Volunteering for COVID


The pandemic has affected everything and everybody to different degrees. And academics and research is no exception. It is all the more amazing that in this crisis moment, many of the lab members – Kunalika and Neha- have been volunteering to work at the COVID-Testing Centre. This centre was established under the guidance of Dr. Anjan Banerjee and multiple faculty, to address the need for scaling up virus testing in the city of Pune. If we are to have a fighting chance to open up safely, we need to know who is infected and isolate and treat them, till they get better.

This raises an important question about applied and basic research. In our ordinary lives we are at the forefront of (sometimes) obscure problems, driven by our curiosity and perhaps the interest of a few others in the world. Molecular diagnostics are almost the opposite. The methods are set by the national testing agency. It is important to follow protocol and not deviate and to work in large teams not thinking independently.

So the question is are free thinking fundamental researchers capable of harnessing the training in biology to contribute to the need for skilled work. The answer from the IISER Pune experience is a resounding yes. And its a moment of joy for me to see how many students not just those from my lab showing that they are willing to enter these rooms where the virus is being brought and dealing with it scientifically. Just for this, I think our institute’s ethos and sense of team-work, and responsibility to those around us is reaffirmed.

With more such brave and trained souls, the day is not far when we will surmount this pandemic.

Field microscope


Focussing mechanism for a cellphone microscope

After collecting a small personal museum of microscopes (I don’t have a very big house, so there are limits to it), it was thrilling to complete a project with Yash (BS-MS 2018) and Prof. Rapol in Physics @iiserpune, where we added a 3D printed mechanism for focus adjustment for a portable ball lens microscope. The help we got from Dr. Manu Prakash at Stanford to get us started needs to be mentioned. His energy in spreading portable microscopy in parts of LDCs (less developed country) like India has got a lot of people to get “back to the basics”. In our work we got some help in terms of samples from the lab of Dr. Krishanpal Karmodiya, who works with Plasmodium infected cells for understanding the genomics of malaria. Kudos to the team and looking forward to more developments.

The 3D files of the device we have described in our paper are Open Source and available to download [Github link]. Anybody with access to a 3D printer should in principle be able to make this.


Yash Jawale, Umakant Rapol and Chaitanya A. Athale (2018) Open Source 3D printed focussing mechanism (3DPFM) for cellphone based cellular microscopy. 12-Nov-2018 J. Microsc.  https://doi.org/10.1111/jmi.12765

Foldscope ver.2


How to fold a microscope #Foldscope

Assembled and (later corrected)

A weekend coffee well spent assembling the Foldscope

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