Meet Our Lab Heroes Awards™ 2021 Winners: Jagannath Maharana
We’re delighted to introduce the first of our Lab Heroes Awards™ 2021 winners, Jagannath Maharana! Jags (as he’s known by his labmates!) was the winner of our Lab Scholar category, after being nominated by 19 of his colleagues at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, India. He received some truly wonderful comments of appreciation, being described as ‘the heart and soul of the lab’ as well as ‘a brilliant researcher and a highly creative guy’ who has ‘a solution to every problem’ and is 'always willing to help'.
Jagannath is a PhD student at the GPCR Biology Lab, IIT Kanpur, India. His primary focus is on studying the structural aspects of GPCR and GPCR-transducer complexes using Cryo-EM and other complementary approaches. Jagannath pursued a bachelor’s degree from the Regional Institute of Education, Bhubaneswar and a master’s degree from the Banaras Hindu University, where he graduated with a gold medal. His passion for research led him to IIT Kanpur, and his work in the GPCR lab has contributed immensely to many major projects. His philosophy is to work and grow together as a cohesive team. In his free time, he likes to sketch and draw to help communicate the ongoing research findings with a broader audience.
We spoke to Jagannath about the Lab Heroes Awards, how he felt about winning, the scientists he admires most, and his passion for bringing art and science together...
Congratulations, Jagannath! How did it feel when you found out that so many of your colleagues had nominated you as their Lab Hero?
Thank you so much! It was shocking at first. It was unbelievable to see the words of acknowledgement and appreciation they had written about me. Everyone in the lab shared their own experiences with me and nominated me as their hero! To be acknowledged by the mentor you always look up to and by colleagues that you respect, that is the best feeling in the world.
How did it feel when you found out you were one of our Lab Heroes winners?
I neither had the faintest idea nor the expectation for it. I had already looked at the previous year’s winners with strong and numerous nominations, so it was a huge surprise getting that email from Hello Bio. When I soaked it in, the thing I realised was that “Together we can win”.
What are you planning to use your Hello Bio vouchers and career development grant for?
I’m grateful to Hello Bio for the vouchers through which I can contribute to the lab resources. The career development award is definitely going to help in the near future with attending conferences or other events.
Why do you think it’s so important to celebrate life science researchers, and what more could be done to show life scientists recognition?
It’s very important. Surviving through the pandemic has been possible because life science researchers are working day and night, not looking at the clock. Often, the translational effects of research carried out come to bedside from bench many years later. But we have to keep working till the end, just having a wish to contribute to science and help mankind. And, these efforts must be appreciated. Huge thanks to Hello Bio for organising this.
Did you always want to be a scientist when you were younger, and if so, why?
I dreamed of being a scientist in high school, but it seemed far-fetched because I didn’t know if I had the potential to be one, to think differently to the dogma. Now that I pursue my career in research, I’ve realised that anyone can do research if they are curious, have patience and persevere with it.
Can you tell us a bit more about what you’re working on in the lab currently?
We work on a fantastic class of cell surface receptors, called GPCRs. They’re involved in most of the physiological pathways of our body and close to half of the marketed drugs target them. Discovering a new class of receptors that were previously known as unfunctional, their signalling cascades and the mechanistic basis of their interaction with transducer proteins is one of the projects currently running in the lab.
What does a typical day in the lab look like for you?
Well, it’s open 24/7, as per the experiment demands. We work as a team and drive our project as a team, so everyone works together on the bench. There are definitely follow-up rounds by Arun (Prof. Arun K. Shukla, our supervisor) every half-an-hour. That’s usually the best part of the day when he discusses a research question we are addressing and cracks spontaneous jokes to lighten-up our mood. He’s a great PI. It’s a blessing to always have him around.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing life scientists at the moment?
In my opinion the challenge is not the virus or any pathogen that creates havoc, but the trust of people towards science and scientists who fight on the frontline. I can only ask for their attention, appreciation and funding into science, as this is the need of the hour.
How do you see your career developing in the future/where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Being involved passionately in research is the only way I think going forward, to continue with it and contribute something significant to science, to mankind. It’s always been my ambition since I was an undergrad. In 10 years, I picture myself working in a research lab doing some cutting-edge stuff.
Which scientists working today do you most admire?
The great scientists I’ve come across and worked closely with, my mentor and all senior postdocs in our lab. The level of dedication and hard work Arun puts into research, to something he’s immensely passionate about, is really inspiring. And, being with all the senior postdocs all day I get to learn many things not only related to science but also lessons for life.
Are there any other initiatives in science that you are involved with or are passionate about?
On top of doing science, I’m also passionate about Art, drawing and painting. I try to find some free time to sketch or draw. Recently we organised an illustration/poster-making competition in the lab on the theme of the research that we do. Everyone took part and it was fun to see how science goes hand-in-hand beautifully with art and imagination.
And finally… what’s your favourite science quote?
“If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” - Albert Einstein
Thank you so much for speaking to us, Jagannath! And congratulations once again on being one of our Lab Heroes winners for 2021! We look forward to keeping in touch with you and following your career as it progresses.
Connect with Jagannath and find out more about his research:
- Website: GPCR Biology Lab
- Twitter: @the_rarejm
- LinkedIn: Jagannath Maharana
And you can meet our other Lab Heroes AwardsTM 2021 prize-winners here.
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