Whither age…

A strong interest in teaching catapulted him to a teaching career in the UK, from a brief postdoctoral stint, in 2006. He primarily taught chemistry to high school students at a boarding school with low pupil numbers where teachers have the opportunity to know better the students’ learning requirements. Few of his students went ahead to study medicine, bio-sciences and engineering.


After eight years of teaching 15-18 year olds pupils, he decided to come back to the university so that he can engage with the learning of undergraduate and postgraduate students. He applied to several places but was unsuccessful because he was too old or had had a long career break. A lot of opportunities are currently available for women to get back to research after a career gap, yet, there are only a very few senior postdoc scholarships available for men. During these 8 years break from research, he co-learnt with his students, and as many have said ‘one learns the most when one teaches a subject’.


To a few places he applied, he was told that he did not have enough research publications. He had published five peer-reviewed research articles. If he had stayed on in research, he would have published 8-10 more papers. Might quality of publications be considered instead of quantity? After several failed attempts, he finally got into a research programme in Brazil as a postdoctoral fellow in 2014 with a scholarship of 4,100 Reais (940 Euros) per month (postdocs in Western Europe get three times higher).


The scholarship did not include flight tickets. He spent the little savings he had, left his dear partner behind, and came to Brazil. Being the oldest postdoc in the lab, students regularly discussed their results with him. As many of his colleagues were either food engineers or biochemists, they were all learning new aspects of yeast physiology afresh.


He wrote a manuscript called ‘Improving the numeracy skills of biology students using the oxygen requirement in yeasts as an example’ which is due for submission in a couple of months’ time. A review article on sugarcane based bio-refinery in Brazil is near completion and he presented the results from one of his projects at a conference in Lisbon.


The yeast community has grown stronger over the years and has seen many developments including Crispr-Cas. We need more microbial physiologists than ever before and discover newer ways to disseminate yeast physiology.


Why is age a concern ? Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink. Age-less, Age-free, Age-concern, suggested names for a Non-Profit-Organisation that one could start.


Two years in Brazil is coming to an end and he is searching for his next job. Life continues, the body will wither and die; the society will have nothing to lose; another soul lost among the many millions every year. A few close friends and family are the ones who care for the most. But then what does it really mean to care ? Has he imbibed too much of Gide’s ‘Immoralist’ that he was reading this morning.

A tiny world indeed it is, a nano bubble perhaps; it just takes a tiny amount of surfactant to sever the force that holds the bubble together…


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