Fellowship experience - C.N. Neeraja

Fellowship report by C.N. Neeraja

A colorful spring welcomed me on 23rd April, 2018 when I started my four week stay at the University of Aberdeen to fulfill a senior research fellowship awarded by NEWS India-UK on “Genetic mapping of rice – GWAS” under the supervision of Prof. Adam Price.

The greenery and the flowers

The bushes with vibrant flower blooms everywhere especially those of the Cruickshank Botanical Gardens were enticing. So were the mesmerising trees with young green leaves. The scenery of the river Don and the greenery of Aberdeen gave the glimpse of scenic Scotland. And of course, the stretches of the cheerful daffodils are unforgettable.

The training

The academic sessions were focused, informative, intense and scheduled to familiarise us with Bio-Linux with various commands and command lines, Bioinformatics and GWAS exercises. The planning, execution and status were always discussed over a cup of coffee!

I had hands on experience with Bio-Linux and GWAS analyses through the PIQUE pipeline developed at the University of Aberdeen. With the expertise of Prof. Adam Price and his team in GWAS, we carried out the analysis of some phenotypic data form experiments at IIRR and genotype data from the University of Aberdeen for the identification of genes associated with traits of interest under low N, which is an important objective of NEWS India-UK Project.

The places

Our mentors in the NEWS project let us experience the cities and landscape of Scotland.  Awesome historical buildings in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow! Dr. Tony Travis took us to Glenshee Mountains, where we could see some snow waiting for us. After informal meeting with Dr. Mark Sutton, together with other 5 NEWS fellows, we had the opportunity to look around in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The harmony of history and modernity was exemplary. In an event organized by the photo club, one evening, Dr. Adam Price took us to Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve, where we took a walk to the lake, feeling the wilderness. How could have we missed the North Sea while staying in Aberdeen? On a weekend trip organized by Prof. Price, we could see the seals and the vast sand dunes at Newburgh beach as well.

The people

Through this fellowship I bonded with several amazing people in Scotland. I cherish the hospitality, warmth and support given by Dr. Tony, Prof. Adam, Prof. Jo Smith, Dr. Gareth, Dr. Partha, Dr. Dali, Dr. Jagadeesh and Prof. Mark. The families of Dr. Tony, Prof. Adam and Dr. Dali are now our extended families! The sharing and the support of the six NEWS fellows, including myself, Dr. Surekha, Dr. Anandan, Dr. Sangeeta at the University of Aberdeen and Dr. R. Mahendrakumar and Dr. Dibyendu at the University of Edinburgh and CEH, respectively, are still being continued.

The food

We had a taste of the warm hospitality in the form of a vegetarian menu offered by our mentors Dr. Tony Travis and Prof. Adam Price. Dr. Dali’s Indian food never allowed us to miss home. The Italian coffee reinforcements, the ginger carrot cake and the baked potatoes made me long for more!

All in all, my fellowship was academically invigorating, motivating me to pursue the objectives of my research by identifying the genes for nitrogen use efficiency in rice, and it was personally gratifying with awesome experiences with nature and people.

C.N. Neeraja

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