Indian women, transgender and non-binary persons in science: A 21st Century calendar by TLoS

The Life of Science celebrates an inclusive group of individuals who contributed to science in different ways


The ‘Indian women, transgender and non-binary persons in science 2021-22’ calendar by The Life of Science (TLoS) launched on February 11, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science asks, “Are things any better for women in science?”

In the fourth edition of its labhopping calendar, TLoS stated that the answer becomes ambiguous when a person considers who and what is included in terms like ‘women’ and ‘science’ respectively. Accordingly, this year’s creators decided to pay homage to all women, transgender and non-binary persons, who contributed to science in India.

“These critical, yet hopeful, voices are showing us the way to an inclusive science community… People from the margins still face disproportionate obstacles to their entry and progress in science. The good news is that we are more aware of these obstacles than ever before,” said the introduction of the calendar addressed to “supporters.”

TLoS has been producing calendars honouring women in science since 2018, following a photo exhibition on the same date. However, the group decided to break away from focusing on “individual-driven celebration” to be more inclusive in its latest edition.

As such the 2021-22 calendar from February 2021 to February 2022 identifies three to four individuals who have made their mark in the male-dominated field of science. While hard-copies of this calendar are sold out, TLoS still offers the soft-copy version that can be converted to postcard/flashcards after the month has passed.

A non-printable version of this product can be viewed here:

About the people listed in the calendar:

Asking the big questions

Curiosity is the origin of all scientific enquiry. As such, it makes sense that the calendar starts of with these critical thinkers, leading their groups further in their respective fields.

  1. A Mani (Mathematician)
    In her personal essay, Mani says she is a leading researcher in rough sets, a senior elected member of the International Rough Set Society, and among the few lesbian trans women in academia (pronouns are she/hers/her).
  2. Radhika Nair (Cancer biologist)
    Radhika is a cancer biologist, studying why cancer cells ‘move’ or metastasise. Having married during her PhD days, she represents women who fight prevalent bias against women (still considered primary caregivers) who take a break for marriage.
  3. Srubabati Goswami (Phenomenologist)
    Working at the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, Srubabati is both an internationally renowned scientist fellow of two elite Indian science academies and modern Indian mother. The trailblazer simultaneously pushes hard against boundaries that limit our understanding of the universe and fights off the regressive notions.
  4. Sudipta Sengupta (Geologist)
    A structural geologist and mountaineer, Sudipta is the first female geologist from India to work in Antarctica. On top of being the only woman to be awarded a Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize in Earth Sciences, she is also the protagonist in a children’s storybook The Rock Reader.

Questioning and Experimenting

  1. Nidhi Singh (Climatologist)
    Nidhi is a research scholar at Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi. She is trying to establish the relationship between the trends of the changing climate and diseases.
  2. Praachi Tiwari (Neuroscientist)
    Praachi is a PhD student at TIFR Mumbai trying to understand the mechanisms that regulate susceptibility to anxiety and depression. She also studies the regulation of hallucinations by serotonin receptors.
  3. Rubina Mulchandani (Epidemologist)
    She is working on her PhD in clinical research at Indian Institute of Public Health, Public Health Foundation of India, in the Delhi NCR region. During a TLoS webinar, Rubina talked about the Covid-19 pandemic’s effects on her work and on gender dynamics.
  4. Shalini Mahadev (Neuroscientist)
    At the Centre for Neural and Cognitive Sciences in the University of Hyderabad, the PhD scholar is trying to understand how rice grasshoppers communicate, and the possible neurons involved. During a conversation with sociologist Vaishali Khandekar, she talks about her experience in casteist academia. technical backbone

  1. Beena DB (Lab-manager-turned-faculty)
    Beena is a lab manager who was recently made a faculty member of biology at Azim Premji University, Bengaluru. Nowadays, she designs new lab activities based on her research protocols, teaches, mentors and guides undergraduate students’ projects and much more.
  2. Bhagyashree Chalke (Electron-microscopy expert)
    Working as a scientific officer at TIFR Mumbai, Bhagyashree and her team oversee five electron microscopes – massive beasts that let you peer closely at objects measuring mere nanometers across.
  3. Boby KV (Technician)
    Working at TIFR Mumbai as well, Boby is a lab technician creating and maintaining systems on which experiments run. Over the years, Boby has done everything from fabricating small electrodes to supervising the construction of facilities at her institute.

Inspiring exploration and rigour

  1. Mrinal Shah (STEM educator)
    Specifically, Mrinal is a microbiologist and science educator at Seed2Sapling trained in curriculum design and pedagogies. She has been involved in various scicomm and outreach activities, including for
  2. Smitha Hegde (Pteridologist)
    Simply said, Smitha studies ferns at the Nitte University, Mangaluru. She is one of India’s foremost experts on ferns and runs a lab with majorly female staff. Smitha is not deterred by drop-out cases among women stating that the degree is never wasted. “One woman will affect the whole family, the whole generation,” she says.
  3. Vena Kapoor (Nature educator)
    Here is an ecologist and conservation researcher whose work with the Nature Conservation Foundation is in developing a well-researched nature learning curriculum and outreach material for primary schools. She also conducts workshops, talks for adults and children to talk about insects, spiders and fascinating nature.

Keeping progress smooth

  1. Anju Bhasin (Cluster Uni Founding Vice Chancellor)
    Anju is the Founding Vice Chancellor of the recently established Cluster University of Jammu. Nowadays, she is forming a new team of physicists at CERN, Geneva.
    The particle physicist has led teams of students and scientists in Jammu, fabricating designs for detectors used in large particle accelerators across the globe.
  2. Ramadevi Nimmanapalli (BHU Dean)
    Originally a veterinarian and biochemist, Ramadevi is now the second of only two female Deans at Banaras Hindu University. She returned from the US after years of dedicated work in cancer research. On the new university campus in Varanasi the new animal facilities are now taking up advanced research projects under her highly trained vision.
  3. Sarah Iqbal (Public engagement practioner)
    Sarah focused on advancing the Indian science community by streamlining grants towards biomedical research and public engagement initiatives, strengthening networks that are pushing the limits of homegrown labs.
  4. Urmi Nanda Biswas (Psychology Department Head)
    At Baroda’s M. S. University, Professor Urmi leads the psychology department and trains students in social psychology while also participating in various international projects to understand motivations of women at work in the context of globalisation.

Breaking out of labs

  1. Harini Nagendra (Author and professor)
    Harini is an ecologist at the Azim Premji University. She has authored multiple books and is best known for Cities and Canopies, co-authored with Seema Mundoli. Their research focuses on urban sustainability and forest conservation, and covers quite a range of issues, ecological and social.
  2. Karishma Kaushik (Talk to a Scientist)
    Karishma is a physician-scientist studying human-relevant infection biology in her lab at Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune. Having worked as an independent researcher and run an independent research lab, she says “I am happy to have survived”.
  3. Shruti Muralidhar (IndSciComm)
    Neuroscientist and science communicator Shruti co-founded two really important initiatives – IndSciComm and BiasWatchIndia. During earlier articles for TLoS, Shruti makes a case for paying interns in academia and other fields as well.
  4. Varuni P (Outreach associate)
    Biologist Varuni P is an outreach associate at IMSc Chennai. She has organised and co-ordinated dozens of science outreach programmes over the years including the first Women in Science calendar & travelling photo exhibition that culminated to its fourth edition.

Reporting truths

  1. Priyanka Pulla (Science and health journalist)
    A frontline worker not rescognised as such, Priyanka’s reports value-add the experiences of people during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  2. Riddhi Dastidar (Independent journalist)
    They studied molecular biology before becoming an award-winning poet, journalist and researcher. Riddhi’s work focuses on disability justice, public health, gender, rights and development, climate and culture.
  3. Sandya Ramesh (Science editor)
    Sandhya is a science journalist and a science editor at The Print. She writes about science and technology, with a focus on research, lifestyle, and society in India.
  4. Shubashree Desikan (Science journalist)
    Shubashree is a theoretical condensed matter physicist-turned science journalist at The Hindu in Chennai. She also translates books between Tamil and English.

Expanding horizons

  1. Dhara Mehrotra (Visual artist)
    Based in Bengaluru, Dhara is a visual artist who believes that sci-art increases accessibility to create better hypotheses and understanding of scientific phenomena for different audiences.
  2. Ipsa Jain (Science artist)
    Ipsa is yet another artist inspired by stories of science. In her own words, Ipsa wants to engage with science and design students on observation and documentation, which remain the essence of the scientific process. As a freelancer, she hopes to collaborate with more scientists and visualise their science.
  3. Upasana Agarwal (Illustrator and artist)
    Upasana is a renowned non-binary artist, based in Kolkata. They illustrated the book ‘31 Fantastic Adventures in Science’ and a comix of the life and science of Bittu K.

Down to business

  1. Aardra Chandramouli (Aeka Biochemicals)
    After a biotech and business degree, Aardra and her friend Gayatri started a sustainable-based biotech company Aeka Biochemicals. Her venture offers products and services to improve soil quality to enable Kerala’s organic farming to work on a large scale.
  2. Jugnu Jain (Sapien Biosciences)
    Molecular cell biologist Jugnu opened biobank Spaien Biosciences to study a library of human tissues, freezing many diseased conditions with them to unlock biomedical research questions. Jugnu trusts the resilience of scientific experimentation.
  3. Vidhya Y (Vision Empower)
    Co-Founder of Vision Empower Vidhya is a visually disabled person. Her social enterprise started at IIIT Bangalore strives to empower disabled children to pursue science and mathematics education. Vidhya said that despite pressure on disabled individuals to pursue subjects like economics, her love for mathematics triumphed. She is the first visually disabled undergraduate student to major in computer science at Christ University.

Introspecting on social realities

  1. Aatika Singh (Anti-caste artist)
    Aatika’s art expresses why it is important to look at mental health through an anti-caste lens. In an article co-written by Shubhkaramdeep Singh, she says an individual’s mental health is also affected by systemic discrimination. For Dalits, therapy involves hunting for the one therapist who will understand caste-sensitive experiences.
  2. Chayanika Shah (Independent researcher)
    A physicist by training Chayanika is an independent researcher and feminist scholar. While speaking to TLoS, she talked about gender and queer politics, and their intersections with physics academia here.
  3. Gita Chadha (Sociologist)
    Gita Chadha is a sociologist at University of Mumbai and studies intersections between science and society. Her work shows how society and science contribute to and impact each other. She has also spoken about mental health needs to be perceived by Indian science academia.
  4. Vaishali Khandekar (Sociologist)
    Studying at IIT Hyderabad, the Dalit PhD scholar studies the role of castes and masculinities in the marginal political upsurge of North India. Her research interests are caste and social stratification, urban studies, sexuality, migration, health and pedagogy.

Demanding a better future

  1. Chinmayi SK (Technologist)
    Chinmayi aims to promote inclusivity as the world enters the digital era. She started the feminist Bachao Project that undertakes community-centric efforts to develop and support open-source technologies to mitigate gender-based violence and work towards equal rights for women, LGBT persons, and gender diverse persons.
  2. Grace Banu (Activist)
    Grace Banu is a Dalit transgender woman and a beloved activist who speaks for transgender and caste-oppressed people’s rights. Grace is the first transgender person to be admitted to an engineering college in Tamil Nadu. Nowadays, the technologist works towards educating transgender people to clear government examinations and keep them from experiencing the same discrimination that she suffered.
  3. Prajval Shastri (Astrophysicist)
    The practising astrophysicist is also the Chair of the Indian Physics Association’s Gender in Physics Working Group. Prajval emphasises diversity and inclusion in science and has been featured in the book ‘31 Fantastic Adventures in Science’ written by Upasna.

Contributing silently

January 2022 pays homage to the omnipresent, yet invisible group of women, transgenders, non-binaries who contribute to society every day through maintenance, security, childcare, counsellors and other staff members of any institution. “Their work is crucial to the endeavour of science,” states the calendar.

Those who came before us

The calendar concludes by honouring one of India’s prominent women freedom fighter Savitribai Phule who worked tirelessly towards educating women and breaking caste and gender hierarchies. “As we reflect on how far we have come, it’s worth remembering the contributions of social reformers, feminists, educators and scientists who came before,” says TLoS.


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