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Interview with Prof. Dr. Dwij Raj Bhatta

Respected Sir,

Microbiology World is a bi-monthly e-magazine, which publish articles based on Microbiology and related fields of Life Sciences. Microbiology World has been established in 2013 and has been supported by several organizations.
I, editor in chief of this magazine, would be glad to take an interview based on your work, your research life and some words for the future Microbiologists. This interview would be published in our upcoming issue of the magazine (MAY-JUNE) “Microbiology World”. Please feel free to answer the questions and you can ignore the questions which you feel not proper to answer, and we would omit such in the magazine too. Moreover I will mail you the copy of the magazine after it is being published.


Q) Prof. Dr. Dwij Raj Bhatta is a renowned professor of Microbiology and researcher at Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal. You are well known from the background of Salmonella and ESBL research. Before knowing more about your research experiences, we would like to start off with your early childhood days. How you used to take medical science during your schooling? How your parents used to influence you about your higher studies and then going for research?
Comment: I was born in hilly district of far western Nepal Baitadi, near Indian border and also headquarters of the district. I spent my early childhood as a happy first child in our joint family with my grandfather, my grandmother and cousins. My grandmother was my first teacher. At the age of 3 she has started my formal education. She was literate even at that time and now aged 95. I learned to write all Nepali alphabets within a year with her. My grandfather was my best friend and taught me to read and write Nepali words, improved my handwriting. He used tell me many stories, and I learn many Hindu slokas and epics.
Both of my grandparents shaped me to be an educator. Then at the age of 4, I joined a village primary school and learned simple arithmetic, Nepali barnamala and English alphabets. I joined a high school known as Birendra high school at class 4. I passed my SLC in first division in 2039.
I was the quiz captain, chair person of student club, used to participate in all district level extracurricular activities such as speech competition, essay writing etc during my school life. I was interested in science from my school days. I was favorite child for my mother, my father, my uncles and all family members.
Then I joined Government Inter College in Pithoragarh, India and passed my ISc in first division. I then studied in Trichandra College and passed my BSc in 2044 B.S. I was a quiz captain of the college and participated in many competitions such as GAA. Initially, I joined MSc chemistry in TU in 2045. During that period, I actively advocated to open MSc microbiology program in TU.
Finally, in 1990 I left chemistry and joined Microbiology as historical first batch of MSc microbiology in TU and in Nepal. In those college days I learned real life lessons and learn to be self sufficient and independent. But I can say that I had a very happy childhood I remember those days as my best days in life.

Q) You have done your PhD from University of Pune, India. So how was the diversity of the research background you feel in our country Nepal and India?
Comment: In University of Pune, all professors are very powerful authorities and are professional in their approach. They focus on the priority research and they value the research outcome and they encourage people to be professional researcher rather than manipulative. We do not have any research priority and we do not value and respect the experts and professors. In India UGC and DBT has a list of their full professors of microbiology and they get grant if they wish to do research without a complicated process.

Q) Can you please tell something about the latest research you have been working with?
Comment: I am working with MRSA contamination in hospital settings, ESBL, Salmonella Typhi, Paratyphi whole genome sequencing with scientist from DTU Denmark, Department of medical science Thailand and CDC Georgia Atlanta. We are also working for identification of normal bacterial flora in many ethnic group in Nepal.I am working with Shigella with French collaborator and Vibrio, entropathogenic E.coli along with my PhD students and an international collaborator. Recently we have concluded molecular study on circulating clades of Rabies virus in Nepal published in Plos online. From the study, we were able to develop a new candidate Rabies vaccine in Nepal. One of my PhD students is working on Actinomycetes and we are trying to identify new bioactive compound for future use.

Q) During the course of your research experience have you ever come up with a bacterium which you find very hard to disinfect it because of its high resistance? Resistance of bacterium is acquired based on the resistance genes present in their plasmid. Have you come up with any research technique to reduce copy numbers of the plasmid of those bacteria?
Comment:. In our research, we have isolated multidrug resistant, ESBL producing, Carbapenam resistant bacteria. These are serious threats to effective treatment. Since the biocide resistant bacteria are emerging we should think of redesigning disinfection and sterilization protocols in a hospital setting.

Q) The techniques used earlier had been more complicated. With the invention of sequencing techniques, PCR and multiple analysis technique helped people to overcome hurdles of research nowadays. How you compare the earlier techniques and the current techniques of research you use.
Comment: PCR based methods are best, efficient, and specific tools for rapid diagnosis of diseases and supplementary techniques for the confirmation of mutations of many culturable pathogens. Typing can be done easily. They can be used as identification techniques for many non culturable microorganisms. Convention techniques of serotyping and biotyping sensitivity testing are supplemented with PCR based techniques. Whole genome sequencing is relatively expensive but newest one.

Q) You have received multiple awards like Nepal Bidyabhusan Ka and National Educational Award. If you could recall, does these awards gave you zeal to work forth with your research?
Comment: Yes really. After these awards I have enrolled 7 PhD students under my supervision. They are generating good publications. I became professor and published more than 80 research publications. I am having very good international research collaboration with other reputed professors of my field.


Q) You have published more than 70 research articles in indexed journal. How important is publishing the articles after doing some research work?
Comment: If you publish it, than only the world knows how important your research is.


Q) Being a professor and researcher you might have faced varied controversies during the course of your research. How you used to overcome them and stayed focused in your work? This will definitely provide a better understanding and will grow motivation among young researchers and students.
Comment: During early stage of career I was a beginner researcher. I have also faced difficulty in writing scientific articles and even many instances I used hesitate to submit my findings to reputed journals.
Then I started reading reviews and original articles and always in need of commenting positively on the findings of others. Now at this stage I can review others work, and I am able to draw important conclusion from the researches done by others and by myself.

Q) As being the member of ASM and WHO, how have you being contributed in the field of microbiology and research areas internationally and nationally?
Comment: I am contributing in WHO global food borne infection network as resource person and expert member on Salmonella and mostly drug sensitivity pattern. I am collaborating with other members of WHO centre in Denmark, Thailand and CDC and working on Typhi, E.coli, and WGST of Paratyphi. We also are generating joint publications. I am active in ASM for suggesting the conference themes, writing and contributing the conference presentations in emerging infectious disease research group meetings.

Q) We know you are one of the founding member of Nepalese society for microbiology which is not so active these days. Like other countries, why don't we promote Microbiological activities in our Country Nepal through this society?
Comment: Not only a founding member, many young people may not know that I am a founder general secretary of Nepalese society for microbiology and the Society was registered by me in those days. I have coordinated first national conference of microbiology as organizing secretary during that period. I still feel that this society could do many things. I am always ready to give positive feedback and active contribution once again if younger generation feels it is very necessary.

Q) You had been visiting professor at St. Xavier’s College, Kathmandu, Nepal. How you interact with your students about the research you carry out? Do you influence your students to think over any complications of medical research?
Comment:
The students there are very active, disciplined, and very curious and have an inquiring mind. I always answer them if I know and intact with them on the possible research areas in each topic. For me purpose of teaching microbiology is to stimulate young students for research.

Q) How do you see the probability of doing gene level research in our country Nepal?
Comment: Yes we are having laboratory facilities for cell culture, PCR and gene sequencing in many academic institutions. Good researches are possible by collaboration among institutions, students, researchers, faculties and among scientists level. Professors of respective field should guide and monitor such a collaborative work.

Q) According to you, what can one individual do for the progress and development of Microbiology in Nepal?
Comment:
If one can be honest, they must honor their profession, feel pride for their achievement and should value their own academic qualification and similar qualification of others. Then one individual can advocate for more research and job opportunities in Nepal. They can be policy makers and /or they can influence policy makers for development of microbiology in Nepal. It requires continuous advocacy and fair play.


Q) While concluding your journey of research, we would like to know your personal message towards young researchers and students of microbiology.
Comment:
Personally, students should try to apply for PhD to US, Europe, Japan, and Germany or any other country where they can learn more and become expert of their field. They should have a goal to do quality research, publish good papers, in peer reviewed, refereed, indexed and reputed journal with high impact factor. They can join research group and academic institution and lab of reputed professors in the world and can win the Nobel Prize also.


Q) There is obvious a wonderful happy life behind research which help in focusing any work. Thereby would like to know about your life apart from research.
Comments:
Despite my busy schedule, I prefer to enjoy holidays with my wife Dr Luna and with my two daughters. I am grateful to my wife, who is a molecular virologist, for her encouragement and support in personal and professional matter. I am happily married for the last 20 years and I am here because of her continuous support.
Your additional Comments (if any):
Thank you Sagar for giving me opportunity to speak few words and to interact with you and your team. Congratulation for a excellent effort to publish the Journal.
Thanking you,
Interview Taken By:
Sagar Aryal
Editor-In-Chief, Microbiology World
www.microbiologyworld.com

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