The Theories of Abhijit Majumder: A Talk on Mechanotaxis

The Theories of Abhijit Majumder: A Talk on Mechanotaxis

Saumya Sinha Tanaya Sahoo | Nov 18, 2019

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Mechanotaxis is a crucial concept when it comes to biological perspectives. Referring to the directed movement of cell motility via mechanical cues which may be fluidic shear stress, substrate stiffness gradients, etc, this is also related to the cell migration during Cancer. This relation may be counted as one of the most prominent factors behind the research work going on over Mechanotaxis for, health has emerged as the most expensive luxury today and to procure a therapeutic for lethal cancer would be a tremendous work in the field of medicines.

Dr. Abhijit Majumder, Associate Professor at IIT Bombay, who completed his BTech in Chemical Engineering from REC, Durgapur (presently known as NIT, Durgapur), M. Tech in Cryogenic Engineering from IIT Kharagpur, and PhD from IIT Kanpur was humble enough to visit NIT Rourkela on the 14th of November. Dr. Majumder delivered an incredibly informative lecture on Mechanotaxis: Walking Down the Hard Path. The talk was organized by the Department of Chemical Engineering which was scheduled to start at 4:15 P.M. in the New Seminar Hall of the Department. The talk was chiefly attended by the M.Tech and PhD students along with a very few of the B.Tech third years as well as by the professors of the department.

The talk started off with Dr. Majumder expressing his happiness on visiting NIT Rourkela, he said,

I am feeling quite nostalgic because of several reasons. One reason behind this homecoming spirit is because I am visiting an NIT with similar buildings, environments as it used to be in Durgapur during my B.Tech. The other is, Prof. Madhushree Kundu whom I know since my M.Tech days, I call her ‘Madhushree Di’ since her Ph.D. days at IIT Kharagpur, I was doing my M.Tech in the same lab as hers and then while pursuing my Ph.D. at IIT Kanpur I met Akhilesh ( Prof. Akhilesh Kumar Sahu, Department of Chemical Engineering). Talking to you people here, reminds me of my journey back then and let me relive all those moments which I hold very dear to my heart.

The talk went with Dr. Majumder connecting biology and physics, developing a basic understanding among the listeners of what he and his fellow researchers are attempting to welcome into existence with their ideas on mechanotaxis in the attempt of providing a cure to Cancer. The talk was more like an interactive session where he kept on pushing the students to open up and give tongue to their thoughts and finally turned the talk into a participatory address. As the talk drifted towards the end he told the students about the two unreported cellular migrations so far which they named as Viscotaxis and Asamataxis(Asama = unequal in Sanskrit) At the end of the talk, Dr. Majumder was given a token of memento by the Department.

Team MM had an Opportunity to interview Dr Abhijit Majumder who shared the myriad experiences of his journey from B.Tech at REC Durgapur to a faculty at such a renowned institute, IIT Bombay. Here is what he had to say, 

Monday Morning (MM): You have been in NIT Durgapur pursuing Chemical Engineering. What made you choose this domain? How did you further become a professor at IIT Bombay?

Abhijit Majumder (AM): To be honest, I liked chemistry back those days and so I chose Chemical engineering, not knowing it has nothing to do with chemistry as we know it(grins).

I hoped to become a professor someday. I remember, when I was a student, my wing-mates in our dorm came to us to clarify doubts not because I was a topper but because I could express well and get through them. So, that was when I started growing confidence in becoming a professor one day. I don’t know why exactly IIT Bombay happened but it was always my first preference to be able to become a faculty there and teach.

MM: What is the most intriguing aspect of becoming a professor? Share with us your experience so far?

AM: As a professor, we have two major jobs to do- teach and conduct research. In terms of teaching, the best part about the role is to be able to crack a difficult concept to a class full of students sitting with a gloomy face and immediately see their faces glow up! That satisfaction we get at the end of the day that yes, I could convey a difficult problem to a class and the visible reaction thereafter is amazing. In terms of research, that is yet again a very kind of satisfaction to know that you are probably someone working on an idea or an observation, maybe for the first time in human history. So that has its own perks.

MM: While pursuing our B. tech, most students remain confused about whether to do a job or go for higher studies or choose a corporate life. You decided to go for higher studies. What was your motivation to go for an M. tech and then a doctorate?

AM: Like a said, I always wanted to teach but about pursuing research I had no clue. At the same time, choosing a career also depends on what kind of person you are. I knew that a fat salary is not exactly what excites me. What excites me is the interaction you have with people and the fact that I can contribute to the best of my abilities. The contribution is also an aspect of corporate life but the difference is that an individual working with Mahindra or say, Google always has the tag and perception of Google or Mahindra making that contribution and you never get to know the individual who pioneered the idea. In this case, it’s just me and my name creating a difference. People know that this person, in particular, is working on something. So, that is how I chose my career.

MM: Initially you worked on microfluidics and soft mechanics and later on you worked at Prof. Jyotsana Dhawan’s Lab, researching mechanosensing which is related to biological sciences and completely different from what you did initially. How did this drift happen?

AM: It wasn’t exactly a drift for me. I initially wanted to become a doctor but I always did better in maths than biosciences and became an engineer. But then I always wanted to work on something related to biology. So, when I realized that I wanted to do something about it after my PhD because if I don’t work on something now then I might as well never be able to learn anything about it. So, when I had the chance after becoming a faculty, I just jumped into work!

MM: So, what other fields are you planning to research in the coming years?

AM: Right now, I am working on stem cells and cancer. This is probably going to continue as I will further work on cancer and the development of cost-effective organs and efficient laboratories.

Monday Morning further asked him about his opinions on choosing a field of interest with regards to the fact that choosing an object of interest amongst so many luring domains could be ambiguous, he said,

I strongly believe do not agree with someone saying that he/she cannot figure out their area of interest. I strongly believe we can always figure that out and maybe keep it concealed for some other reason, be it peer pressure or job aspects etc. Students know the answer if I ask them whether they like thermodynamics or heat transfer likewise they know if they like mathematics more or experimenting more. They choose one over the over because of external factors. You don’t get to one single domain inside so many domains at one shot. For instance, during my M. tech I wanted to work on something related to simulations so I had to first work on computers then modelling and simulation and then figured it is not exactly my cup of tea and I need to experiment more. So, we get options at every step of our career to decide.  My concern about what I like to tell my students is when life gives you the option to choose, do what you feel like doing and never bow down to societal or peer pressure.

MM: You have experienced life both at NITs and IITs. Is there something that changed in this span of time in the lives of students?

AM: Honestly, I don’t know about students’ lives at IIT Bombay. In my time as a student, we did most of the things because we wanted to do it. What I see now is students do things just because it can add up to their CV and enhance their profile. So that’s a difference I observed.

MM: What experience or any particular incident from your college days that you would like to share?

AM: Oh, there are many! Four years of engineering life packs a lot and its difficult to pick one and share.  (laughs)

MM: What would be your message to our readers and students?

AM:

Well, we get to hear sad incidents about students in media concerning premier institutes like ours. So, we don’t know when someone can go into that mental stage so as to cause himself/herself any harm. So, be in good company, help each other and forget the competition when it comes to your life. If you want to be first, walk alone and if you want to go far, take people along with you. So, please connect with others. At this point in life, I can certainly say that cooperation is anyway better than the competition. When you help someone, it doesn’t mean that someone will help you later but you will definitely be helped by some other force and that is a cycle of life. Trust it!

Team MM is grateful to Dr Abhijit Majumder for giving such an informative talk over his research work and wishes him very good luck in all his future endeavours.

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