@Aastha Aastha Munjal

My first time at CUBE was at the annual CUBE Presentation Meet, 2017. I had freshly stepped into Biotechnology for my undergraduate studies and had found out about CUBE from my teachers at VESASC, Mumbai.

Although I was always attached to science, I was never really exposed to how it’s DONE. My fascination with the subject would start with the books, and conclude with imagination. I would always read, write, question, and Google but I would never discuss. That changed with CUBE.

During the meet, I learnt about the concept of model organisms in Biology - and it was fascinating, to say the least: Daphnia/Moina, Earthworms, Arabidopsis, Hydra, fruit flies…this was my maiden exposure to how biology is DONE. And I realised that science without observation and experimentation is not science at all. In fact, one of the prime features of science that distinguish it from the other fields is the scientific method.

I also observed how everyone was comfortably exercising inquisitiveness. I couldn’t hold myself back from raising the questions I had - and I didn’t need to turn to Google this time. I raised and addressed questions as part of the audience and suddenly realised how comfortable I was feeling in my own skin, sitting in an environment like that. That day, I learnt a little bit about the Biological Clock, thanks to Drosophila. (Soon enough, the Nobel Prize of 2018 helped me realise that CUBE was addressing questions of relevance in Biology. It wasn’t just science - it was important science!)

I knew I had to come back the next day, and so I did. was assigned to work with Earthworms. Over several post-lunch causeries in the CUBE lab, HBCSE, Mumbai - I realised how little I knew about the nervous system. It was via these discussions that I, with intelligent aid from Jai, MC Arunan sir, and my fellow CUBEists, was able to derive some of the lost concepts on the board. The rest, I would go home and read about after rigorous causerie grilling. It was during one of the causerie sessions at CUBE that I learnt the difference between ganglions, neurones, cell bodies, and nerves. In another session, I learned what it meant to have ‘a feeling for the organism.’ But in no session was my learning limited to the model organism I was assigned.

I distinctly remember discussing the extraction of DNA from plant tissue with Arunan sir over my first lunch at CUBE. This turned into a full-fledged discussion in the CUBE lab, and eventually lead to collaboration to devise methods of DNA extraction that do not require lab sophistication - only mindfulness! CUBE BLISS WhatsApp groups were created, and we collaborated online with CUBEists in North Eastern schools of India to come up with a video to demonstrate DNA extraction from a spinach tissue sample using table salt, soap, and aftershave lotion/hand sanitizer/perfume!

The CUBE lab wasn’t the only place where I began behaving like a CUBEist. I soon opened up to my teachers during classroom lectures with my own set of questions. I began reading about research in Biology and interacting with my fellow CUBEists about their work. For instance, Apoorva from CHM CUBE is ever ready to talk about his Moinas. I owe to such interactions my continued interest in CUBE and Biology. So when the undiagnosed problem of dying Moinas came around, I was able to participate in WhatsApp discussions to suggest alternative methods of Moina culturing. In fact, most recently, during my interview rounds at IISER Pune when I was asked to address a particular research problem using epigenetics, I was immediately reminded of Moinas - and that helped me garner an approach to the problem I was posed.

I heartily concur with Kajal (CUBE Delhi) on the fact that one may leave CUBE, but CUBEism never leaves them!


How to move on?
What is your take on current happenings in CUBE now? @Aastha