Dreams do come true when you grab the opportunities that come by. Srikanth Somarouthu, a BTech final year student from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, SRM University-AP, Andhra Pradesh, gets placed as a software engineer with Infoedge. This extreme moment of happiness with a prestigious company offering an incredible CTC is the result of the persistent mentoring he received during his studies at university.

Srikant has been preparing for a year to perfectly fit the company’s recruitment process. He underwent rigorous training programmes conducted by the Department of Corporate Relations and Career Services. Mock tests were conducted at regular intervals with industry experts to polish his coding and aptitude skills. In addition to this, separate sessions by Career Development Centre (CDC) were carried out to develop his soft skills to qualify for the final interview rounds.

“I sincerely express my gratitude towards the Department of CR and CS, SRM-AP, for conducting a well-planned training programme both on theoretical and practical levels,” said Srikant. “The University played a major role in providing me with opportunities to participate in competitive programmes and offered a global standard curriculum that has shaped my career. SRM University-AP has prepared me with practical knowledge right from the inception of the UG course. I am thankful to the faculty members of my department who guided and encouraged me to embark into the field. The nurture and guidance that I received from the University have given me ample confidence to be competitive enough and grab the Super dream offer”, he added.

Mr Vivekanandan, Assistant Director, Corporate Relations and Career Services, said, “We always looked for the best opportunities for our students. The talent exhibited by the CSE students during the internships, projects, curriculum and extra-curriculum activities naturally drew the best recruiters to SRM University-AP.”

Dr Imran Pancha, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, has recently published a paper titled “Deep eutectic solvents and Ionic liquid assisted hydrolysis of microalgal biomass: A promising approach towards sustainable biofuel production” in the celebrated Journal of Molecular Liquids (2021): 116264 (Impact Factor-5.065). The study was conducted in association with Akshay Kulshrestha, Sandhya Mishra, and Arvind Kumar from CSIR-CSMCRI

Microalgae is recently considered one of the promising biomasses for the production of renewable energy such as biodiesel and bioethanol. Microalgae are tiny photosynthetic organisms that utilise atmospheric CO2, water and sunlight to produce carbohydrates and lipids, which can be converted into renewable fuels. Compared to higher plants, microalgae is a good platform for bioethanol production as they do not contain any lignin in their cell composition, which makes pre-treatment for biomass hydrolysis easy. In the present study, Dr Pancha and his team explored the use of green solvents ionic liquids (ILs) and deep eutectic solvents (DESs) for microalgal hydrolysis. They observed that among the eight tested ionic liquids, ethyl ammonium nitrate (EAN) resulted in the highest saccharification yield of 95.5%. Whereas, among hydrophobic deep eutectic solvents, menthol: lactic acid (Me: LA) exhibited the highest saccharification yield of 85.7% and also did not require any additional high temperature or other pre-treatments for biomass hydrolysis, indicating as the potential solvent system for microalgal biomass hydrolysis. Overall, the present study results indicated that the identified IL and DES could be used as a green and sustainable alternative for the pre-treatment of microalgal biomass for bioethanol production.

Due to limited fossil fuel reserve as well as environmental issues like high greenhouse gas emission and other environmental problems, finding green and sustainable energy resource is of prime importance for today’s world. To solve this problem, microalgae are among the best resources for producing renewable resources due to it’s high growth rate and photosynthetic ability. Microalgae also have the ability to obtain nutrients from various wastewater, so they also do not require fresh water for cultivation. However, commercial-scale production of microalgae-based biofuels faces various problems such as cultivation cost, downstream processing for biofuel production etc. In this regard, in the present work, Dr Pancha demonstrated the use of ILs and DESs for pre-treatment of microalgal biomass for reducing sugar production, which can be further utilised to produce bioethanol.

Dr Pancha and his research group are further devoted to understanding the molecular mechanism behind the accumulation of energy reserved compounds in the microalgae and developing a sustainable biorefinery process to extract biofuels and other industrially relevant compounds from single microalgal biomass.

Read the full paper: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.molliq.2021.116264

Physics student files patent

Ms Sreelekha Bhuvaneswari, a BSc physics final year student, in SRM University AP, Andhra Pradesh, filed a patent for her work titled “A fibre material with moisture retention capacity with thermal tolerance and a method for manufacture” under the guidance of Dr Sabyasachi Mukhopadhyay, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, SRM University-AP.

The project, with the patent application number 202141023375, develops a methodology to design a fabric cloth that would replace the use of air conditioners. This cloth design is inspired by Saharan silver ants which regulate their body temperatures in the scorching desert heat and also from the cooling properties of clay. This research would significantly scale down the usage of AC and other cooling devices in warm places, thus reducing the use of electricity and emission of greenhouse gases to the environment. As this cloth would be environment friendly with long durability and cost-efficiency, Sreelekha hopes that this research would bridge the socioeconomic divide of haves and have-nots between communities.

“I am grateful to Dr Sabyasachi sir for his constant help and guidance along the way. There were several failed models, but he believed in the concept and that inspired me to go forward with the project,” said Ms Bhuvaneswari. “The facilities at the University made the process seamless; once the proposal was made, the procedure was automated. I thank the officials of SRM University-AP for believing in my proposal and helping me get through the procedures smoothly. If it were not for the facilities available at my university, I could not have finished the design,” She added.

A scientific research paper has been published by Dr Lakhveer Singh, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, SRM University-AP.

“The Role of Conductive Nanoparticles in Anaerobic Digestion: Mechanism, Current Status, and Future Perspectives”, published in the Chemosphere Journal, discusses in detail the application of conductive nanoparticles to enhance the AD process efficiency and the interaction between microbes in anaerobic conditions for electron transfer with the help of CNPs. Application of a variety of conductive nanomaterials as an additive is discussed with their potential biogas production and treatment enhancement in the anaerobic digestion process. The Impact factor of the journal is 5.77.

Dr Singh is an Editorial Board member of the Journal of Biomass Conversion and Biorefinery – Springer (I.F. 2.60) and a Guest Editor for Bioresource Technology Reports- Elsevier. His future research targets to reduce the component costs and test the proposed design using real waste streams, as well as continue to increase the reactor volume.

Read the full paper here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.130601

Dr. Satyajit Gupta (PI), IIT Bhilai, and Dr Sabyasachi Mukhopadhyay (Co-PI), Department of Physics, SRM University-AP has signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the DST (Indo-Israel Joint Research Co-operation-IIJRC) sponsored project entitled “A HALIDE PEROVSKITE BASED PHOTOANODE FOR OXYGEN EVOLUTION REACTION USING A MOLECULAR DIODE IN A HYBRID NANOMETER SCALE PROTECTION LAYER”, Sanction Order NO. – DST/INT/ISR/P-28/2020(G). The project is a bilateral project and Foreign PI is Dr Eran Edri, Department of Chemical Engineering, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. This MoU will help Dr Mukhopadhyay to utilize the fund under this project as co-PI, and the facility of IIT Bhilai to complete the objective of the project.

The Objectives of the MoU are to promote effective application of resources through Indo-Israel Joint Research Co-operation-(IIJRC) sponsored project, promote mentorship and research guidance, and cooperate in educational/research areas of mutual interest. It also aims to promote international collaborations through International travel of Party, hosting International delegates, and through a student exchange programme between Indian Institute/Universities and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.

The MoU will provide a platform to share and exchange Best Practices, and facilitate exchange programmes for students. Dr Satyajt Gupta and Dr Sabyasachi Mukhopadhyay will provide training and development for students working under this joint project.

Ms Vasika Venugopal, a final year BSc Biology student at SRM University-AP has secured awe-inspiring admissions in a number of eminent higher education institutions inside and outside India. She is selected for the Master’s programme at the University of Tübingen, Germany; Charité -Universitätmedizin Berlin, Germany; University of Wuerzburg, Germany; Goethe-University, Frankfurt, Germany; University of Paris-Saclay, Paris, France; University of Bordeaux, Talance, France; Université de Paris, Paris, France; and for an Integrated PhD degree at National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bangalore. She was also shortlisted in the following Universities viz Ludwig Maximilians Universität München, Germany (MSc Molecular and Cellular Biology); Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea; University of Bonn, Germany (MSc Neuroscience); JNCASR, Bengaluru (Integrated PhD Biological Sciences); and IISER, Pune (Integrated PhD Biological Sciences).

Here’s an exclusive interview with Ms Vasika Venugopal:

Hi Vasika, can you tell us how you developed your interest in neuroscience?
For as long as I could remember, I have held a deep-rooted interest in neuroscience. The brain is one of the finest examples of synergy. It has always baffled me that the stream of thoughts that we call consciousness could arise from a series of neurons firing action potentials from one point to another. The entire world around us is reconstructed only using receptors on neural tissue and neurotransmitters. In our head, we house a mere handful of a mass of cells, but “it can contemplate the meaning of infinity, and it can contemplate itself, contemplating the meaning of infinity.” I find that quite ironic and miraculous at the same time. When we look at the parts of the brain, we expect nothing magnificent to arise from it, but the magnitude of emotions we feel, thoughts that we manifest, and memories that we recall are all testament to something more. This is why I have chosen to pursue Neuroscience.

What is your motivation for choosing the University of Bordeaux, France among all other Universities?
After a period of deliberation, I have finally decided to accept the admission offer into the Bordeaux International Masters in Neuroscience Program at the University of Bordeaux, France. This international Master’s program provides a unique interdisciplinary and integrated training approach that covers all major topics of brain research, from normal brain functions to brain disorders. Neuroscience in Bordeaux has grown over the last 15 years to become one of the largest Neuroscience scientific communities in France and in Europe, with over 600 people working in the various Neuroscience laboratories of the University of Bordeaux. In order to meet the most important challenges facing Neuroscience research, all these laboratories are grouped within a virtual institute, called the Bordeaux Neurocampus, a multidisciplinary consortium of world-renowned scientists. Bordeaux Neurocampus offers, together with our international academic partners, excellent opportunities for traineeships.

Is there any scholarship offered in the University where you are enrolling into?
One of the key points of the program is that students are offered scholarships based on their performance. As for my admission, I am eligible for a partial tuition fee waiver. Students completing their traineeship in a laboratory of the University of Bordeaux receive a monthly stipend during the traineeship as well.

Can you brief the application process for those students who dream to study abroad?
In general, for applications to universities in France, you would have to apply through the Campus France website. However, for the universities that I had applied to, such as the University of Paris, the University of Bordeaux, and the University of Paris-Saclay, one could directly apply to the program itself. The application process is pretty simple, and you would require only basic documents such as an ID, academic transcripts, a bonafide certificate issued from the university, a proof of English proficiency, a letter of motivation, reference letters, your curriculum vitae, etc. I have written the DELF examination for French, and possess certifications from Alliance Francais. I believe this would also be helpful for other students as well. The search for programs in English might be exhaustive, and one might have to go through a university’s website before applying as some of the modules might be in French. Following applications, one would have to undergo interviews with the admission board, which is honestly the scariest part, and depending on your performance and application, your admission is decided. In the case of most German universities that I had applied to, I had to submit my application with the basic documents through the university website and was called for an entrance exam if my application was shortlisted. If my performance in the entrance exam was satisfactory, I would then be called for a minimum of one interview, and a maximum of two. In some cases, like the University of Wurzburg, you would also have to present your research work in a 10-minute presentation and defend your hypothesis through the questioning round that follows. Honestly, this part is very exciting! As a whole, the application process is intensive, but it is an opportunity for you to grow your network and learn to think in ways you haven’t before. I am still in contact with most of the professors that had interviewed me, and talking to different people has honestly helped grow my sphere, which has been hard due to the pandemic.

Amazing! Can you talk about the support that you have received from your department at SRM-AP during these application processes?
Throughout the rigorous processes of applications, professors from the Department of Biological Sciences were extremely helpful. Dr Manjunatha Thondamal’s knowledge of the French education system and his relentless aid in modifying my letter of motivation were extremely helpful. Prof Jayaseelan Murugaiyan and Dr Imran Pancha were incredibly patient with the number of recommendation letters they had to write for my applications. Each of them took their own time to help me pick universities and courses, discussing their pros and cons along the way. I have received a lot of support and advice from my department throughout my time at SRM for my education, internships, projects, and Master’s application, and I’ll always be grateful for that.

Student Interview: Gadupudi Gowtham
Q: Hi Gowtham, could you elaborate on the master’s program that you are being enrolled in?
A: Sure. M1 Life Sciences and Health – International Track – France, is a Master’s Program in the University of Paris-Saclay, France. I am enrolled in this research-driven multidisciplinary Master’s Program of two semesters that will nurture my research interests and can help me develop individual research trajectories.

Q: Please explain how this course is multidisciplinary.
A: This Master’s program is divided into three parts. During the first part of the program, all students are required to study Core Courses that address key concepts and challenges in the following basic fields of Life Sciences and Health. In the second part of the program, students can choose among a wide range of Elective Courses according their academic and career development goals. The third part is Research training which includes 4-week laboratory rotation period + 8-week internship.

Q: Had you applied to any other University?
A: Along with this university, I have also applied for Master of Science, Molecular Biology and Evolution (MAMBE) at the Christian – Albrecht University of Kiel, Kiel, Germany, and some other universities. MAMBE is an international program, taught entirely in English, and it is based on the fruitful collaboration with the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön. Together with further collaborations (with the Leibniz Science Campus EvoLUNG (Evolutionary Medicine of the Lung), and also the Collaborative Research Centre 1182, Origin and Function of Metaorganisms), it specifically combines the areas of evolution and molecular biology – a combination which has emerged as an extremely successful interdisciplinary research field in recent years but has not yet been available in academic education.

Q: Can you talk about the Universities where you have applied in some detail?
A: In France, the University of Paris Saclay is a collaboration from all the respected universities with more than 300 laboratories with funding from the French government. And Kiel has emerged as a hotspot for Evolutionary Research in Germany. This includes several research groups with a focus on evolutionary topics at Kiel University (CAU).

Q: What are the scholarships that you have applied for?
A: Currently, at Paris- Saclay I haven’t applied for any scholarship yet but it has an Idex Scholarship for those who enroll in the Master’s Program.
In the MAMBE program, I have applied for the DAAD short-term scholarships and Promo’s scholarship for doing my Master’s thesis. Also, MAMBE has HiWi jobs as a research assistant at the desired lab. As a student affiliated to the Royal Society of Biology, I can also utilize the grants for my travel and Research Projects every year.

Q: How was your preparation for applications?
A: When I applied to the University of Paris Saclay, I applied through their University Portal. After verifications, I received an invitation for the Interview. On the day of the interview, I was asked about my current research project at SRM-AP, my motivation to study, and my future research goals and after 5 days I received an email stating that I was accepted.
I searched about German Universities through DAAD which is a database for education in Germany. After selecting the university, I had applied both online and through the post. Currently, it is being processed by the Uni- Assist where after meeting the requirements my application will be forwarded to the MAMBE admission team.

Q: Did you receive any support from SRM-AP and your department?
A: I can’t forget the support that I have received from SRM-AP University in providing me with the required attested documents and also giving necessary permissions during the pandemic. From the Department of Biological Sciences, the recommendation letters from Dr Jayaseelan Murugaiyan and Dr Manjunatha Thondamal supported my application to the universities that I have applied. The support and appreciation from everyone in the Biological Sciences Department has played an essential role in securing this admission.

“Compact Inertial Electrostatic Confinement D-D Fusion Neutron Generator” is an imbuing research paper co-authored and published by Dr Somesh Vinayak Tewari, Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EEE), SRM University – AP, in the scientific journal, Annals of Nuclear Energy.

This paper is part of an interdisciplinary work leveraging the areas of both electrical engineering and physics. Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC) Systems are simple, compact and operate on high voltage discharge in Deuterium- Deuterium (D-D)/ Deuterium-Tritium (D-T) gases between concentric grids for neutron generation. Such systems find considerable applications in the detection of explosives and illicit materials, radiography, tomography, and neutron well logging. The IEC system cathode temperature is measured with a Fibre Bragg Grating (FBG) during the measurement of neutrons from the system. FBG is optical fibre sensors that can be used for sensing temperature by recording the Bragg wavelength shift. The advantage of such measurements is that they can be used in environments such as electric arcs and plasmas, chemical and nuclear zones unaffected by electromagnetic fields such that the signals can be monitored remotely.

The production of neutron fluxes for the above-mentioned applications is through radioisotopes, accelerators, or nuclear reactors with the inherent nature of their complexity, hazards, and problem of residual radioactivity. Additionally, such systems require a considerable amount of shielding and Dr Tewari puts forth such factors that prompt further research in the area of the development of much simpler compact IEC systems.

The said research project has been carried out under the scheme of “Mentoring of Engineering Teacher by an INAE Fellow”, financially supported by the Indian National Academy of Engineering. The work goes forward in close collaboration with Pulsed Power & Electromagnetic Division, Beam Technology Development Group, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC)-Vishakhapatnam.

The future projects of Dr Tewari involve working on simulations related to the compact IEC for study, analysis, optimization of different parameters of an IEC system and related experimentation in collaboration with BARC.

Dr Lakhveer Singh, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, SRM University-AP, sets forth advanced avenues of scientific research on maintaining high current densities which is a key challenge in scaling-up microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) reactors.

“Scaling-up Up-flow Microbial Electrolysis Cells with a Compact Electrode Configuration for Continuous Hydrogen Production”, published in the Bioresource Technology journal is about a novel 10 L microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) reactor with a total electrode surface area greater than 1 m2 was designed and evaluated for hydrogen production. Performances of the reactor suggest that the longitudinal structure with the parallel vertical orientation of the electrodes encouraged high fluid mixing and the sheet metal electrode frames provided distributed electrical connection. A high volumetric H2 production rate of 5.9 L/L/d was achieved at a volumetric current density of 970 A/m3 (34 A/m2). The Impact factor of the journal is 7.53.

Dr Singh encapsulates that the technology and the model to be developed can be used to formulate new designs and processing parameters for producing H2 from other types of feedstocks and/or using engineered microbes developed by other researchers, which could solve the fuel problem for modern society. This work has been done in collaboration with Prof. Hong Liu from Oregon State University (OSU), USA.

Dr Singh is an Editorial Board member of the Journal of Biomass Conversion and Biorefinery – Springer (I.F. 2.60) and a Guest Editor for Bioresource Technology Reports- Elsevier. His future research targets to reduce the component costs and test the proposed design using real waste streams, as well as continue to increase the reactor volume.

Read the full paper here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biortech.2021.125030

Eenadu newspaper has published an informative interview with Prof C Durga Rao, Professor of Biological Sciences & Associate Dean, School of Engineering and Sciences, and School of Liberal Arts and Social Science (SLASS), in their front page on the most relevant topic of our times, ‘Corona Virus and its Mutations’. As the world stays petrified awaiting further mutations of Covid-19 virus, Dr Rao clearly answered the pertinent questions regarding the waves of pandemic in this exclusive interview.

Detailing from the process of cell division to the natural process of origin of mutations, he talked about the harmless viruses and the pathogenic viruses that influence the immune system of the human body. Moving on to the antiviral medication, he cautioned against Remdesivir, a drug widely used for Covid-19 treatment. Majority of antiviral drugs are similar to the nucleotides in viral RNA, and are called analogues. As the virus keeps an mutating naturally because of the error-prone viral RNA polymerase that synthesizes progeny viral RNA copies, when a drug is frequently given to a patient, mutants that are resistant to the drug will be selected to replicate in the presence of the drug. Thus, when the same drug is given to treat the new mutant that escapes, the drug will not work against the new variants.

The single mutations L452R and E484Q, first detected in variants in the US and South Africa, respectively, occurred simultaneously in the double mutant, first detected in India. There is nothing surprising in finding double mutants as a variety of mutants are produced in a single patient, but only a few, which are capable of faster replication and spread will be able to survive in the population. As we have a large population density, the double mutant, which binds to the ACE2 receptor on the cell surface and enters into the cell more efficiently, spread like wildfire from December last year to March this year. To face the potential threat of the third wave of Covid-19 virus that is looming around us, the people have to take necessary precautions and comply with the lockdowns and restrictions. Though a third wave is inevitable, it is possible for India to avoid the severe impact of the third wave through wearing a mask, and immunization, he said. Approval of more vaccines and enhancing the delivery of vaccines across the country can shield the population from severe coronavirus disease and death.

Dr Rao, whose major research areas include Molecular Virology, Recombinant DNA technology, Vaccines and Diagnostics had been a professor and INSA Senior Scientist at Indian Institute of Science (IISc). He is currently working on a project worth 1.10 crore.