Compelled to return to Manipur, a researcher is building regional startups


Khundrakpam Herojit Singh has all the qualifications and achievements to pursue his postdoctoral research abroad. But he moved back to his hometown because of family responsibilities. He now feels his duties extend beyond his kin and wants to give back to society. This is his story.

Herojit struggled for 6 months to complete what was a week’s chore during his PhD. He was trying to change a circular gene by inserting another short gene, a process known as cloning. What was causing this delay? His geographical location. New Delhi—was where he was quick with cloning. At Imphal—the capital of Manipur, a state in the North East of India that Herojit introduces as “Assam ke bagal mein” (next to Assam) to the ignorant—he finally resorted to outsourcing the task.

“Infrastructure”—pat comes his reply when I ask him the biggest difference between the two places. His laboratory at Manipur University doesn’t have a -80°C ultra-cold freezer, the lifeline of most biology labs. He has to store the cells for experiments in a -20°C freezer, where they last only for a couple of days (since the temperatures are negative, -80°C is much colder than -20°C). If the -20°C freezer maintains the temperature, that is! Power cuts are common, with inadequate power backup available. However, he speaks highly of his mentor at Manipur University, Hamidur Rahman who is trying to procure funding and infrastructure for the lab. 


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