Monday, 3 July 2017

Vedaranyam to NASA - via Velacheri

For T Gobinath, one of the member-scientists of Kalam Sat team that made history by making the tiniest satellite ever built by mankind, past and future are intertwined inextricably: His research involves the study of seeds in outer space. This would help improve life on earth, he says, and adds that it would help mankind colonise space.

When I had an interaction with him recently, I found that actually, it was only during his secondary schooling at Velacheri Government Higher Secondary School, Chennai, that Gobi was given a first push by his teachers towards the world of science.

T Gobinath -  Photo by: AR Jayakumar
'I started my education in my hometown Vedaranyam (Tirumaraikkaadu) in Nagapattinam district. I studied there till class 7. Later, I did class 8 in a matriculation school in Velacheri, Chennai. However, I did my final stages of schooling from class 9 to 12 in Velacheri Government Higher Secondary School,’ said Gobinath about his school life.

He also briefed me up about the first spark that intended him the scientific temper. 'I still remember my class 9 Maths teacher, Sivagami, who created the science temper in me. Following her, my teachers Sasikala, who handled Biology, and Chitra, who taught chemistry in class 11, were the prime reasons I imbibed a deep interest in science,’ Gobi said.

Having these many teachers help him get interested in science, Gobi started to master Biology, especially plant science. 'I started to explore a lot about seeds, Siddha medications, pre-historic Tamil technologies and space agriculture. I started to love science,’ Gobi said.

When I asked him, how he got into Space Kidz India, the institution that gathered the five students to make the 64-gram satellite, Gobi said, 'It was only through Facebook and my friend Sathish Vasudev that I came to know about the prestigious space club headed by renowned scientist Srimathy Kesan. I would say that if people use social network in a constructive way, the opportunities for them will be enormous. I came across the poster of Space Kidz India's flagship event 'Young Scientist' on Facebook. I participated in the event, and now I am here.’

Having broken the general perception over standards of government schools, Gobi has become another successful scientist from a State-run school. 'I do not believe it is the school that creates scientists or any other kind of experts. It is the student’s aptitude that takes him places - be it a government school or a private school,’ Gobi added.

Asked how a Biology enthusiast got a place in such a huge project, Gobi told me, 'Space research is something that accommodates a lot of people from different fields. They need Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, Information Technology and, of course, Biology. Mankind is moving towards a point where colonisation would be done across planets and moons. For this, we have to take up a lot of experiments in space and other celestial bodies. So, there is always a need for biology everywhere’.

So, what was his work in Kalam Sat project? 'I met Rifath Sharook, the lead scientist of Kalam Sat project in Space Kidz India. In this project, we have sent seeds of different trees and plants in that satellite. These seeds, when they return to Earth would be taken for testing. We will be comparing the nature of a normal seed and the seed that travelled to outer space,’ he explained.

This testing process will be headed and done by Gobi, who is the expert in Biology and space agriculture.

Apart from these known facts. There is a grey area about Gobinath, that he revealed to me. He says disarmingly, 'I am not an expert, but I am learning a lot. I want to bring back the ancient lifestyle of Tamils. This includes their technology, their food habits and medicine. Tamil society is one of the oldest in the world. Other civilisations like Egyptian, Greek or Roman that co-existed in the same time-frame, got wiped out. But, Tamil civilisation still survives. I want to bring back to focus all that they achieved, and my next work would be based on that.’

For Gobi, Siddha medicinal practice of the Tamils was one of the very few methods that did not have side-effects. 'That was because the Siddha method was food. For them, food is medicine and medicine, food, and I want to bring it back to practice’ he added.

With these many futuristic plans, 20-year-old Gobi, who has completed B.Sc in Vivekananda College, is now planning to do M.Sc in Madras University in the Bio-Physics department.

- Santhosh Mathevan,
Chennai, July 3, 2017.

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