Shubha Vij’s Short of Science is based on an intriguing premise. It chronicles the journey of Ph.D. candidate Sanyukta at the Department of Plant Genetics at Delhi University. The author herself is a geneticist and a researcher and she channels her experiences into this insightful story that throws light on the behind-the-scenes action in cutting-edge research.
Sanyukta is a bright-eyed and driven scientist. She joins Professor Lokesh Kapoor’s lab for her doctoral thesis. The laid-back professor has just received a grant for developing a high-yielding grain of basmati rice through genome sequencing. Sanyukta faces many roadblocks as she receives little to no guidance from her professor and faces hostility from some of her colleagues.
This book is unique because it highlights the ugly side of academia and the research world- one that involves scrambles for grant money, scuffles for authorship crediting, and politics. Data is fiercely guarded, and colleagues try to sabotage each other’s experiments. The story also showcases the difficulties faced by young mothers in research.
Some parts are deeply emotional, especially the ones where Sanyukta remembers her grandmother. Her bond with her father who is her friend and biggest cheerleader is simply delightful. Some chapters will make you chuckle. Some parts make you sad, especially when Sanyukta feels dejected that her hard work isn’t getting her anywhere. The reader feels her anger, her indignation, and her pain. The final chapter will make you cheer loudly for her.
Shubha’s book was an eye-opener for me and helped shatter many stereotypes on a subject that is not written about much, especially in the Indian context. This is a must-read for those in research or academia. More power to women in STEM!