Dr Neena Panandikar earns CSIR-ASPIRE laurels

CSIR-ASPIRE initiative is a scheme by the central government to encourage and empower women in the scientific research field. It has chosen Dr Neena Panandikar a Goan scientist and Principal of the Don Bosco College of Engineering amongst 300 researchers. She has received laurels for her efforts to reduce the usage of cement through her research that focuses on substituting it with a more suitable substances that encourages sustainable development.

The ASPIRE scheme by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), called upon only women scientists for unique research grants. These grants aimed to enable development in the fundamental aspects of science and engineering such as chemical sciences, physical sciences, inter or trans-disciplinary sciences, life sciences, and engineering sciences. In a vast pool of 300 female researchers across five categories, Dr Panandikar was chosen. She was also selected amongst 53 women in the engineering sciences category.

Dr Panandikar considers it an honour to be chosen amongst multiple female scientists and researchers. She believes that this achievement encourages her to relentlessly pursue her research. In addition she considers the support she received from her management, colleagues, and mentors as a massive contribution to this achievement and it inspires her to push boundaries.

Her research focused on substituting cement with materials such as egg shells, crab shell and seashell waste to further propagate sustainable development. In addition it aimed to decrease the amount of glass waste being sent to landfills and rather use it as a substitute of sand. The project focuses on the recycling of materials that would otherwise be a ‘waste’ and would further contribute to the degradation of the environment.

A junior research fellow (JRF), will be appointed by CSIR to assist Dr Panandikar with her research. Professor and Head of the civil engineering department, Dr Shwetha Prassanahas has been selected as a coordinator.

Final year mechanical engineering students were given the project of the seashell crushing machine. According to Dr Panandikar the machine has been successfully fabricated under the vigilant guidance of Dr Suraj Marathe. She states that she is sincerely thankful for the efforts and contributions made by Dr Marathe and the students, Beven Correia, Sayam Talaulikar, Shreyas Silimkhan, Shreetej Kotharkar, and Yash Paul.

The grant worth 20 lakh required to cover the cost of materials, equipment, travel, a JRF, institutional overheads and any additional miscellaneous expenses involved in the project has been received by Dr Panandikar.

Dr Panandikar said “There has been a significant increase in the number of women pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Encouraging girls to pursue STEM from a young age is important. Women often face challenges in balancing work and family responsibilities, which can impact their career progression in demanding scientific fields. Initiatives like scholarships, mentorship programmes, and dedicated grants and funding opportunities as initiated by the CSIR for women can propel women’s advancement in scientific careers.”

She also urges women to not lose hope despite the hurdles that persist in the scientific field. Women in her opinion must view the rejection that accompanies scientific research as feedback and work towards breaking boundaries.

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