“A ship in port is safe but that’s not what ships are built for.”- Grace Hopper
Nine students of class XI participated in the 5 day INSPIRE Camp 2016 held at Shivaji College, Raja Garden from 14th to 18th December 2016. The Camp, sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), stands for ‘Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research’.
The programme started in 2008 under the guidance of A. P. J Abdul Kalam, and is aimed at inspiring students scoring above 93% in CBSE and 95% in ICSE to opt for scientific research as a career. The following students participated in the camp: Nikhil Rana (XI-A), Vaishnavi Shrivastava (XI-A), Manav Arora (XI-A), Saruby Sharma (XI-B), Shweta Singh (XI-B), Pratischtha Kain (XI-B), Prithvi Venkatraman (XI-B), Suraj Chaudhary (XI-B) and Ayushi Sharma (XI-B). The students were divided into two batches based on their chosen streams.
The students were accompanied by Ms. Sumi John. The programme was inaugurated by chief guest Professor Dinesh Singh, former vice chancellor of DU. He is a professor of mathematics and has been conferred with the Padma Shri. He talked about how scientific knowledge is insufficient to become a passionate scientist. We can become passionate about science, if we read the biographies of successful scientists, especially Indians. He spoke of how Ramanujan, C V Raman and Albert Einstein never complained about the great number of difficulties they came across while working as scientists. They were passionate about their work and did not offer excuses for not being able to succeed, despite the odds against them. After all, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”.
The students of the PCM stream worked with the mathematical programming language “MATHEMATICA”, plotting graphs of the various functions. They learnt to build apps on the computer using various kinds of software. The PCB students did the chemistry practical where they performed 4 interesting experiments. The aim of the first experiment was to produce a green flame using easily available reagents. It was done using boric acid. The aim of the second experiment was to study some of the common food adulterants in different foods like starch in milk and butter in Vanaspati ghee. In the third experiment the students learned to write secret messages with the help of invisible ink and later decoded each other’s messages. The ink was starch solution and sodium hydroxide which turned violet and pink respectively upon applying iodine and phenolphthalein to decode the messages. The aim of the last experiment was to create colours with chemistry. The chemical chameleon was based on the principle of redox reactions, as the reaction in the solution changed its colour, in a a chameleon- like effect.
We were accompanied by Ms. Darshana Tonpe. We started our day with a lecture by Prof. Mohan D. Sharma. He is a professor and researcher in of mathematics. He taught us the importance of math in our daily lives, as also about the way we use math frequently in daily living without even realising it. He gave an insight into the fact that without math, humans cannot survive. The lecture was very intriguing and and we got to learn many new things.
Next up we had another interesting lecture by Prof. Gurmeet Singh. He introduced to us the vast pool of opportunities we have access to while studying in India. He explained how studying in India is more beneficial. He also enlightened us with different techniques that can help India to become a developed country.
After lunch, we were taken for some innovative experiments in the lab. First we went to the Biochemistry lab. Here, we were taught about the E.coli (Escherichia coli) bacteria. The most used strain of E. coli is DH5α. E.coli is the model organism since it is the easiest to handle and represents the whole group of organisms successfully. Also, the gestation time of E.coli is low as compared to other organisms of the same group, it is cost effective, easy to maintain and manipulate and consumes less food which makes it an ideal model organism. We were taught the process of growing the bacteria for research purposes. The first step was the preparation of themedia, the second step was the sterilisation of the media and glassware, and the third step was the culturing of E. coli. L.B. Broth is the most common food for growing bacteria. It contains Yeast, Crypton and Sodium chloride.
After the Biochemistry lab, we proceeded to the Zoology lab. Here we learnt how to measure blood pressure using a Sphygmomanometer. A particular sound called the Korotkov sound is produced when the blood rushes through the arteries. We noted the starting and the ending points of the sound and were told that these readings are the ones which indicate blood pressure. In a normal adult, the blood pressure should be around 120/80 whereas in babies, the average blood pressure is 100/60. The upper reading is referred to as the systole and the lower reading is called the diastole.
Another innovative experiment we performed at the Zoology lab was to determine the blood group of an individual. This is determined by the presence or absence of inherited anti-genic substances on the surface of red blood cells. Antigens are coded by A (glucosamine), B (Galactosamine) and O.A and B are the dominant antigens and O is the recessive blood group. Knowing the blood group of an individual is important in the case of blood transfusion which can prevent deaths due to haemolysis. To find out the blood group on an individual, we first take a drop each of antibodies A, B and D. Then we place one drop of blood on each antibody. After mixing properly, clumping indicates the presence of that particular antigen in the blood of the individual.
Next up, we went to the Botany lab where we performed 2 very interesting experiments. First we performed the separation of different pigments present in chlorophyll by chromatography where our stationary phase was silica and the mobile phase was a solution of ether and acetone in the ratio of 80:20. The next experiment was to observe the mitosis of the onion root tip under a microscope. Here we had to prepare a slide and observe the mitosis of the root tip under the microscope.
The day was a memorable one. We learned many new and exciting things which will surely help us in future!
We were accompanied by Ms. P. Yogeshwari.
Prof. A.P. Singh, who delivered the first lecture of the day, started with an inspiring video on Srinivasa Ramanujan’s life and achievements. He also shared with us an interesting presentation, which showed how mathematics was imbibed in all common phenomena. He also spoke about the various career options available in math and its major benefits. He answered the questions raised by the gathering.
Dr. Nimish Kapoor started his lecture in a most interesting way, showing a funny video on mathematics. He emphasised, through an absorbing presentation, the fact that it is not just enough to acquire knowledge about science but also important to communicate it to make people aware about the same. This is called Science Communication. Just like Prof. A.P. Singh, Dr. Kapoor also made sure that we were thoroughly informed about all the professions that we could take up in Science Communication.
The day was made specially interesting through the practicals. We made our way to the Physics Lab in Shivaji College where we were explained how to perform the various practicals. We studied the splitting of white light through a prism which was intricately observed through a spectroscope. We observed the splitting of a monochromatic yellow light. We measured the thickness of our hair through lasers. We also measured the value of acceleration of gravity in the last practical, using an electric circuit and an iron ball.
The students went on educational trips and were accompanied by Ms. Ritu Mehndiratta.
The students of the PCM stream were taken for an educational trip to the Department of Physics and Astrophysics (DPAP). As we entered the scientific campus, we were first shown a presentation on ‘Ultracapacitors’. The Ultracapacitor, also known as Supercapacitor, is an electrical component capable of holding hundred times more electrical charge than a standard capacitor. They can work at temperatures well below freezing and are hence used in emergency radios and flashlights. A group of teachers then enlightened us about a Charge Discharge Machine and also explained how a mobile phone gets charged. We were then taught about the wonders of liquid Nitrogen which renders anything brittle. We were also told about the safety measures required while handling liquid nitrogen. We were shown the huge High Resolution X-Ray Diffraction machine (HR-XRD) which costs more than 10 crore rupees! This machine is used to determine whether a particle is amorphous or crystalline in structure. It has several other uses.
The students of the PCB stream were taken to the Regional Centre for Biotechnology (RCB), Faridabad. The recently-founded centre was extensive and with several laboratories. We were briefed about the latest centres developed for research in biotechnology. We were then shown the various labs. We saw a real time PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) Machine which amplifies the exact copies of a specific gene of a DNA which we may want to isolate. We also saw a Biological Hazard Safety Level II Laminar Flow Cabinet which was used to deal with different strains of Salmonella bacteria which causes Salmonellosis (causing diarrhea). We then observed the mutated species of the Drosophila Melanogaster (common fruit fly) under an electric microscope. The mutations included slightly curved wings and white eyes. We were even shown the Arabidopsis Thaliana, a small flowering plant that is widely used as a model organism in plant biology. The trip ended with the students posing for a group photograph.
Both the trips were scientifically stimulating yet fun.
Three lectures were delivered on the last day. We were accompanied by Ms. Nausheen Wasi.
The first lecture was delivered by Professor Karmeshu, an Indian mathematician who specialises in mathematical modelling. He talked about the application of the principle of Uncertainty and Probability in all sciences. He talked about the mathematical models developed for the dynamics of social and technical systems with special emphasis on their stochastic evolution.
The second lecture was delivered by Dr. Asha Srivastava from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory in Delhi with expertise in Behavioural Science, Forensic Psychology. She talked about Scientific Investigation and Scientific Interrogation in Crime. She talked about the various aspects the forensics’ department covers – from handwriting analysis and fingerprint analysis to forensic psychology. She defined Forensic Psychology as “the science of detecting deception”. She even explained the mechanism of a polygraph (lie detector).
The last lecture was delivered by Professor Ashok K. Prasad. He talked about dissolving the boundaries of different science streams. He talked about the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016, which was awarded jointly to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa “for the design and synthesis of molecular machines”. He talked about how even a nobel prize discovery involves the contribution of many scientists from different science fields. He gave examples to show that every process involves a variety of sciences, from a simple life process such as photosynthesis to a process of complex DNA formation.
The students then posed for a group photograph with the entire faculty of Shivaji College.
This was followed by a vote of thanks delivered by Professor Deepak Pental, a professor of Genetics and an Ex Vice Chancellor at Delhi University. He talked about various scientific progresses which brought in a revolution of change. He even talked about the development of transgenics and marker-assisted breeding of crops. He encouraged students to be curious. After all, curiosity is the mother of all inventions. He urged students to shun “chalupanti” and light new lamps to guide our nation to a better future.
This well delivered speech was followed by another speech by A. Mukhopadhyay of DST. He spoke about the importance of an enquiring mind that students should inculcate for the betterment of our society.
Schools were awarded certificates by Professor Ashok K. Prasad. This was followed by performances by the college’s music and dance society.
The camp taught us a lot. From the lectures, hands-on training sessions and educational trips, students learnt that ‘impossible’ is not a scientific term.
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” – Albert Einstein.
By Saruby Sharma, Shweta Singh, Vaishnavi Shrivastava, Prithvi Venkataraman, Nikhil Rana, Suraj Chaudhary, Pratischtha Kain, ( class 11 science students).