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This event is sponsored by COMPASS OUTREACH GRANT from the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). This event aims to promote scientific temper in school students by introducing them to modern biological science at an early stage which is highly inter-disciplinary in nature. The biology taught in schools is very different from the biology taught and studied at higher levels. A common misconception among students about biology is that it is independent of other natural sciences i.e. physics/chemistry/mathematics, and that biology is boring as it involves only memorization.Through this event, students will be exposed to the research environment, researchers, laboratories and instruments in modern biology.
In India, medicine as a career is looked up to but basic biology, bioscience and pharmacology, which are essential for the progress in the field of medicine, are ignored due to lack of awareness. As a member of the department of Biosciences and Bioengineering at IIT Bombay, one of the topmost institutes in India, we would like to make an attempt to change this perspective of the society, and we would like to change the misconceptions about biology.
We believe that this event will help the students from regional schools to gain an early knowledge of modern biological science which may help them to make an informed decision and choose a career in biological sciences in the long run.


We are proposing this event with High school (10th) and Senior Secondary/Intermediate (12th) students of science stream in mind as they are at an important phase in life where they will have to choose the field they would like to specialize in. Misconceptions such that biology is independent of other natural sciences and it involves memorization drives them away from this subject.


All events will take place on December 17, 2016 at Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering, IIT Bombay between 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Participants will be provided with lunch.


Click on the link “Application Form” to download the application form Application Form

Completed registration form with signature of the principal of the school should reach by email on or post by December 10, 2016.
Event is limited to maximum of 50 participants. The organizers may restrict the number of participants to three from each school due to limited availability of seats for this event.


09.30 am to 10.00 am – Registration

10.00 am to 10.05 am – Introduction to ASCB and COMPASS Outreach Event by Prof. Ambarish Kunwar

10.05 am to 10.45 am – Introduction to Modern Biology Talk by Prof. Swati Patankar

10.45 am to 11.00 am – Tea/Coffee Break (BSBE building)

11.00 am to 11.15 am – Introduction to theme lab session (Pathology Lab) by Ms. Aishwarya Narayan

11.15 am to 12.30 pm – Theme Lab Session (Plasmid DNA isolation)

12.30 pm to 01:00 pm – Demonstration of ToucHb developed by Prof. Rohit Srivastava Lab

01.00 pm to 02:00 pm – Lunch Break (Venue-Van Vihar Guest House)

02.00 pm to 04.00 pm – Theme Lab session (Gram staining and Blood staining)

04.00 pm to 04.15 pm – Discussion on theme lab results by Ms. Aishwarya Narayan and Prof. Swati Patankar

04.15 pm to 04.30 pm – Tea/Coffee Break

04.30 pm to 04.45 pm – “Why Engineers should learn Biology” by Prof. Ambarish Kunwar

04.45 pm to 05.00 pm – “I am curious to know!” session

05.00 pm to 05.30 pm – Feedback session and Vote of Thanks


Please click on individual links given below to see more photographs

Photo Gallery: Registration and Introduction to ASCB and ASCB COMPASS grant

Photo Gallery: Introduction to Modern Biology, Tea/Coffee Break and Introduction to theme lab session

Photo Gallery: Theme Lab Session (Plasmid DNA isolation)

Photo Gallery: Demonstration of ToucHb

Photo Gallery: Lunch Break

Photo Gallery: Theme Lab Session (Gram staining and Blood staining)

Photo Gallery: Discussion on Theme Lab Results and Tea Break

Photo Gallery: “Why Engineers should learn Biology”, “I am curious to know!” and Feedback Session

Organizing Team:

Faculty Members: Prof. Ambarish Kunwar, Prof. Swati Patankar, Prof. Kiran Kondabagil, Prof. Anirban Banerjee, Prof. Rohit Srivastava, Prof. Rahul Purwar and Prof. Dulal Panda

Postdocs: Dr. Jaya Lakkakula and Dr. Bajarang V. Kumbhar

Graduate Students: Aishwarya Narayan, Amrutraj Zade, Rajneesh Yadav, Vishakha Dey, Pragati Mastud, Supriya Patil, Khushnandan Rai, Arijit Bhaumik

Undergraduate Students/Internship Students: Aparna Prasad, Varshitha S. and Sashi Kiran Mahapatra

Staff: Hrushikesh Nagwekar, Yogesh Sarkate, Syeda Aliya Sana


Event Blog

Dec 17, 2016, IIT Bombay: A steady stream of schoolchildren shuffled towards the registration desk in the department of Biosciences and Bioengineering shortly past 9.30 am that sunny Saturday morning. ‘Introduction to Modern Biology’, an outreach event for school students supported by the ASCB COMPASS Outreach Grant, was to begin in under half an hour. As they trickled into the classroom, students from different schools huddled around their teachers and settled into their seats. We smiled encouragingly to put them at ease, and a lucky few were able to elicit some shy smiles in return! At 10 am by the clock, Prof. Ambarish Kunwar, the chief organizer of the event, walked briskly into the room with an air of purpose. This was going to be a good day.

After a brief but warm welcome, we dove straight into our packed schedule. Prof. Kunwar introduced the school teachers and students to educational resources made available by ASCB to promote the biological sciences at all levels of education, and encouraged everyone to make the best use of their presence at the first ever COMPASS Outreach event in India. Prof. Swati Patankar then took the stage, opening with, “How many of you find biology interesting?” A lot of hands went up. This was followed by, “How many of you are uncertain if biology interests you?” After a considerable pause, one hand went up. We shall come back to this hand in a while!

Widely considered one of the best teachers at IIT Bombay, Prof. Patankar held the audience in rapt attention with the most colourful analogies and experiences to illustrate the beauty of biology, and its place in the interdisciplinary playgrounds of the future. With a little coaxing, she got one student talking. The others soon followed, finally making this the interactive session we had hoped it would be.

The theme for the day was running experiments at a pathology lab with three major tasks – identifying the bacteria that caused Rowena’s skin infection, isolating a plasmid possibly responsible for drug resistance in the E. coli that upset Rohan’s stomach, and figuring out if Romesh’s periodic fevers were indeed a sign of malaria. After a short presentation guiding them on ‘the scientific method’ in relation to their assignments for the day, the students were taken upstairs to the lab. Groups of five made their way to the benches with their designated graduate student mentors. We left it to the students to come up with names for their teams. As you might expect, we had everything from ‘Alpha’ to ‘Batman’ to ‘Fast and Furious’. If you’re anything like us, we are certain you would be happy to trust ‘Batman Pathology Lab’ for your test results.

Given the ease and enthusiasm with which they took to the tasks at hand, we found it hard to believe that these children had never seen a micropipette, let alone handled one! By around noon, when the last of the plasmids had been isolated, a surprising number of students volunteered when asked if they would be willing to donate blood for the demonstration of a hemoglobin count instrument. Much to the relief of the teachers, this was quickly followed by a grinning Prof. Kunwar declaring that it “won’t be necessary!” The students thereafter were taken to lecture hall where got a hands-on demonstration of ‘ToucHb’, an instrument developed in the lab of Prof. Rohit Srivastava that estimates hemoglobin levels based entirely on images of the pink of one’s eye. The non-invasive tool connects to a smartphone and fits in the palm of your hand. Remember the kid that was ‘uncertain’ if he found the subject interesting? Yup, he was the first to volunteer to try it on a friend. Biology certainly has something for everybody!

Spent from assimilating all that much information in one morning, the students scarfed down lunch, a delectable spread, and headed back to the lab. Now familiar with the layout, they headed straight for the gloves and made it back to their benches to get started on Gram staining. Soon, we also handed out pre-stained blood smears for them to identify the samples positive for malaria, and estimate the percentage of infected erythrocytes.

In the controlled chaos of the room, the buzz of questions steadily grew louder. “Why are my bacteria pink when yours are purple? I thought we had the same sample!” “Why is team Alpha’s plasmid running faster than ours on that gel?” “Do you actually count so many red blood cells every day in your malaria lab?” One industrious student even convinced his friend that it would be wise to just count the cells along the length and breadth of the LCD display attached to a couple of the microscopes and multiply. “Easy!” he stated, pleased with himself.

By 4 pm, the students were finally done with the experiments, and back in the classroom. Unlike the guardedness they carried about them in the morning, many seemed ready to talk about their day. The guided discussion that followed revealed that many of them were already rethinking their notions of research. They were taught to trust the data over the interpretations and that making mistakes was key to learning new things. That all it takes to ask the right questions was a keen eye and a questioning mind. They learnt that science was a collaborative effort, and that innovation was welcome from people of all specializations. It was at this point that the let’s-multiply-the-cells student suggested that we automate the cell counting process to save time. He was clearly in the game!

Following a tea break, the students had an “Why Engineers should learn Biology” session where Prof. Kunwar discussed difference in life in microscopic world and life around us in macroscopic world by taking examples of bacterial swimming, protein sedimentation and motion driven by cilia and flagella. How one can still use textbook physics and mathematics to think about these problem. Why nature can be a great guiding tool for engineering machines and tools at microscopic scale.

This was followed by session named “I am curious to know!” with a panel of six professors from diverse backgrounds – Prof. Ambarish Kunwar from Biophysics and Computational Biology, Prof. Swati Patankar from Molecular Parasitology, Prof. Kiran Kondabagil from Molecular Virology, Prof. Dulal Panda from Molecular Cell Biology, Prof. Anirban Banerjee from Bacterial Pathogenesis, and Prof. Purwar from Immunoengineering. The conversation ranged from the specifics of cancer treatments to life as a virologist to the dynamics of things on a microscopic scale that do not work in the ways that seem intuitive in our macroscopic world. As the day drew to a close, students were actively encouraged to mail any questions they might come up with later as everyone in IIT Bombay was always happy to talk about science.

In the feedback forms that were handed in that evening, the theme was overwhelmingly about how much the students’ perception of biology had changed in one day. That biology, in reality, was not only about drawing that anatomically sound flower or memorizing the names of those poison dart frogs. In short, it was “not like my textbook!” The majority, of course, concurred that the best part of the day was the freedom they had in actually doing the experiments themselves with all those “cool instruments”.

For many of us, there is nothing more satisfying in life than the joy of understanding something new. An opportunity to introduce children to the pleasure of curiosity, and to see that spark in their eyes when it just ‘clicks’, is something we shall treasure for years to come. We know that they went off into the world a little different that day, and so did we.

Credits: This blog was written by Ms. Aishwarya Narayan (in image below), a graduate student in the department, who actively participated in organizing ASCB compass outreach activity along with other members of the department. Her blog has been reproduced here along with some minor edits.