Women in Science: Sreelaja Nair on learning about the early stages of life, working with zebrafish

The Life of Science

Editor's note: Starting National Science Day 2018, The Life of Science and Firstpost bring you a series profiling Indian women in Science. The challenges in Indian scientific life are many €" more so for women taking up this path. This series honours those who beat the odds and serve as inspirations for the next generation of Indian science €" a generation that is slowly and surely on its way to becoming gender equal.


By Shraddha Naik

Sreelaja Nair | Embryologist | Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai

Sreelaja Nair is an embryologist working at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai. She leads a team of scientists who study how life begins from a single cell, by using the zebrafish as a model.

After her PhD and postdoctoral training from UC-Irvine and the University of Wisconsin-Madison respectively, Sreelaja moved to Mumbai in July 2012 to start her own lab at the prestigious TIFR. Through painstaking efforts, she established it from scratch by November. Over the span of two years, Sreelaja also started a fully functional 'fish facility' at the institute to rear zebrafish, the model system critical to her research.

A newly fertilised cell undergoes the process of activation before it can create the building blocks of its own life. With her team, Sreelaja is trying to understand how material from the mother plays a part in this activation. She is passionate about engaging with the public about her research. The philosophy of her approach towards scientific research is, 'It's not a career, it's a lifestyle choice.'

Mentoring is a crucial part of Sreelaja's work. She is grateful to all her past mentors for the training she has received. While mentoring, she tries to pass down the best practices she has learned over the years to her students. The lab has regular meetings and discussions on science and life. She ensures that her students attend three to four science conferences every year, as well as give talks to the larger scientific community.

On the issue of gender inequality in science, Sreelaja strongly believes that men need to change their mindset about women and women need to change the way they perceive themselves. She also thinks that the gender issue in science is part of the larger social mindset.

In this podcast, she speaks to Shraddha Nayak about her journey in science and her hopes for the future of science in India.

Read the full interview with Sreelaja here.

Read more from the Women in Science series here.

THELIFEOFSCIENCE.COM is a feminist science media project on a mission to make Indian women scientists more visible and investigate the gender gap in Indian academia

Also See: Women in Science: Deepa Subramanyam on the 'stemness' of human cells, discrimination in academia

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