I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to my Research Supervisor, Prof. S. Baskaran, FASc., Dept. of Chemistry, IIT Madras, for his immeasurable amount of support and guidance that he has provided throughout my stay at IIT Madras, as a research Scholar.
It’s quite a common dream- to be a student of IIT Madras, one of the premier institutes in India. During my childhood days, whenever, I crossed the IIT Madras campus, I used to question myself, “Will I become a student of IIT Madras?” I completed my Masters Degree (General Science) from R.K.M. Vivekananda College and I also cleared the CSIR exam. I then joined Shasun Chemicals & Drugs Pvt. Ltd., as a Research Chemist, where I got the chance to work under Prof. K. K. Balasubramaninan, FASc., FNA., (Retd., Professor from IIT Madras Chemistry department). It is an unforgettable memory; I was interviewed and selected in Shasun Chemicals. My interview with Prof. KKB, went on for more than 4 hrs. I was given the offer letter immediately after the interview. I was a part of several projects in Shasun Chemicals. Prof. KKB came to know about my CSIR-JRF fellowship and advised me to pursue higher studies. I never expected that, my dream ‘to be a student of IIT Madras’ would come true. Prof. KKB introduced me to my research supervisor, Prof. S. Baskaran, FASc, department of Chemistry, IIT Madras. He also told me that, Prof. S.B. is professionally very tough and his expectations from his students will be very high and that I would have to work hard to meet his expectations. Prof. KKB and my boss (Dr. T. Chandiran) at Shasun Chemicals told me that it was a great opportunity for me. I got to start my research career under the guidance of a sincere, dedicated and professionally tough scientist. I took their advice and applied for the Ph.D. program at IIT Madras, cleared the interview and joined the Prof. S. Baskaran’s research group in 2003. During the initial periods, I struggled a lot to get positive results. My Prof. would not accept failures until unless he was convinced. He would ask his students to modify and repeat the failure experiments until the results were convincing. For the first three years, I didn’t have any interesting results to publish. My prof. told me I lacked confidence and that I would be confident enough once a paper of mine gets published. He put me in a project with some seniors. I started getting new results and I published my 1st research paper in 2007. Things started moving, and I started working hard in the lab to push the things as much as possible. Initially, my project was to develop a new method for the synthesis of Vigabatrin (an antiepileptic drug). I could not complete the synthesis of Vigabatrin due to some synthetic challenges. My Prof. suggested the ways to convert my hard work into scientific publications. Then we decided to develop novel methods towards the Regio- and Chemo-selective transformations of benzylidene acetals, where we could make use of all the intermediates that we had synthesized towards the synthesis of Vigabatrin. We succeeded in our strategy and also published several scientific papers towards the Regio- and Chemo-selective transformation of benzylidene acetals. My next target was to synthesize anti-diabetic drug from D-Glucose. I almost achieved the synthesis of the molecule and got stuck in the final step. I tried every possible method, but all my efforts ended up as failures. Every Saturday we used to have group discussion with our Prof. In one of these discussions, I explained to him the difficulties I was facing. Only the RuCl3/NaIO4 reagent system was yet to be tried. I had exhausted all other possibilities. My professor explained me the compatibility issues associated with that reagent system and also suggested me to try that reagent system with the penultimate step intermediate. Further, he went to the board and explained the hypothesis behind his suggestion. Next day, I tried that reaction and to our surprise, the reaction proceeded as expected to give the desired final target molecule in one step. Encouraged by this interesting observation, my professor came up with lot of ideas, as usual, in his own style to explore the synthetic potential of the reaction. As a result, we were able to publish our research paper, the first from IIT Madras since 1959, in one of the high impact scientific journal “Angewandte Chemie International Edition” (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2010, 49, 804-807) . This scientific paper was nominated for international Ph.D. prize (Reaxys Ph.D. Prize 2010) and it also got selected as one of the finalists for the prize. The most important thing that I have learnt during my Ph. D. is to have as many technical interactions and discussions as possible with the research supervisors and follow their valuable suggestions. This will lead to more knowledge transfer and also in developing the problem solving skills. Initially, struggled a lot in meeting my Prof’s expectations, but, my Prof. was kind enough and patient with my mistakes. He used to correct me wherever and whenever it was necessary. Whenever, I had technical discussions with my Prof., he will make me to realize my ignorance in chemistry. I took everything in the right sprit and tried to improve my self. His sound knowledge of chemistry and fundamental research inspired me a lot. He is very good at shaping students to be good researchers. I feel proud to be a student of Prof. S. Baskaran, Department of Chemistry, IITM.