An Untold Story: A Fascinating and Successful Journey in Chemical Research - From India to Germany - Dr. Jagadeesh Rajenahally
Being born as the 3rd child of my parents, within a farmer family in a small village, Rajenahally (Kolar district), I was raised at Karnataka State in India. At present, I am working as a Group Leader at the Leibniz Institute for Catalysis (LIKAT) in Rostock, Germany. LIKAT is one of the largest publicly funded research institutes in Europe in the area of applied catalysis and is internationally famous. My father, Venkataswamy gowda is a farmer and my mother Chinnamma is a housewife. I did primary schooling at Rajenahally village, and attended high school along with college up to the Bachelor’s degree (BSc) in our district city, Kolar. In every science student’s life, PUC (+2) is explicitly important turning point to determine future studies and career perspectives. After this class majority of science students opt to study either engineering or medicine. However, I have chosen to study basic science (BSc, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics). Many of my friends and relatives were surprised and commented critically about my decision to study basic science. Fortunately, the destiny took me to study Chemistry and to perform research in Chemical Science. At that time, I had no answer or clarification other than the point that I would like to study Chemistry and to perform research. Conveniently, today I became more saucerful in chemical science research career. I am quite sure I would not be this much successful if I would have been studied engineering or medicine. My father, a great friend, and an excellent teacher to me. He supported my decision to study chemistry and inspired and guided me often, that made me very attracted to research and to achieve my goal. Parallelly, my brother, Dr. Mahendra Gowda, who studied his MTech and PhD in IIT Delhi and is presently a Principal of an Engineering College, inspired and supported me a lot. In fact, my brother is a role model to me and in every step of my life, I followed him on standpoints of education, character, and lifestyle. Since my Bachelor’s studies, I am very captivating towards chemistry and as a result, I undertook Master degree and thereafter, a PhD in chemistry and finally selected chemical research as my career. Why am I so fascinated and what attracts me to study chemistry and to perform research in chemical science? The principal reasons are following: Chemistry is a fundamental science and crucial to our world. Chemistry plays a key role in everyone’s life and touches almost every aspect of our existence in some way. Majority of daily life products, pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, and materials are made via chemical reactions. In addition, energy, environment and engineering related technologies are based on chemistry. Chemistry is essential for meeting our basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, health, energy, and clean air, water, and soil. Chemical research and technologies enrich our quality of life in numerous ways by providing new solutions to problems in health, energy, and environment. Chemistry is often referred to as the central science because it joins together medicine, biology, physics, materials, energy, engineering and environmental sciences. Thus, the chemical research play deceive role in the advancement of sustainable society and human life. After completion of BSc, I moved to Department of Chemistry, Bangalore University, Central College Campus, Bangalore, where I finished MSc in Chemistry. After MSc I had a plan to pursue PhD. So, where to study and in which field to do research? This is a common question to the students who want to do a PhD. Majority of science students wish to have a Master and/or PhD form IITs or IISc (prestigious institutes in India) or from the USA or European countries. However, I did not have such dreams. I simply joined the same Department of Chemistry, Bangalore University, where I did my Master, to perform Doctoral research under the supervisor of Prof. Puttaswamy. I completed PhD research work and submitted my thesis in May 2006. Thereafter, I started to apply for Post-Doctoral to carry out further research, especially in the USA. I submitted my applications to few Professors in the USA and luckily, I got positive reply from Prof. David E. Richardson from the University of Florida, and he offered me a Post-Doc position. In the same year, after defending my thesis I went to the University of Florida to perform research until 2008. I would like to mention that my Doctoral research supervisor, Prof. Puttaswamy is a nice person, who constantly guided and supported me to finish my PhD successfully as well as insisted and suggest me to perform Post-Doc. In the same day, after I submitted PhD thesis, both me and my supervisor, Prof. Puttaswamy planned a research proposal and applied for Post-Doc. He took out few professor names, to whom he had applied previously. Prof. Richardson was one among them. We prepared the CV and proposal letter and applied first to Prof. Richardson and then to others. Next day morning, I got the positive reply from Prof. Richardson and then he offered me a Post-Doc position. What I would like to mention here that, it is not so easy for Indian PhD fellows to get a Post-Doc at USA immediately after submitting thesis. Sometimes it is difficult for Indian PhD fellows to obtain Post-Doc at USA immediately after submitting PhD thesis. In particular, it is too hard for the ones, who did PhD in Indian state Universities. Generally, the state university research students are used to work as Post-Docs or Research Associates for few years at IISc or IITs or CSIR Labs or IISERs after their PhD and then they try for a Post-Doc in the USA or Europe. Fortunately, this was not in my case. After me other PhD researchers from the Department of Chemistry, Bangalore University, followed my path and few of them are successfully got Post-Docs in the USA and Europe. After completing my first postdoc in the USA, I applied to Prof. Matthias Beller, LIKAT, Germany to do another Post-Doc. Fortunately, Prof. Beller accepted my application and he offered me position, but he asked me to wait for at least 6 months to join his group. Meanwhile, I have joined as Assistant Professor at the VIT University and I worked there for few months. In 2010, I joined Prof. Beller’s Research Group at LIKAT – initially as postdoctoral fellow and then promoted to a Scientist, Project Leader and finally as the Group Leader. My ‘real research’ perspective and success started form LIKAT. At LIKAT in the subgroup of Dr. Henrik Junge, I started to work on the development of heterogeneous catalysts for fuel cell applications under the supervision of Prof. Beller in cooperation with Dr. Annette-Enrica Surkus. To be frank, the heterogeneous catalysis field was very new to me at that time and previously I had not worked on this area. Also, I was not so interested to work on fuel cells. After having worked for 2-3 months on the development of fuel cell catalysts, I went to Prof. Beller and mentioned him about my plans to test heterogeneous catalysts, which were prepared for fuel cell applications, for organic reactions. He was very pleased, accepted my proposal and suggested to test the heterogeneous catalysts for the hydrogenation of nitro compounds, an industrially important reaction. Accordingly, with the cooperation of other Group Leader, Dr. Kathrin Junge’s group by the support of my Group Leader Dr. Henrik Junge, we started to test our heterogeneous catalysts for the hydrogenation of nitro compounds and for other organic reactions. Remarkably, we obtained excellent results and that was the turning point in my research career. Based on these results, first we published work related to cobalt catalyst in Nature Chemistry (2013, 5, 537) and then published another work on the development of nanoscale Fe2O3-based catalysts for hydrogenous of nitroarenes in Science (2013, 342, 1073). Notably, this work has also been featured on the Cover of Science (November 29 issue). Publishing a research paper in Science or Nature or Cell is impressive and that to featuring on the Cover of these notable journals is prestigious. Such a great opportunity came to me to publish research papers in Science twice and one time our research work being featured on the Cover of Science. I do not know how many researchers originated from India have made this achievement by publishing their works to feature on the Cover of Science or Nature or Cell. I think very less researchers might have done this accomplishment. Next in 2007 other interesting work, MOF-derived cobalt nanoparticles catalyze a general synthesis of amines, has been published in Science. We have very good success in the development of nanostructured catalysts for organic synthesis. Until now, I have authored to >75 publications. Among these, two papers are published in Science, 8 papers in Nature Publishing Journals and several papers in reputed journals. Also key of our works have been highlighted in Nature, Science, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), Chemistry world and other scientific news. Presently my research group at LIKAT working on the development of essential catalysts by combining homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis concepts for sustainable chemical processes to synthesize fine and bulk chemicals and life science molecules as well as valorization of renewable resource/feedstocks. I would like to thank our institute director Prof. Matthias Beller; a great person both, personality-wise and scientifically. He offered me a great opportunity to work at LIKAT and he identified my research capabilities and contribution. Accordingly, he promoted me as a Leader to lead an independent research group at LIKA, an internationally reputed research institute. He is a great mentor, who always inspires and supports young researchers and scientists. Overall, I am very happy and successful in my chemical research career. This success is not only based on my efforts, but also due to the support of my mentors, group members and present and former colleagues. I gratefully thank and acknowledge their support. My family members such as my parents, brother, sister, and wife played crucial role in this success. My special thanks to my wife, Manjula Jagadeesh, her patience, constant support, inspiration that propelled me to focus completely on research. My wife is my best friend. In fact, she was my primary school classmate and childhood friend. Also, thanks to my son Vaibhav Gowda Jagadeesh, a 14-year child, who never complains me that his father has not spent / is not spending enough time with him. Besides my professional career, I am also very happy and successful in my personal life. Without the support of all the above-mentioned people and almighty GOD, my journey in chemistry and chemical research would not been so fascinating and successful.
Dr. Jagadeesh Rajenahally
Synergy between Homogeneous and Heterogeneous Catalysis
Leibniz Institute for Catalysis (LIKAT-Rostock)
Albert-Einstein-Straße 29A, 18059 Rostock, Germany
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