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The Journey

Subba Rao Toleti

Professor of Biological Sciences,
School of Arts and Sciences

Students of biological sciences at SaiU begin their specialization armed with a knowledge of the cutting-edge research happening in the research centers in the city, and eager to learn more. Between the first and the second year of study in B Sc, SaiU students get to visit facilities at the National Institute of Ocean Technology, the research centers in Anna University, University of Madras, Centre for Nanoscience and Technology, Department of Human Genetics, Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research, Department of Biotechnology, IIT – Madras, Central Institute of Brakishwater Aquaculture and the Central Leather Research Institute to interact with the scientists and acquaint themselves with the advanced instrumentation available for research. The force behind it all is Professor Subba Rao Toleti.

A Fellow of The Academy of Sciences and the Society for Applied Biotechnology, Advancement of Electrochemical Science and Technology, Subba Rao brings to SaiU 34 years of experience at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Kalpakkam, in basic, applied, and molecular microbiology. He obtained his Ph.D. in Biotechnology from Anna University and specialized in exopolymers and microbial biofilms. He completed his post-doctoral research in an Indo-German project at University of Applied Sciences, Germany, and as recently as in 2019 completed the highest academic degree D.Sc., in Biotechnology from Periyar university, Salem, Tamil Nadu. His research has focussed on developing new methods to control biofouling as well as microbial corrosion. His research contributions in microbial corrosion have fetched him many awards.

He has authored over 100 research papers in biofouling, microbe-metal interactions, basic and practical aspects of industrial cooling water problems in power plants and chemical industries. With over 2500 citations, and a h-index score of 27, Subba Rao is a well-respected researcher who has made significant contributions in the bioremediation of toxic pollutants using bacteria, cyanobacteria, and fungi, treating industrial effluents/wastewater using various microbial processes. Subba Rao is hard pressed to remember the beginnings of his interest in teaching. All he can recall is that teaching and research have travelled side-by-side in his long career. After completing B Sc (Hons) in Osmania University, Hyderabad, he went on an Indian Council of Agricultural Research scholarship to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar, for an M Sc in microbiology, biochemistry, and immunology. He stayed on to teach in the Institute for a year.

In his subsequent job as a scientist at the Department of Atomic Energy, Kalpakkam, carrying out simulation studies for industrial cooling water systems and biofouling control, he took turns teaching school children after work hours. He has been a guest and visiting faculty in several institutions across the country. But he fondly remembers his long association with two prestigious institutions in Tamil Nadu – Anna University and Alagappa University — for they honed his skills as a teacher. While both institutions drew passionate and hardworking students to biological sciences, teaching them called for different strategies. Students in urban centers enjoyed more exposure to the latest equipment and advances and were able to grasp complexities without too much effort, which could not be said for students from rural areas. It has been Subba Rao’s mission to ensure that the rural students were not left far behind. This has spurred him on in his mission to facilitate students’ exposure to the latest research in biological sciences.

A linguist who can converse fluently in English, Hindi and the four South Indian languages, Subba Rao has a number of plans for SaiU students. A state-of-the-art laboratory and associations with the several research institutes in this marine-rich region are just a few that he has begun work on.

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