Chevening fellow Suphiya Khan, a Chevening fellow, makes a great fit at Banasthali Vidyapith, India. The associate professor in the department of bioscience and biotechnology has received various awards for her work as a woman in STEM.
Her vision is to reverse water scarcity caused by pollution. Fluoride contamination is a crisis that not only affects India but about 200 million people worldwide. Her groundbreaking research on fluoride removal from drinking water was featured in Nature.com (the most cited and highly respected science journal) drew global recognition.
“My research has led to a new, low-cost method to remove harmful fluoride from drinking water with specially made tea bag-like pouches,” she tells Dr. John Hoffmire in an interview. “It’s still my priority to provide affordable water solutions to the communities and one day make India a country where there is no water with too much fluoride.”
Currently, Khan has launched her own startup o provide safe drinking water in her country. She plans to leverage her Chevening Research, Science, and Innovation Leadership Fellowship at the University of Oxford to further her knowledge on her journey to becoming a bio entrepreneur.
Below we talk to her about her ongoing 10-week Chevening fellowship experience and her impressive career trajectory:
Tell us more about your Chevening experience and why you chose the University of Oxford.
I recently launched my startup, Drumlins Water Technologies Pvt Ltd, which has the vision to develop affordable drinking water and defluoridation technologies for the communities and the creation of women empowerment.
I fully believe that my time as a Chevening CRISP Fellow will provide a platform for me to nurture my professional network, skills and leadership qualities. It will also provide me with the opportunity to explore the commercial element of technology that I will use when converting my lab patents into affordable products and services.
Also, the chances for me to make lasting connections with the Chevening alumni and the reputation of Chevening itself motivated me to apply for the fellowship. I wish to discover and share the relationship between research, innovation, policy and technology from an academic perspective. Furthermore, its relevance and implications for India is also important.
In the small percentage of women in STEM, walk us through your impressive career trajectory and awards in science.
I earned my master’s in science from Science College at MLS University in Udaipur and I completed my PhD in Biotechnology at Banasthali Vidyapith where I’m also an associate professor. I consider myself a scientist and professor by passion and a bio entrepreneur by choice.
My own journey from a scientist and a teacher to an entrepreneur is full of multiple triumphs and failures as I travel through this less explored path. However, this journey gave me enough confidence to guide and nurture other women scientists to become entrepreneurs.
I started my scientific journey as a research associate in biotechnology and setting up a DNA fingerprint lab at Banasthali which is in a remote area that’s endemic to fluorosis. I hold my doctorate degree in biotechnology and have been working on the interaction of science, law, policy, and part of the intellectual property cell of the uni.
Besides that, I’m a member of the Anti-Women Harassment and Anti-Ragging Cell. For the last 10 years, I’ve been working on solving the issue of fluoride contamination and in this journey of several hardships, I’ve bagged many successes too.
To further add, I’m the recipient of many national and international awards. I was awarded the Chevening Research Science and Innovation Policy Fellowship from the University of Oxford, the BIRAC-TiE BIOTECH WInER Award, the 2019 Women Transforming India Top 30, and the Wonder Women in STEM (for contributing to science and innovation).
I’ve founded the spinoff company Drumlins Water Technologies which got many innovation awards and funds. Currently, I’m part of the multi-institutional and transdisciplinary research grant as a private investigator at the Water Innovation Centre.
My success story was shared as a Women Entrepreneur Leading Change in India by NITI AYOG through Defence Minister Shri Rajnath Singh. Not to mention my 17 years of experience in teaching.
My vision is to translate my research work into affordable water purification technologies and products. As a scientist, teacher and entrepreneur, I’m following the new path of nurturing scientists to follow paths usually less travelled like me.
How do you use the knowledge and skills gained in your fellowship experience now?
The Chevening opportunity came at the right time in my life journey when I was confused about the commercialisation of my lab technologies. It’s a life-changing fellowship that helps me understand the UK and Oxford culture. Along with the mentoring support to improvise my perspective, thinking and vision, I will cherish the beautiful memories made in the UK throughout the rest of my life.
What were the practical learning elements in your course? Do you get to apply the theories you gained in these experiences now?
The project work in the programme has taught me about hands-on training, skill development for business models, business strategies and so on. I gained a lot of practical knowledge that I am applying on a day-to-day basis but leadership skills is something I learnt that is helping me a lot.
Is there anything you wish you had more knowledge of?
How to convert lab technologies for market use.
What advice do you have for international students who want to apply for a Chevening scholarship?
When preparing your application, be honest with yourself and write your standard operation procedures clearly. Do not copy-paste from anywhere as your application should be unique like just like you.
What do you have planned for the next 10 years?
Next five years in India and the next five years in Oxford.
Is there something you missed from home while abroad?
Festivals and family!