I work as a postdoctoral research associate with Dr Marcela Hernandez at the University of East Anglia, where I am investigating the prevalence and consequences of antimicrobial resistance genes along a chronosequence in developing proglacial Arctic soils exposed by glacier retreat. 

I completed my PhD at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India under the supervision of Dr Sumanta Bagchi. I am a microbial ecologist by training, with interests in biogeochemistry and climate change.

I have followed AMI (previously SfAM) journals for a long time. I was particularly drawn to the cause of AMI, which is to promote the applied aspects of microbiology. I am now a member of the oldest and most esteemed microbiology society in the UK and also a reviewer for the Journal of Applied Microbiology. I am involved in various other activities of the Society, most recently at the Voice of the Future event.

The Voice of the Future is organised by the Royal Society of Biology at Westminster. The purpose of this event is to give early career researchers in science and engineering the opportunity to question senior figures from parliament and the government about critical governmental science policies.

I was approached by AMI through Dr Marcela Hernandez to ask a question and represent AMI at the event. It was a wonderful experience for me to ask the government a question on behalf of AMI. I sincerely thank AMI for providing me with this very rare opportunity. I directed my question to Professor Gideon Henderson, DEFRA Chief Scientific Adviser. 

‘How can we ensure the UK’s current research and innovation is being successfully implemented into real-world solutions, and how should the government ensure this is being implemented into policy changes?’

The whole day was quite eventful. The event started with me standing in a queue to enter the building. Within minutes I found myself standing in the lobby with windows staring at Westminster Bridge. I then registered for the event and we were accompanied to the hall where the event took place. It was surreal for me to sit at the horseshoe table, which is otherwise occupied by the MPs for various parliament select committee meetings. The event then started with the panel of early career researchers introducing themselves and addressing topics such as plant security, science communication etc. The representatives from the government then came one by one and we asked questions on various fields of science and engineering. After the event ended, I had a quick photo session outside the building to remember the meeting and made my way through the crowded London Underground to catch the return train to Norwich.

I found all the questions raised during the event to be vital and urgent as they have ramifications for the human society of today and tomorrow. However, there were two questions that I found to be most interesting:

1. What do you think is the cause of gender disparities in maths (89% of maths professors in the UK are men, compared to 11% being women), and what should be done to address this?

2. What is the government doing to prevent sewage from being released during high rainfall (water companies find it cheaper to release untreated sewage into rivers and pay fines later) and to restore the health of our aquatic ecosystems for nature and people?

To the first question, the governmental panel opines a bottom-up strategy where they appeal to parents to motivate their daughters to take up maths and physics in higher education. They think this will help break the long-standing myth that ‘girls can’t do maths’.

To the second question, the response of the government was mixed. They are aware of the problem but don’t have real-time ground data that will help them formulate stricter policies to stop the sewage menace. However, in 2016 the government ordered water companies to install monitoring devices to record the duration and frequency of spillage events. The government has established a sewage discharge reduction plan that requires water companies to invest £56 billion for water treatment over the next 20 years.

A link to the full video of the Voice of The Future event can be found on the UK Parliament YouTube channel here.