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The world of neuroscience is far removed from most of us — a world of big words and bigger ideas that occupy the minds of specialists and scientists in rooms far away from our own. Yet, every once in a while, one hears of the likes of Gurumoorthy Krishnamoorthy, a scientist who was recently awarded the prestigious ERC grant worth 1.5 million Euro for his work on the autoimmunity of the nervous system.
His story is one of inspiration and motivation for aspiring young scientists in India. Hailing from a small town near Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, Dr. Krishnamoorthy’s schooling was the stereotypical experience of chasing the golden grades, with the lucky exception of a few teachers. In the many years that have passed since, it is only the passion for science that keeps him going
What do you do?
Ever since he completed his doctoral studies, Dr. Krishnamoorthy has been fascinated by the human immune system and how it is programmed to attack its own body’s constituents. Understanding that the system is designed to protect us against pathogenic microbes, Dr Krishnamoorthy and his team began studying these microbes, wondering whether the key to their activation lies in our resident microbial population itself. How many of us know that these microbes hold the key to so many of our physiological and pathological situations?
Though Dr. Krishnamoorthy has a specific focus on Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and the brain, he is confident of the future of microbiome research. “Current research in many laboratories worldwide suggests that there are many disease and physiological functions that are indeed controlled by our resident microbes. I strongly believe this research will give us many innovative solutions to keep ourselves healthy,” he says.
What excites you about your work? How did you end up in an offbeat and unconventional career such as this?
While Dr. Krishnamoorthy’s lab and experiments may be located on the shores of Germany, . “Every day when I get up, I am excited to go to the lab and see what is new in store,” he says. Yet, achievements such as the ERC grant are undoubtedly the result of a strong support system. He adds, “My team shares the same dream and passion as I do and a special shout out to my parents who have always been behind me. Very importantly, the Max Planck Institute is doing such great work in supporting scientists with excellent infrastructure and funding.”
Given a country steeped in respect for science and scientific research, Dr. Krishnamoorthy has faith in the future of Indian research. “There is no doubt that scientific research has always played an important role in the progress of any country. This view has been only reinforced in the last few years,” he asserts, emphasising the special importance of medical research in Germany. The problem as he sees it, however, lies in the identification of motivation. With the power of the Internet, the number of applications to universities abroad has increased exponentially, making it difficult to identify true passion and skill for scientific research. “In my opinion, the major problem of Indian education is driving students towards chasing grades rather than nurturing skill and passion,” he rues.
What did you study?
I did my B.Pharm from Adhiparasakthi College of Pharmacy, Tamilnadu Dr. M.G.R Medical University, Tamilnadu, India. After doing my M.S (Pharm.) from National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER), Punjab, i was a Research fellow in Biochemistry at IISC, Bangalore. I subsequently did my PHD at Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried, Germany followed by a PostDoc.
How do students today overcome this hurdle, making the most of the education system without letting it limit their passion for discovery and research?
Dr. Krishnamoorthy’s advice, unsurprisingly, is an uphill battle camouflaged in apparently straightforward counsel. “Be involved in what you do. Be sincere. Work towards a goal, not a paycheque. Effort, hard work and sincerity can overcome any socioeconomic constraints,” he notes, signing off.