DST Women Scientist Scheme-A: Empowering Savleen Kaur, others in science & tech

Pune: Dr Savleen Kaur has come a long way from working with a tertiary health care unit in ophthalmology at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGI) in Chandigarh, with no salary or full-time job, to becoming an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology in the Advanced Eye Care Centre at the very same centre. The turning point in her life came in the form of a fellowship, the Women Scientist Scheme-A (WOS-A) of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) on 1 March 2019.

The Women Scientist Scheme-A provides a platform to women scientists and technologists for pursuing research in basic or applied sciences and offers them opportunities to work as bench-level scientists. This scheme plays a pivotal role in gender mainstreaming and training and retaining women in the system, and prevents brain-drain from the Science & Technology (S&T) system.

The support available in five disciplines under the Scheme are namely, Physical & Mathematical Sciences (PMS), Chemical Sciences (CS), Life Sciences (LS), Earth & Atmospheric Sciences (EAS), and Engineering Technology (ET).

Dr Kaur finished her post-graduation in ophthalmology from Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi. After marriage, she moved to Chandigarh and, after waiting for a year, joined as a senior resident at PGI. She continued as a research associate at PGI, but then there came a time when she sat jobless at home and wondered about her future in her field. DST gave her a platform to not only showcase her research but also the opportunity to work in one of the best institutes of the country under her favourite mentor.

Dr Kaur says, “I was looking for a podium to stand on. I was looking for a break to tell the world about my work and was ecstatic when I got it. I was among the seven in the country who got it in life sciences, and it made all the trouble worthwhile. I had a long break in work, with the responsibility of family and kids. The scheme made me come back with full force.”

“I worked hard to have an in-depth knowledge of my subject. I was confident and I could defend the work I had done myself. Not to forget the guidance of my mentors, Dr Amod Gupta and Dr Mangat Dogra, ex HODs in Department of Ophthalmology at PGIMER, Dr Jagat Ram, current Director and Head of the department and Dr Jaspreet Sukhija, Additional Professor in the same department who taught me to work hard and keep aiming high. The support of my husband and in-laws is priceless,” she adds.

“Women aspiring to return to mainstream science after a break in career should never give up. Persistence and perseverance will always pay. Don’t ever think that family is pushing you back. It is making you stronger. Keep an eye open for schemes like these.”

Dr Kaur is looking forward to expanding her research, now that she has a permanent job. She has pointed out that there are only a handful of dedicated pediatric ophthalmologists in the country and she wishes to fill this gap and work towards the elimination of childhood blindness in India by further research.

DST Women Scientist Scheme A Empowering Savleen Kaur | Indus Dictum
Dr Savleen Kaur

“To me, WOS-A Scheme gave me an opportunity to pursue education, intellect and research in the field of pediatric ophthalmology. I would like to expand research in this sub-speciality, and also teach and motivate others to fulfil the ever-increasing demand in this area. Women in a scientific career are like soldiers in enemy territory. You can’t go back to where you came from and you have to fight in hostile environments. Keep your focus and your faith. Believe in yourself and your training. Luck favours those who are prepared for it!” she said.


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