Once upon a time in Mexico !!

Being a scientist is fun. And being a science student is much more fun. People ask me why I enjoy it so much. My answer is simple. It is exciting. You learn new things everyday. You meet crazy people (sometimes!), working in a lab is a challenge, and if you are lucky you get to travel. So obviously I was excited when I got the chance to live and work at CIMMYT in Mexico for a few months last year. I went there to study effect of adult plant rust resistance genes on different pathogens in the field conditions. I was hosted by Dr Pawan Singh.

Fusarium Nursery at CIMMYT, El Batan
Fusarium Nursery at CIMMYT, El Batan .

Day 1 at CIMMYT was intense. I was introduced to the field staff who tried to converse with me in Spanish. It was a struggle but in the end their patience and my android translator got us through. I was introduced to the Fusarium screening nursery and immediately made a part of the team. The fields were screened for the plots (both wheat and barley) which were showing 50% heading and they were tagged for Fusarium inoculations in the evening. There is a simple yet sophisticated system for misting the fields every hour to maintain the humidity levels for creating suitable conditions for high infection rates. The Septoria and Yellow rust nurseries are located at Toluca, a high disease pressure area. I was impressed by the scale of trials at all the sites. The sites were well organized and defined. Working in the fields was an eye-opener and made me realize just doing fancy science is not enough. There should be a translation of research from lab to the field.

CIMMYT collaborates with local and national and agricultural institutions and community based organizations. It was good to see how CIMMYT was employing a lot of local people on a day to day basis and how the local community was integrated in their decision making process.

Apart from the fields, Mexico is a beautiful country. The food was awesome (though it was hard to get vegetarian!!). I travelled a lot cross-country and the views are simply breath-taking. But be careful if you are alone. I almost got mugged but thanks to my super ninja skills (aka random kicking and shouting on top of my lungs) I was able to ward off the weirdo! The drive to Oaxaca is till date one of my best experiences. The climb to the top of Pyramid of Sun in Teotihucan was definitely worth the view. I made so many close friends. The people are so welcoming and endearing that you look beyond the language barrier. I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Independence Day celebrations. I got to experience the colourful culture of Mexicans which was to some extent like my Indian culture. I want to thank Pawan and his wife Seema for being such gracious hosts and all the people in the lab whom made my time there enjoyable.

Anuradha Bansal

Me performing a soul cleansing ritual
Me performing a soul cleansing ritual
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