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Interview with Ravi Maruthachalam

Into Their Minds conducted an insightful and exciting interview with Ravi Maruthachalam, Assistant Professor at IISER Thiruvananthapuram, with Gokul Prabhu as the host.

Before the technical questions began, Dr Ravi was asked to talk about why he chose to become a scientist in the first place. The story of his journey to where he is now was simply told but was a refreshing reminder of where curiosity and hard work could get you. He talks about his very natural fascination for plants, being brought up on a farm. He did his BSc and MSc in Agriculture at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore and his PhD in the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad. He went on to do his post-doc at the University of California at Davis, where he made his breakthrough. He accidentally stumbled on a brilliant finding: that the simple manipulation of a centromere protein of Arabidopsis could eliminate one of the parental chromosome sets to get a haploid offspring instead of diploid. Haploids are highly useful in plant research. Since haploids are homozygous for all the genetic loci, they can be converted to double haploids, which have 100% homozygosity after 2-3 generations, much faster than conventional breeding methods. These homozygous lines could be used for hybrid creation. Dr Ravi reminisces on his astonishment and delight at discovering such a simple method to produce haploids. His lab at IISER aims to understand the genetic and molecular basis of this uniparental genome elimination and develop tools to improve genetic breeding. Dr Ravi takes Gokul into his lab and answers why Arabidopsis thaliana is used as a model organism instead of other plant species. With micropipettes and lab benches full of instruments in the background, he emphasizes the importance of his discovery in Arabidopsis, how it could be commercialized and benefit farmers. He then explains hypotheses that existed to explain genome conflicts and elaborates on how his post-doc team came across this unexpected but valuable discovery.

The interview ends with Dr Ravi’s advice to young researchers on skills needed to work in a lab and embark on a promising research career. It is essential to have a specific research interest and to work in labs that specialize in it. It is crucial in academic research to have inspiration and dedication. Secondly, perseverance and patience are key. These skills are necessary to carry research forward, especially if it does not yield the expected results. Unexpected results could often lead to breakthroughs and even ‘rewrite the textbooks’! He emphasizes keeping up with literature and honesty in research.

On the whole, the interview is packed full of information that you don’t want to miss.

Go to to watch the details of this interview, learn about the motivation behind Dr Ravi’s research, listen to his valuable advice for young researchers, take a peek at his lab and into his mind.

Written by: Sarah Christopher

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