Updated: Aug 24
By Kishore Chandra Sahoo
Dr. Amalendu Ghosh is currently working as a Senior Scientist (Entomology) at the Advanced Centre for Plant Virology, Division of Plant Pathology, ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi. Dr. Ghosh was born in Guskara, Bardhaman, West Bengal, on May 7, 1984. His primary education was finished at the Guskara PP Institution, and he received his bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees from the Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya in Mohanpur, West Bengal, in 2005, 2007, and 2010, respectively. He began working for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in 2010 and is a member of the 92nd FOCARS batch. He was initially posted to the ICAR-Indian Institute of Pulses Research in Kanpur after completing the foundation course at ICAR-NAARM, Hyderabad. Later, in 2011, he relocated to the ICAR-IARI.
Dr. Ghosh is specialized in insect vector-plant virus relationships with a keen interest in interrupting the spread of viruses by viruliferous thrips and whiteflies. He has been recognized by many awards for notable contributions in his field namely Associateship of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), India-2023, INSA medal for Young Scientists by Indian National Science Academy (INSA)-2022, Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Fellowship (USA)-2022, 1st Dr HK Jain Memorial Young Scientist Award by ICAR-IARI- 2021, ESI Young Entomologist Award- 2021, M.K. Patel Memorial Young Scientist Award 2022 of Indian Phytopathological Society and Endeavour Research Fellowship-2015 awarded by Department of Education and Training, the Australian Government, are to mention a few. He has more than 80 publications in reputed national and international journals and has guided four M.Sc. and two Ph.D. students. Dr. Ghosh is also a visiting academic at the University of Queensland, QLD, Australia, and Visiting Scientist at Washington State University, Pullman, USA.
Many national and international organisations have recognised Dr. Ghosh for his contributions as a young entomologist, and the Indian Entomologist team is proud of his outstanding work. It was a tremendous learning experience for me personally to speak with Dr. Ghosh, and I am confident that our readers, particularly the students and young scientists, will benefit from hearing his narrative.
KCS (Kishore Chandra Sahoo): How was childhood? Was there anything that inspired the scientist in you?
Dr. Amalendu Ghosh (AG): I came from a rural background in West Bengal. I grew up with my sisters. My parents were teachers. Besides basic education, they taught me moral values and fellow feelings. The financial hardship in the family during my childhood motivated me to explore the available resources at my best. My parents always encouraged and supported me to become a good academician and researcher. I was fond of reading books since childhood. Whenever I got a storybook or periodical, I used to finish in no time. My parents gave me the biographies of eminent Indian scientists like APC Roy, JC Bose, Meghnad Saha, Homi Bhabha, and SN Bose. Their lifestyle, struggle, and dedication to science inspire me to do good research to date.
I never thought about becoming an insect researcher when I was younger. But I have always been drawn to the way that things in nature work, like how a bud develops into a flower, a caterpillar changes into a fly, ants find their path, bees go back to their hives, etc. I used to open any available electronic devices at home, such as the TV, radio, and electrical panels, to see how they work. I have probably had an analytical mind since I was a little child.
KCS: How you came to Agricultural sciences? Was it a chance or a choice?
AG: For me, it was a choice. I left Engineering to get admission to Agricultural Science. My parents and uncle were instrumental to make me aware of the Agricultural stream and its prospect.
KCS: What made you inclined toward the world of insects?
AG: It's true to say that when I was admitted to the B.Sc. Agriculture programme, my performance in Entomology was already pretty subpar. In tests, I was notorious for mixing up scientific names. I, therefore, had a great desire to improve my grade in the subject. 'The Insects' by Chapman and 'Principles of Insect Morphology' by Snodgrass were two books I received as gifts. I began reading these works right away at the very beginning of my academic career. I soon came to understand that insect science goes beyond the nomenclature given by scientists. I developed a fondness for the subject as I read more. Insects quickly became my favorite subject. I give credit to both the books and my uncle, P.K. Ghosh, who gifted them to me.
KCS: You have recently been recognized with awards like the INSA medal for Yong Scientists 2022, Associate of National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), ESI Young Entomologist Award 2021, and many more. What do you think of these honours?
AG: It is always a ‘feel good’ when your hard work is recognized by others. I learned from my senior colleagues to work hard always without expecting any rewards. I work for my happiness. When my research yields new results, I am happy.
INSA and NAAS are very prestigious science academies in our country. I feel honored to be recognized by both INSA and NAAS. I work in an interdisciplinary area of Entomology and Plant Virology. It is a great pleasure that my work is recognized by professional societies from both disciplines. ESI is one of the largest professional societies in India. It's my privilege to be associated with and recognized by ESI. Most importantly, I would like to thank the invaluable input and support of my collaborators, colleagues, students, research staff, mentors, and advisors throughout the research process.
KCS: You are working on insect vectors, it’s a connecting domain of Entomology and Plant pathology. Could you share your experience of working together in close association with both entomologists and pathologists? And what are the challenges?
AG: It was not by choice. It was then a need of the Institute and I was asked to initiate research on this area at IARI. Yes, it was initially challenging because I had no experience in Plant Virology. I was able to understand the topic better after reading books and articles. I attended classes with students and worked with them in the lab. I collaborated actively with the Virologists and that helped immensely. My senior colleagues supported me a lot to develop myself in this area of vector-virus research. The strong collaboration with the Plant Virologists made it possible. At the same time, I had to build facilities required for the specific field of work. I am immensely thankful to ICAR, IARI, DBT, DST, SERB, NASF, Australian Government, and Fulbright Commission (USA) for support in developing the facilities and human resources in the area of insect vector research.
I enjoy understanding the intricate interactions of insect vectors and plant viruses. How one specific species can carry a virus and another cannot? What makes them able to become efficient vectors and what would happen if the specific factors are altered? These remain the central theme of my research to date.
Under the changing climatic scenario, sucking pests are emerging. Unfortunately, most of the sucking pests are efficient vectors of plant viruses. Lately, the introduction of new plant viruses and the emergence of existing viruses have been recorded. Addressing the emerging issues and timely intervention to save crop loss have become challenging considering the wide range of vector and virus combinations. Systematic research to improve our understanding and formulate effective management strategies requires a larger multidisciplinary group of researchers to address the vector-virus threat in diverse cropping systems.
KCS: How do you see the importance of studies on insect vectors? And what could be its future in the Indian context?
AG: Plant viruses are mostly insect-transmitted. In the tripartite community interaction of virus-insect-host plant, insects are the only mobile agents that spread the virus diseases. To protect the crop, the correct diagnosis of vectors, understanding their seasonality, host preference, ecology behavior, and distribution is important. Each vector-virus complex exhibits specific interactions. Understanding the specific factor in the interaction and modulating the factor helps to interrupt the spread of the virus and eventually save crop loss.
Lots of advancements have been made in vector-virus research internationally. However, fewer studies have been undertaken in the Indian context. The vector-virus complexes which are predominant or important under the Indian scenario are less explored. India is a country with multiple agro-climatic zones. The vector-virus complexes infesting the diverse cropping system are also very vast. A network of researchers working on the vector-virus field is needed to judiciously address the emerging vector-virus issues in different crops.
KCS: What will be your suggestions for young scientists who want to work in the field of insect-vector relationships?
AG: I think all fields of research are important and have their prospect. One has to love what he's doing. At the same time, you should understand societal needs and align the research to address the same. A multidisciplinary approach is needed to achieve the goal. There is no alternative to ‘original books’ to acquire knowledge and expertise can only be acquired by ‘hard work’. We should always be humble, respect our colleagues and collaborate professionally to grow big.
KCS: How do you approach failure and setbacks in your work and what strategies do you use to bounce back and keep moving forward?
AG: Failures are more common in everyday research life to get success. Failure itself is a motivation to do the job again with full spirit and improvement. Yes, sometimes they are very upsetting. Self-motivation and analysis are important. Everyone has their own style of self-motivation. I generally recapitulate the biography of Meghnad Saha, talk to ‘positive’ people, and friends, and listen to music. Music has a healing power. Yes, my family and parents are my major strength to bounce back and move forward.
Mr. Kishore Chandra Sahoo is a Scientist (Probationer) at ICAR-IARI, Assam, and also the Student Associate Editor of Indian Entomologist.