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Bhatnagar awardee Saha has many faces

DNPUN19337 | 10/3/2009 | Author : Bhagyashree Kulthe | WC :562

Scientist Bhaskar Saha is good at sketching, photography, music and gardening

“I want to serve my country,” Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar awardee Bhaskar Saha told his wife Ratna when they met a decade ago.
The scientist from the Pune-based National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) is living up to his words and yet his family and students say the best from him is yet to come. His students and wife threw light on the multi-faceted scientist, who is good at sketching, photography, music and gardening.
The 2009 award, instituted by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), was announced recently for Saha’s outstanding contribution to immunology.
His team discovered the fundamental principles of the plasticity of signal transduction mechanisms in immune cells using leishmania as the disease model. Leishmania is a genus of trypanosome protozoa, and is the parasite responsible for the disease leishmaniasis. It is spread through sandflies
Using models of tumour and the leishmania infection, which is endemic in India, the research showed how the fundamental principles of cellular regulation may be exploited for therapeutic purposes. At present, Saha is in Switzerland for research work.
Ratna Saha, who is a teacher at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, told DNA, “He had just returned from the United States, where he had gone for education and research. When we met for the first time at Kolkata as prospective bride and groom, I wanted to know whether he wished to go back to the US. His reply impressed me.”
“He has varied interests. Even in his busy schedule, he finds time for photography, sketching, gardening, reading and playing with our children Baibaswata and Saptaparnee,” she said.
Sharp memory and hard work are his assets, she said. “Even after 11 years of marriage, I am astounded when he promptly recalls the name of the book, volume number and even chapter number where I can find the details of a particular topic. The children always depend on his guidance for their school projects,” Ratna said, adding that he is a dutiful son and a doting father.

Students find him brilliant and patient
Bhaskar Saha’s students at the NCCS live in the awe of their teacher and guide. About 15 students including research scholars and technical assistants work under his guidance at laboratory number five of the Infection and Immunology department. “Once I broke an equipment in the laboratory. Although the research was going to halt for some days due to my mistake, he coolly said, ‘That’s OK. Replace it with a new one’,” said researcher Neetu Srivastava. 
“I don’t remember him scolding,  but he is sad when expected results are not achieved. Disappointing him is so painful that we put our best to see the satisfaction on his face,” said researcher Sushmita Pahari.
He has developed a garden even in the gallery of his laboratory in the NCCS building. “He is a totally different person out of the lab. His simplicity makes him approachable. He loves to throw a pizza party occasionally for us. Study trips and tours with him are something to remember. He sings well and is interested in Rabindra Sangeet,” said researcher Raghu Kumar.
Second one from NCCS
Bhaskar Saha’s colleague and scientist from NCCS Dr Gopal Kundu was the first person from the institute to bag the Bhatnagar award in 2004. “I am happy Bhaskar has brought the honour again. His research will help to develop some immune therapy in the long run.”

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