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Centre for Contemporary Studies – Bridging Science and Humanities

“Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” - so goes the famous quote from the highly acclaimed movie, the Dead Poet Society. While this may be the ultimate secret to a happy life, our academic institutions and mindsets often ignore Arts & Humanities.

Lab Story: Understanding a Versatile Bacterium in our Stomach

People had never thought that Gastritis in the stomach was caused by a bacterium, never believed it could be, so much so that one of the two scientists Barry Marshall and Robin Warren had to drink a cupful of Helicobacter pylori culture to show that he developed gastritis! They were later awarded a noble prize for their discovery of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer.

Cavity Optomechanics : Union of Engineering and Quantum Physics

Often in physics, new discoveries are made by improving the sensitivities of measurements, such as the recent example of the gravitational wave detector. One way to improve the sensitivities for the measurement and transduction of physical forces is cavity optomechanics. Cavity-optomechanics is an interdisciplinary area of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, optics and quantum physics.It emerged as an independent field of its own only very recently, and utilizes the interaction between mechanical motion and light. Recently featured as the ‘milestone of photon history’ in nature photonics, cavity optomechanics is also one of the chosen fields of interest for Dr. Vibhor Singh, Assistant Professor at the Department of Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Dr. Vibhor has worked extensively in nanomechanical systems during his graduate as well as post doctoral career and has recently joined IISc. He is currently setting up an experimental laboratory to explore various nanomechanical and optomechanical systems.

Lab Story: Tracking evolution in animals and insects: The Evolutionary Ecology Group

When evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzansky said, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” he couldn’t have been more right. Evolution, the study of how traits are conserved or emerge over time, answers a lot of “whys” in biology: Why does an animal use a particular strategy to woo a mate? Why does a female decide to lay her eggs at a particular place and time? Why does competition arise within species? The Evolutionary Ecology Research Group at the Center for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, works on answering many such questions.

Communication while living together, insect style

The world around us is full of fascinating interactions between organisms of different species. Some of these are predatory in nature, some parasitic, but many of them are mutually beneficial to both organisms. This is called mutualism, in which organisms from different species are in a relationship in which each organism benefits from the activity of the other. But most of these relationships haven't yet been studied in depth. In particular, the sensory biology of the interactions between species is yet to be understood; that is, the study of the sensory signals that are exchanged between interacting species--signals of vision, colour, scent, or chemicals.

The Macrophysiology Lab: Diving into the mysteries of animal behaviour

The animal world has never failed to fascinate the curious human mind with the mysteries it has to offer. For ages, many have strived to understand how our fellow beings are surviving in a world that is perpetually challenging.
Headed by Assistant Professor Maria Thaker, The MacrophysiologyLab focuses on how animals deal with stress. For animals in the wild, stress is a factor that has to be dealt with constantly as it can arise in the form of a predator, a competitor, changes in habitat or unfavourable climatic conditions; how an animal copes with this stress will consequently determine its survival.

Ecology across space and time

Many have pondered over how the innumerable numbers of species, plants and animals alike, have come to be. Why are species around the world distributed in a particular manner? How does this contribute to large-scale diversity patterns? What kinds of relations exist within and between species? Why do two species, thought to be natural enemies, work together cooperatively? These are some of the questions that Dr. Shanker and his research team are examining.

Nano-micro Systems Laboratory, IISc

Anyone who has stepped into the IISc campus is aware of its enormous expanse that is comparable to the area of a small city; however, it is not quite as simple to judge the scope of scientific work done at this institute. It is the uniqueness of each laboratory that makes the work done at IISc so valuable. Some researchers here work on things as large as satellites and ships while others work with the thinnest known material, called graphene. The Nano-micro Systems Laboratory, headed by Assistant Professor Dr. Abha Misra, is busy with cutting-edge research involving materials which are classified into the lowest physical size scale.

Dr. Sukumar’s Lab: Forests, elephants and the environment

Prof. Sukumar dons many hats, and has been marking his contribution to the field of wildlife conservation and forest management over the years. He even contributed for over a decade to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. If you look back in time at his achievements -- Chair of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group of IUCN (1997-2003), the Order of the Golden Ark (1997), the Whitley Gold Award for International Nature Conservation (2003) and International Cosmos Prize (2006) to name a few – they showcase his dedication and passion to promote sound research, his love for the forest and his attempts to bridge the gap between science and conservation policies.

How our body recognises “foreigners”

Millions watched proudly as the armed forces of our nation displayed their mighty prowess for the world to see during the Republic Day parade. We regard those who protect our nation from foreign attacks with high esteem. Oddly enough, not many of us have stopped to marvel at the intricate mechanisms by which our human body has contrived a defense system no less admirable than the armed forces of our nation. A system that continues to protect us in spite of all that we throw at it.