NER Twinning: St. Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Mumbai & Bijni College, Assam

Date: 14th and 15th Sep 2018
Place: Bijni, Assam
Twinning Partners: Dr Sewali Pathak, Bijni College, Assam & Dr Maya Murdeshwar and Dr Sujata Deshpande, St Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Mumbai, Maharashtra.
Number of Participants: 170 registered participants, several additional walk-in participants.

Description:
Foldscope PIs from St Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Mumbai, Maharashtra, reached Bijni College in the small town of Bijni, Assam, to carry out a 2-day Twinning with the host PI, Dr Sewali Pathak, Asst Professor in the Dept of Zoology, Bijni College. After a long journey by plane and train, and an electric rickshaw, the PIs were welcomed into the Girls’ hostel with a hot cup of Assam special red tea.

On 14th Sep 2018 morning, after an official opening ceremony, the Foldscope workshop began. There were 170 registered participants, and several other students and teachers from nearby villages (within a 5 km radius) just walked in when they heard about the workshop. Dr Maya and Dr Sujata, the resource persons for the day made a brief Powerpoint presentation on the history of Microscopy in general, and the invention of the Foldscope
in particular, and the DBT-Prakash Lab Foldscope India Phase I research grant. This was followed a hands-on session of the participants assembling and handling their own Foldscopes. Water from a fish pond, leaf, flower pollen were some of the samples studied. The joy on the face of the students on finally viewing the sample through a microscope they built with their own hands was well worth the effort. They were thrilled to observe the samples and even helped each other with assembly and handling tips. A written feedback session was conducted and it was heartening to see that almost all students immensely enjoyed the one-day workshop and had their own ideas for use of the Foldscope, ranging from water testing, soil analysis to studying fish embryology and flower pollen grain diversity. The programme concluded with certificate distribution to all registered participants.

48 Foldscopes were distributed to participants at Bijni College, Assam.

The next day, 15th Sep 2018, the visiting PIs were to go on a field visit and observe samples under the Foldscope. However, heavy rains, dark clouds and power outages marred the trip. They were also advised against stepping out on their own without a local escort in the sensitive areas. In the brief window of about 30 min when the rains ceased and the sun peeped out, the PIs collected samples from near the ladies hostel they were residing in and conducted a few Foldscope observations. They could not continue for long as it started to rain again and there was no power till very late in the night.

The PIs returned to Mumbai the next day with happy memories of the Assam twinning event.

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