NCBS Archives Public Lecture Series, on Friday 15 May

Join us for the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) Archives Public Lecture Series (25th edition) on Friday 15 May, at 12.30 (16.00 IST). The theme is ‘instrumental lives – the lab as the site of a historical excavation’.

Pankaj Sekhsaria, IIT Bombay (received his PhD from FASoS) will be in conversation with FASoS professor Cyrus Mody.

Register for the online lecture here. You can jou the livestream here.


For a period of roughly 25 years, starting in the late 1980s, a research group headed by CV Dharmadhikari in the physics department at the Savitribai Phule Pune University fabricated a range of scanning tunneling and scanning force microscopes including the earliest such microscopes made in the country. These instruments were made entirely in-house, often relying on a re-imagination of material found in local markets and other places. The research done using these microscopes would later be published in leading peer reviewed journals, and students who helped build the microscopes went on to become scientists in their own right in premier institutions.

This talk will start with a presentation by Sekhsaria of the story of Dharmadhikari’s lab. Using qualitative research methods, historical analysis and laboratory ethnography, it is an account of the micro-details of this instrument making enterprise and locates scientific research and innovation within a larger social, political and cultural context.

The story of this particular lab will be contextualised through and located within the narrative of other sites of science, technology and innovation in the country. Drawing from six years of research conducted by the speaker across five nanoscience and technology laboratories in India, it will offer a glimpse of the world within these labs, and illustrate the deep influence of societal context on science, technology and innovation. This talk is based on two books: ‘Instrumental Lives – an initimate biography of an Indian laboratory’ (Routledge 2019), which is an account of instrument making at the cutting edge of contemporary science and technology, and the more recently published ‘Nanoscale: Society’s deep impact on science, technology and innovation in India’ (Authors Upfront 2020).

The overview presentation by Sekhsaria will be followed by a conversation with Cyrus Mody, and a discussion session with the online audience.

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