Field: Bio-organic Chemistry
I myself had Chemistry as my major during my graduation days. I loved the lab and the feel of it. I know what you all think, Of course, I too hated the smell of Hydrogen Sulphide gas! But apart from that, creating different chemicals was indeed joyful. The day I had prepared those perfect crystals of copper sulfate and got perfect colour and crystalisation of it, I had paused and wondered how little do we understand nature, its composition, and how magical is our existence! That is the beauty of the study of science. It is interdisciplinary, based on facts, and helps you connect with clarity and in turn, you ultimately connect with yourself and the creation around.
Hence, I will always bow my head to people who furthered the field of science and paved the way for mankind by trying to better the scientific temper.
Today, I have before you, one such eminent personality named Ms. Darshan Ranganathan. Born in Delhi, she was a bright child since her childhood. After her teacher S V L Ratan inspired her to pursue Chemistry, she took up her graduation in Chemistry and also completed her Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Delhi University in 1967 under Prof. TR Seshadri. Simultaneously, she was teaching in Miranda College in Delhi and later became the head of the Chemistry Department in Miranda College. Then she was chosen for the Senior Research Scholarship of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, a prestigious award that enabled her to conduct her postdoctoral work at Imperial College in London.
Ms. Darshan moved to London in the late 1960s to work with Prof. D.H.R. Barton where she started studying cycloartenol in jackfruit. At Imperial College, she pioneered work in the field of protein folding. She returned to India with immense knowledge and experience and later in 1970 met her husband Subramania Ranganathan who was her perfect companion. Her best half in true sense and their relationship was based on mutual respect and companionship. She moved to IIT Kanpur to be with her husband and jointly they published many papers and lectures and started many courses related to Organic Chemistry. An unwritten, unofficial rule that spouses would, or should, not be appointed in the same department (a rule that many institutions continue to follow), citing possible conflict of interest or professional miscommunication was used as an excuse. And she continued to work on the basis of fellowships and was not given a faculty position due to this rule. This is where husband supported her whole-heartedly and shared all his resources including equipment, chemicals & project funds for her to continue her research.
She would work for long hours and faced a lot of bias being sidelined for being with her husband in the same college. She worked very hard and published independently and went on to become a member of the Indian Academy of Sciences. Apart from her work, she exhibited grace and garnered a lot of reverence from her colleagues and her students due to her persona. Only in the year 1992, did she get a job at the Regional Research Laboratory, Trivandrum (now known as the National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology) where she set up a laboratory for her bio-organic research. She went on to become Deputy Director.
After her death owing to breast cancer on her 60th birthday, her husband established the biennial “Professor Darshan Ranganathan Memorial Lecture”, which is to be “delivered by a woman scientist who has made outstanding contributions in any field of Science and Technology” in the year 2001 so as to commemorate her memory.
My one -line take away: Even if you are the best in your field and fate provides you with timely opportunity and the support of a loved one, the path will not be easy and yet you have to go on giving your best!
PS: I have planned to take up non-fiction this year as my theme for the A2Z challenge, where every day in the month of April ( except Sundays) I will be writing about women in the stream of science and their contributions. This main objective is to draw inspiration and share information about such great lives who did it, despite all difficulties in their life.
I’m participating in #BlogchatterA2Z .