A sought-after research destination

A sought-after research destination

Sandipan Dasgupta, Weizmann Institute of Science

I first arrived at the Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS), Israel in May 2013 as a summer trainee and now I am pursuing my PhD at WIS conducting my research on horizontal gene transfer by RNA in mammalian cells under the advisory of Prof Jeffrey E Gerst.  

After completing my dual degree in Biology (BS and MS) from the Indian Institute of Science Education & Research (IISER), Kolkata, when I decided to pursue research in the field Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, WIS was a natural choice. I was drawn to the science, campus, culture and people alike. WIS offers MSc and PhD and Post Doc programmes in natural sciences taught in English. This tight knit scientific community encourages thought-provoking conversations, often leading to interesting and unassuming scientific collaborations. The Weizmann Institute supports almost all advanced scientific tools and techniques that allows the students and researchers to answer tough scientific questions. Thus, discoveries at the institute have enabled the treatment of diseases such as multiple sclerosis, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and lymphoma. 

The Institute also provides ample opportunities of amalgamated personal-professional growth. There are many student clubs that train students with various hard and soft skills such as innovation, management and persuasive speaking. I have been the co-founder of Weizmann Biotech Club, the first of its kind in Israel, to connect students and post-docs to the vibrant biopharma industry. 

What I personally find most rewarding about my PhD here is the opportunity to contribute cutting-edge interdisciplinary research that can potentially change our basic understanding of biology. Furthermore, the flat organisational culture enables me to knock on the door of anyone in the institute to ask any question. The institute also hosts numerous scientific conferences all throughout the year attracting top scientific minds across the world. This gives us ample chance to interact with the global scientific community. 

Due to the pandemic, research education is witnessing a new era. As a researcher, I observe, not just has it brought science and scientists to the forefront, but also it has changed the way research is conducted in biology and allied domains.

The pandemic also accelerated an already growing pattern of funding of early-stage research by the industry. Even before the pandemic, industry funding was growing steadily, large pharmaceutical companies are not just supporting their internal research programmes but also external research programmes at early-stage biotech’s and universities in an attempt to insource innovation. 

While the Covid-19 pandemic has created temporary operational disruptions in the biotech industry, the pre-pandemic momentum is expected to return and in fact, pick up. This is expected to directly translate to higher demand for skilled manpower entering the biotech workforce thus ensuring a bright future for research aspirants

As the pandemic pushed workforce across the globe towards the new trend of working from home, many scientists, including many PhD students even at WIS, have been working in the lab round the clock trying to unlock the coronavirus conundrum. The increased productivity is primarily driven by the unprecedented level of collaboration and partnerships between scientists of complementary expertise. This is in sharp contrast to traditional research practice where PhD level researchers have a narrow research focus resulting in only a few people sharing an equally vested interest in solving a particular scientific problem. Covid-19 has forced science to change from a curiosity-driven exercise to a goal-driven one, which has led to increased productivity. 

(Sandipan Dasgupta is a PhD student at the Dept of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel)