This year, we are excited to bring you insightful conversations with two prolific women researchers from India who have made significant contributions to chemistry and allied sciences, as well as a curated collection of ACS journal articles, Special Issues, and content.

A woman in a lab coat is looking through a microscope.

As we celebrate International Women's Day on March 8, let us recognize the women in chemistry and allied sciences collectively advocating for a world where every individual, regardless of gender, has equal opportunities to contribute to and benefit from scientific progress.

The day not only acknowledges the individual brilliance but also serves as an inspiration for aspiring scientists. On this occasion, we are excited to feature insightful conversations with two prolific women researchers from India who have made significant contributions to chemistry and allied sciences. Additionally, we invite you to browse a curated collection of ACS journal articles, Special Issues, and content.

A Conversation With Dr. S. K. Asha

Headshot of Dr. Asha S.K.

Dr. S. K. Asha received her B.Sc. & M.Sc. from Kerala University. In 2000, she obtained her Ph.D. in Polymer Chemistry from Indian Institute Of Science, Bangalore and moved to Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands for her postdoctoral studies. In 2002, she joined GE Plastics, John F. Welch Tech.Centre, GE India Private Ltd., Bangalore as a Polymer Scientist. After a brief stint of industrial research, she joined as a Scientist at National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST, CSIR) – Thiruvananthapuram (2003-2007). Since 2007, she is associated with the CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory Pune and currently serves as the Chief Scientist and Chair, Polymer Science & Engineering Division. Her research work focuses on Polymer and Soft Material Research for Light Based 3D Printing Applications. She is the recipient of the CRSI Bronze Medal and has served as an editorial advisory board member of ACS journals Macromolecules (2018-2020).

As a woman in the scientific community, how do you leverage your unique expertise and experience to contribute to the broader scientific development?

Scientific development is independent of gender; however, the pursuit of its development is still restricted with regard to gender. I have been fortunate to be born and brought up in Kerala, a state where higher education for women is mostly encouraged both within families and society at large. Therefore, I did not face any significant hurdles in pursuing a career in research which typically takes much longer to achieve independence.

Now after completing about two decades as an independent researcher, I have encountered many cases of young girls aspiring to pursue science. Unfortunately, they often face career breaks due to early marriages and family responsibilities. These breaks can interrupt their scientific journey. I believe there is much work to be done to support and promote these women.

I have served as board member for government science research funding programs that cater to promoting women with career breaks. The board members also take the responsibility of mentoring promising candidates, helping them prepare better research proposals to secure funding. This support enables them to resume their scientific journey from where they left off. Additionally, I strive to encourage and support promising female students who apply for project or Ph.D. programs to explore research as a career. I convey the message that research contributes significantly to our country’s technological development and each day at work brings new learning opportunities.

What advice would you give to aspiring women researchers and authors navigating their careers in the scientific domain?

As I said before, scientific development is independent of gender; there are no short cuts in science, only the best scientific practices will sustain and bring recognition. Across the world there is increased awareness regarding inclusivity in scientific opportunities. In India special initiatives aim to promote and recruit more women as faculty members and researchers.

Unfortunately, there remains a lack of awareness particularly in rural areas. Female students aspiring to pursue a scientific career should be encouraged to undertake their undergraduate project work in recognized research institutes. This exposure will provide them with more opportunities both within the country and abroad. While academic jobs are scarce, there is promising growth in women entrepreneurs within the scientific domain, which is highly encouraging.

What is your favorite article/articles that you’ve published with ACS Publications?

Self-Assembly of Bispentadecylphenol Substituted Perylenediimide with PS-b-P4VP for Structure–Property Insight into the Core of Core–Shell Micelles
Moumita Roy, Pattuparambil R. Rajamohanan, Sapna Ravindranathan*, and Asha SK*
ACS Applied Polymer Materials
DOI: 10.1021/acsapm.9b01099

Naphthalene Diimide Copolymers by Direct Arylation Polycondensation as Highly Stable Supercapacitor Electrode Materials
Sandeep Sharma, Roby Soni, Sreekumar Kurungot* and S. K. Asha*
DOI: 10.1021/acs.macromol.7b02425

Selective and Sensitive Sensing of Free Bilirubin in Human Serum Using Water-Soluble Polyfluorene as Fluorescent Probe
T. Senthil Kumar and S.K. Asha*

DOI: 10.1021/acs.macromol.5b00043

A Conversation With Dr. Ishu Saraogi

Headshot of Dr. Ishu Saraogi

Dr. Ishu Saraogi received her B.Sc. in Chemistry from University of Calcutta, and a M.S. in Chemistry from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore working with Prof. T. N. Guru Row. In 2008, she obtained her Ph.D. from Yale University under the supervision of Prof. Andrew Hamilton.

After a postdoctoral stint at Caltech with Prof. Shu-ou Shan, she joined Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Bhopal in 2013, where she works on developing chemical tools to modulate biomolecular interactions. A major focus of their research is the development of novel antibacterial and anti-amyloidogenic agents.

She is a recipient of the Ramanujan and POWER fellowships from the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), India. Their work was featured in the ChemBioTalents collection by the journal ChemBioChem (Wiley). She was recently awarded the Prof. Dhananjay Nasipuri Memorial Lecture Award by the Indian Chemical Society and is one of the Thieme Journal Awardees for 2024. She serves on the editorial advisory boards of ChemBioChem (early career) and ACS Chemical Health & Safety.

As a woman in the scientific community, how do you leverage your unique expertise and experience to contribute to the broader scientific development?

I believe that every individual brings their unique perspective to a field. Balancing several things at the same time comes naturally to women. To me, the pursuit of science is sacrosanct. In addition to publishing, the most important aspect of our science is the societal impact it makes. That includes the translational potential of our work as well as the human capital that we generate in the form of our trainees, who will be the future of science.

What advice would you give to aspiring women researchers and authors navigating their careers in the scientific domain?

If you want something, go for it. Do not be deterred by criticism from other people. When in self-doubt, reach out to people who are in a place that you aspire to be in. Learning about the struggles of others brings a sense of perspective, and confidence that you can also make it.

What is your favorite article/articles that you’ve published with ACS Publications?

Enhanced Codon–Anticodon Interaction at In-Frame UAG Stop Codon Improves the Efficiency of Non-Natural Amino Acid Mutagenesis
Purnima Mala and Ishu Saraogi*
ACS Chemical Biology
DOI: 10.1021/acschembio.1c00782

Featured Research and Content from ACS Journals
Two women are silhouetted in front of a red and blue background.

Resilient Women and the Resiliency of Science

This editorial from Chemistry of Materials accompanies a Virtual Collection of papers published during the COVID-19 pandemic by women corresponding authors. The editorial contains personal experiences and perspectives from various women scientists on how they define and exhibit resilience, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on women in science.
Silhouettes of people on a purple background.

Women Scientists at the Forefront of Energy Research (Parts 1-6)

This six-part Collection series celebrates the contribution of female energy researchers who have published new advances from their laboratories in ACS Energy Letters. From early career researchers to well-established senior scientists, the successful career paths they have taken to become leaders in the community have impacted energy research in a significant way.
The head of a woman is made of polygons on a blue background.

Women Researchers at the Forefront of Crystal Engineering

Through this Collection, Crystal Growth & Design celebrates the contributions that women have made and will continue to make to the field. 38 first authors or corresponding authors who are cisgender or transgender women submitted information for inclusion, and many of them wrote statements about their experiences as researchers in crystal engineering.
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Marsha I. Lester Festschrift

Marsha I. Lester, the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, has been a trailblazer in physical chemistry for more than four decades. The fifty articles in this Festschrift from The Journal of Physical Chemistry A honor Lester’s ongoing research achievements and her legacy of mentorship and advocacy for women in physical chemistry.

Read Prof. Lester's Autobiography, published as part of this Special Issue.
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Cynthia M. Friend Festschrift

This Festschrift, published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry C., honors the distinguished career of Professor Cynthia M. Friend, a trailblazer in the field of organometallic surface chemistry. The articles in this Special Issue pay tribute to Prof. Friend's tremendous achievements as a scientist and a leader in the physical chemistry community.

Read Prof. Friend's Personal Perspective on a Life in Science, published as part of this Special Issue.
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