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Indian makes Sc CD in atomic lab

The Vigyan CD is providing over 25 popular tools for bio-informatics and computational biology to students.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2006 12:06 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

A CD that will help young students delve early and deep into the world of science has come from a US laboratory that played a key role in putting together the atomic bomb during World War II.

Scientist Pratul K Agarwal, 32, originally from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi, has put together the "Vigyan CD", which he calls a "bio-chemical software workbench".

With a doctorate from Penn State University, Agarwal is now with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, ironically famous as an institution, which played a key role in putting together of the atom bomb in the 1940s.

Created as part of the Manhattan Project in 1943, the laboratory was built in less than a year on an isolated farmland in the mountains of East Tennessee.

On its 1.2 mm thick disc of very pure polycarbonate plastic, at first the contents of Vigyan CD do not seem very impressive from outside.

But Agarwal believes the tool would help youngsters have their first brush with a range of hi-tech tasks of a new century-gene sequencing, manipulation, molecular modelling and simulation and computational chemistry.

The CD runs on any reasonably new generation computer, and "comes with ready-to-use software with quick start instructions and detailed tutorials".

It has some additional tools, like chemical to create 3D coordinates for a small molecule, or PyMOL to create "publication-quality" pictures of biomolecules, and more.

Agarwal has put everything in one place and made it accessible in India. "It has been designed to meet the needs of both beginners and experts," says Agarwal.

Since such tools come under Free Software licences, there is no cost or restrictions for distributing it. Getting it together - an achievement - was not tough for Agarwal whose faith in building science skills in the young makes him do this "hobby" work.

In all, Vigyan CD provides over 25 popular tools for bio-informatics and computational biology to the user without requiring separate installation of software.

"Some 250,000 copies have been downloaded from the Net. Being a live CD its software does not require any installation," he says.

Why Vigyan? "I always wanted to contribute to the people in India. They paid for my education."

First Published: Aug 30, 2006 12:06 IST