Photo:

Akshat Rathi

Akshat Rathi Thank you for voting for me. Psyched to be in the final round. If I win the money it will go for a really good cause, see below.

Favourite Thing: Reading and writing about the latest developments in science. Especially about those that may have an impact on our daily lives and may shape our future.

My CV

School:

1990 – 2002 Fravashi Academy, Nashik

University:

2004 – 2008 University of Mumbai, BTech in Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2008 – to date University of Oxford, DPhil in Organic Chemistry

Work History:

2010 Royal Society of Chemistry as a science writer intern.

Employer:

University of Oxford

Current Job:

Student

Me and my work

I aim to make complex molecules in the lab that nature has made over millions of years to understand and utilise the powerful tools that nature has built.

Organic chemistry has developed by leaps and bounds over the past 100 years but it is very far behind achieving what nature has been able to in the millions of years of evolution. Novel complex strucutures are found everyday and some possess pheonmenally useful properties for mankind. As a synthetic chemist, I am working on making one such family of complex molecules called microsclerodermins. They all possess anti-fungal and anti-cancer properties. In making these molecules, I help to develop some important tools that can be used to make many more useful molecules.

My Typical Day

I run multiple experiments, purify my products, analyse the results, have fun discussions about the results and at the end plan new experiments.

Although all my work happens within the confines of a round bottomed flask when chemicals react, most of my time is spent in working on what to put in the flask and then analysing what comes out of it. My work is very exciting because of the diversity of my everyday work. I get to work with exotic chemicals and subject them to different reaction conditions.

For example, one of the most important metal in the synthesis of my molecule is Osmium. Also, some of my reactions are conducted at temperatures that are as low as -90 degrees (which is 90 degrees below the freezing point of water) while there are others at temperatures as high as 180 degrees (which is 80 degrees higher than the boiling point of water). Sometimes I use only two chemicals to perform a single reaction, sometimes I can have as many as five different chemicals to do the same job. 

My work is challenging and being able to understand what happens at the molecular level with such precision gives me a high. Seeing the complexities involved in a single chemical reaction helps me appreciate the vastly complex lives we live even more.

What I'd do with the money

I will spend it on an initiative to engage school children in India with scientists from different fields. Just like this program but on a smaller scale.

Earlier this year, with the help of my high school teachers, we held a science essay writing competition in my school. As prizes I gave away popular science books in a hope to kindle some invigorating discussions. I also had the opportunity to speak to students in class 8 and 9, share with them my love for science. After the competition, I recieved a very nice feedback and it made me want to do this again and in more schools.

If I win the competition then I will use the prize money to conducting this sciecen essay writing competition in at least three schools and setup a team that can ensure that the happen on an annual basis. Eventually, I hope to conduct this competition at a national level and get thousands of students to particpate.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Curious, enthusiastic and motivated.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

A. R. Rahman

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Trekking in the Himalayas

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

I would wish to have the freedom to do what I want when I want and to make a significant contribution in making people’s lives more pleasurable, and to stop wars once and for all.

What did you want to be after you left school?

Be like my dad. Start my own business.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Yes, for being mischievous.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Make efforts to help school children discover the wonders of science.

Tell us a joke.

Do you know what James said to Bond? Let’s bond together.