Trailblazing the Depths

From the Arctic to the classroom: Dr. Savita Kerkar’s inspiring journey of exploration and education

Dr Savita Kerkar, a prominent figure in the fields of education and marine microbiology, has had an extraordinary journey filled with academic achievements and groundbreaking research. Her story is one of determination, passion, and a commitment to making a difference.
Born in Portugal and raised in various countries due to her father’s profession as an Entomologist working as a scientist with the United Nations, Dr Kerkar’s diverse background shaped her perspective and nurtured her love for learning.
Dr Kerkar’s educational journey began in California, where she completed her primary education. Following her father’s transfer to Argentina, she spent three years in Buenos Aires, attending school there. At the age of 12, she returned to Goa, where she pursued her education in Priol at Shikshaniketan and New English High School at Kundaim.
Despite encountering challenges with Hindi due to not studying it during her childhood, she persevered and completed her 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. Subsequently, Dr Kerkar pursued her higher education at Chowgule College in Margao, where she excelled in her studies, graduating with honours in zoology and topping the merit list in Goa. Due to the unavailability of a master’s program in Zoology in Goa, she pursued her master’s degree in microbiology at the Postgraduate Center affiliated with Bombay University. She also obtained a Diploma in Medical Laboratory Technology (DMLT) in laboratory techniques and, together with her husband, established a hospital and a biochemical and microbiology testing laboratory in Calangute. However, Dr Kerkar soon realised that her work in the laboratory and hospital management did not align with her interests and skills. Her thirst for knowledge led her to explore a marine biotechnology master’s program. Despite being a mother of a two-year-old at the time, she dedicated herself to studying for the national entrance exam conducted by Jawaharlal Nehru University. Out of 900 students vying for only 10 seats, Dr Kerkar emerged successful and completed her second master’s degree.
In 1990, she joined Goa University as a lecturer and found her true calling in teaching. She had a brief teaching experience at Manovikas High School after her graduation exam which further solidified her passion for education. Driven by her dedication to her students, she established a strong bond with them and even celebrated Diwali with hostel students at her home, transcending caste, creed, and religion. “This tradition has continued for the past 33 years,” says Dr Kerkar. Driven by her fascination with marine microbiology and environmental issues, Dr Kerkar pursued her research primarily focused on the salt pan eco-system and marine bacteria found within it. She spearheaded various projects that resulted in the development of bio-fertilisers, probiotics for aquaculture, isolation of antifungal bacteria, exploration of new antibiotics, and more. Dr Kerkar’s dedication to utilising natural salt and promoting its health benefits, particularly the abundant iodine content in Goan salt, has been influential. Moreover, Dr Kerkar is a staunch advocate for the use of natural salt, which is abundant in Goa and rich in iodine and many trace elements and minerals. She challenges the notion propagated by commercial brands that natural salt lacks iodine, highlighting its numerous health benefits and long shelf life. While the natural salt may have a bit of mud due to the harvesting process, she believes it is a small price to pay compared to the potential
Dr Kerkar’s pursuit of knowledge and her interest in global warming led her to participate in the ‘Third Indian Arctic Expedition’ in 2009 as a research scientist. This opportunity allowed her to observe first hand the effects of temperature rise on marine bacteria and their crucial role in the eco-system. Her subsequent research expeditions to the North Pole in 2019 further contributed to her understanding of bacterial interactions with plants and the discovery of a compound called Limonene, which has diverse applications, including potential use in anti-cancer treatments. “I was also successful in seeing polar bears during the second arctic expedition,” says Dr Kerkar amusingly. Throughout her illustrious career, Dr Kerkar has received numerous accolades for her contributions to education and research. Most recently, she was honoured with ‘Goa Best Teachers Award’ for the academic year 2019-2020, recognising her excellence in teaching. Additionally, she has been recognised for her outstanding research in applied biodiversity. As Dr Kerkar prepares for retirement, she leaves behind a legacy of exceptional accomplishments and an unwavering commitment to her profession.
Dr Kerkar’s message to aspiring teachers is one of authenticity and dedication. She emphasises the importance of making a difference through teaching and encouraging students to explore beyond the digital age.
In an era where information is readily available, she emphasises the importance of fostering curiosity and genuine interest in students, guiding them to explore subjects beyond what can be found on search engines. By fostering a passion for learning, teachers can inspire their students to delve deeper into subjects and develop a genuine interest. Her remarkable journey exemplifies the transformative power of passion, perseverance, and a love for learning.
From her diverse upbringing and early experiences in different countries to her pursuit of excellence in academics Dr Kerkar has shown that education is not merely about imparting information but about igniting curiosity and fostering a lifelong love for learning. Her story continues to inspire and guide those who follow her footsteps


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