aditi Sharma
Petite Aditi Sharma, (22) is the winner of Zee Television’s ‘India’s best cinestar ki khoj’ contest. On November 23 she bested 80 other contestants in a first-of-its-type national talent hunt contest and qualified to receive her award from matinee idol Hrithik Roshan. "Imagine he sounded the clapper for my first shot and told me that he was looking forward to working with me," she says, awestruck.

Beneath a cool, laid-back and carefree exterior, this commerce graduate of Delhi’s Sri Venkateshwara College who schooled in Lucknow’s City Montessori School, is a determined woman who wants to do "serious cinema which will broadcast a social message". This makes her equally clear about the type of roles she’ll turn down. "I will never do a film like Murder. After winning the contest I was forced to do a lot of introspection. To that extent the contest was a journey of self discovery. I have become quite clear about what is purposive cinema and what are my values," says Sharma.

Another discovery she made as she manfully progressed through three rounds of the contest and several interviews was that contemporary cinema requires intelligence apart from a pleasing persona. "I believe it was my intelligent replies to questions put to me that made the difference," says Sharma, who particularly savours her win because it came after she had been voted out. She had started preparing for the MBA entrance exam when Gajendra Singh, producer of the show called to say they wanted her as a stand by. "I was reluctant but my parents advised me against rejecting a second chance. Even my 16-year-old brother offered words of encouragement when I was down," recalls Sharma.

Looking to the future, she has her road map ready. Her first Bollywood flick will be the Zee TV produced Race, in which she stars with Sarwar Ahuja, winner of the male category in the cinestar contest. "For the next ten years I will concentrate on acting in movies and television. I hope to leave my mark on the world’s largest movie industry and emerge as a role model to youth. After that I’ll be experienced enough to graduate to directing, scripting or production," she says sagely.

Lights! Camera, action!

Vidya Pandit (Lucknow)

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