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Advent calendar - December 8th - Abinaya Arunachalam

08 December 2023

In the Zernike Institute Advent Calendar, we are presenting 24 short spotlights in December. In these specials, we highlight PhD students, postdocs, support staff and technicians of our research groups and team - providing a glimpse in their typical day at work. In Episode 8 m eet Abinaya Arunachalam , PhD student in the Polymer Science group of Prof. Marleen Kampermann.

Abinaya Arunachalam
Abinaya Arunachalam

In a world dominated by fast-paced routines and quick solutions, patience can often seem like a luxury. I used to be the impatient kind, especially when it came to seemingly trivial tasks like washing fruits and vegetables. Every time I saw someone freaking out and keep scrubbing or soaking them in a salt bath for ages, I always found it a bit overrated. My patience allowed me to stand with the fruit under running water for 2 seconds (very long, I know!) and that is exactly what I always thought was enough to clean them. Fate would have it, I started my PhD here in the group of Marleen Kamperman working on developing an insect trapping glue that could potentially replace chemical pesticides in agriculture. So, you kind of understand where I had the sudden moment of epiphany – and I do not mean washing my fruits for longer, but the possibility to actually get rid of chemical pesticides altogether. Inspired by nature's creativity, we set out to imitate the glue from sticky trichomes—the secret natural weapon of wild tomatoes against insects.

I was not exactly someone you would call a plant enthusiast. My track record with keeping plants alive was far from impressive. However, I am fortunate to be part of a multidisciplinary consortium in which I primarily work on the material development aspect of the project. Yet, I have wonderful opportunities of visiting other collaborating universities, allowing me to see and explore the biological side with plants and insects as well. Apart from the typical activities of a PhD student, you might also find me spraying sticky samples throughout the lab (just for science, of course), an activity I thoroughly enjoy, especially right after lab cleaning day!

The irony isn't lost on me — I, who could barely keep a cactus alive, am now slowly befriending plants. I hope that this journey that has miraculously transformed my notorious black thumb into a hopeful shade of green, also transforms the world of pest management!

Glue sprayed on chrysanthemums
Glue sprayed on chrysanthemums
Last modified:01 December 2023 11.31 a.m.

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