An Amritsar-based scientist, Vandana Bhalla, was named as the first woman scientist in the Thomson Reuters Research Excellence - India Citation Awards list. Bhalla has been active in research and teaching for over 16 years and observes that ace bio-data of women should be two or three times better than the male scientists to ensure a smooth entry into research.
Bhalla, assistant professor at the department of chemistry at Amritsar's Guru Nanak Dev University, said, "Stepping into the male-dominated domain of Indian science is not easy for a woman researcher because of the gender bias, though the situation in the country is better than in Japan or Britain. However, once you have proved your worth, you are good to go. I was told that I am the first woman to be included in the list. Actually, this is a tragedy (that she is the first woman awardee, there should have been more), it is very difficult for a woman scientist. Research is very demanding and it is not a nine-to-five job."
Although there is equality in the field, Bhalla initially found it difficult to break through. She said, "The reason being men are preferred to woman scientists when applying for jobs in the initial phases of their careers. I got my PhD in 1998 but got the right job only in 2006."
Bhalla further added, "It was surprising to find there are very few women researchers in Japan because they don't encourage women to take up research, but now they are doing so. In the UK, the number of women professors is low because of the competition. That way India is much better off."
With around 130 publications, the scientist admits, "It's a relief to have been included in the Indian Citation Awards list since I feel it's a testimony of my work being recognized."
Despite the challenges in conducting research in a university setting, the scientist has set her sights on increasing the impact of her work by trying for foreign collaborations. She said, "I am very proud to say that I am the first scientist in India to synthesize fluorescent material using this technique. I was always encouraged by my father to take up science and now, my husband and daughter wholeheartedly support my scientific pursuits. Though the Indian government is supporting women scientists, there is a problem, in general, to translate research into applications. There is also lack of platforms to make research known to the public."