Greetings from the Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology (IASST), Guwahati, one of the premier centers for research in the country, that was inaugurated by a Noble Laurite, a British Biological Chemist, Madam Dorothy Hodgkins in 1979. At present, IASST has been functioning as an autonomous research Institute under the Department of Science and Technology Ministry of Science and Technology, Govt. of India. Forty-two years from the inception of this Institute is quite a long journey; however, we are still young compared to several old Institutes and Universities of the country. Nevertheless, there is no room for complacency, and we need to move ahead with strong determination and dedication for the nation’s development.
The IASST has a clear vision and mandate to emerge as a center of excellence in frontier research areas of Physical and Life Sciences with international visibility and building human resources towards advanced scientific knowledge for societal development. Several objectives and strategies have been adopted to achieve this explicit vision. Currently, the Institute is spread across 60 Bighas of land with 20 faculty members, 41 regular administrative and supportive staff, four postdoctoral fellows, 96 Ph.D. students including Intuitional JRFs, and 25 project staff. Forty-eight percent of the students have national fellowships, 35 percent are institutional JRFs, and project grants support 17 percent of students. I thank DST, Govt. of India, for their enormous support that has significantly contributed to the inclusive growth and development of this Institute located in a remote corner of the country.
One of the most significant challenges for the Institute is to create the ideal research ecosystem for encouraging scientists and research scholars to perform cutting-edge research and technology development. The past one and half years have been very much turmoil for the entire world; nevertheless, IASST has made substantial progress in terms of generation of infrastructure and cutting edge instrument facility to reassure and support the high-quality research and innovation, development of technology and human scientific resources, in addition to taking critical initiatives for the welfare of the society by endorsing several outreach activities. Further, to fuel these initiatives, ‘IASST Societal Venture and Entrepreneurship Council (ISVEC)’, the primary objective of which is to support the proof-of-concept of technologies developed by research scholars and scientists of IASST and other Institutes is now in place, and a large number of incubates are benefitted from our Bio Incubation centers under the BioNest and ISVEC programmes. In the coming years, we all are eager to see that IASST can support many more incubates and Start-up grants.
The COVID-19 pandemic has generated significant uncertainty across all aspects of the global economy and society. It is a matter of great joy that India has administered a record one and half billion Covid vaccine doses, described by our honorable Prime Minister as a triumph of Indian science, enterprise, and collective spirit. During the 1st wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, IASST realized the urgent need of the society in the crucial moment of human crisis and decided to offer its laboratory and human resources to set up an RT-PCR-based testing facility to enhance the testing capacity under the ‘testing-tracking-treat’ policy of the government. The National Health Mission (NHM) and PWD, Govt. of Assam, set up the Covid-19 testing and research laboratory in IASST in 2020. I am proud to announce that the laboratory with its limited facility has done more than 1.5 lakhs tests to date, excellent service to the nation.
On a futuristic note, I take this platform to emphasize that there is enough scope for us to augment regional, national, and international collaboration on research and technology development. Although cooperation with local researchers can bridge the gap between execution and implementation of research, however, collaborating with international researchers is also essential, indeed, crucial to success. International collaborations benefit both research scholars and Institutes, allowing for a richer exchange of knowledge, expertise, and culture, which are the essential prerequisites for sustainable development. Science is becoming more and more complex, and many researchers have narrowly focused expertise. These researchers will benefit from national and international collaborations with other specializations.
To achieve all these exemplary accomplishments, I wholeheartedly welcome valuable suggestions from academia and all the sections of society!
Ashis K. Mukherjee, Ph.D., D.Sc., FRSB (UK), FASc