H. Jaishree Subrahmaniam

A plant scientist, equal rights and mental health advocate also with passionate about bridging the gap between science and society.
With a Bachelors and Masters in Botany and having recently finished a PhD in Plant ecological genomics, population ecology and evolutionary ecology from the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRAe), I have almost 10 years of experience in scientific research.

Being a plant biologist, I have always been in love with understanding the complex behaviours of plants. My PhD was to understand if altruism and cooperation, the ability to help one another exists in plants! Three years of my research gave the first ever evidence of plant being super cool, can actually understand if their family member is undergoing stress, empathize, and extend support as and when required! What’s better is that this ability is encoded in their genetic code! I think somewhere along my PhD, I realised what my plants told me could be applied to us humans on so many different levels. What it means to be an altruist, someone who thinks beyond themselves and about the greater good!

Along with understanding the plant world, I am also passionate about helping more women enter STEAM fields, a goal I have pursued since my early graduation days by working with various NGOs. Working with many underprivileged families, where education for girls was not a priority, I made it a mission to convince parents that it is worthwhile for their daughters to have an education.

Having spent the last three years on this very subject, I found myself talking about cooperation in almost every conversation I had! I tried to make anyone and everyone understand the importance of compassion and being kind to one another and how by doing that we could not just make this world a better place and how it could essentially be the key to our survival as a species.

Not only did my PhD lead me to find something super cool about the plant world, it also gave me a mission! To tell people, through every chance I get, about how if even plants could be empathetic towards one another, we could do it too! That it is indeed a part of nature's design! And I dont just preach it, I am trying to practice it too! The past few months, I have been working on a initiative very close to my heart, a mental health support initiative, Paksh.

Sharing unique experiences is an incredible learning opportunity and can help you practice courage. And I believe, we all can support each other through their incredible journeys, and, sometimes, when needed, be the listening ear. Being a group composed of academics, I wanted to create a community where we can empathize with each other, lend a shoulder when needed, root for each other and, therefore, watch each other grow!

The past few months I have been incredibly lucky to have met amazing people who shared their stories, their struggles and their hopes and dreams in their respective STEM careers with me. To be of help to these people is what practicing empathy is for me, and it is what I think I was supposed to do.