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Retrospectively

Article By: Juggernaut
Memoir



Juggernaut was waiting for his turn to face the professors as part of evaluation of thesis he submitted as part of his graduate studies. It was ironic, the examiner, a distinguished professor in the field was the teacher of Juggernaut’s professor in the past. As he waited, he felt light headed and dehydrated from fear of unexpected questions and all he can find in the lab was a distilled water bottle which he used to quench his ever ending thirst. He kept reading the following thesis abstract again and again just to make sure he remembers everything.


Submitted:Dec 26, 2009    Reads: 125    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


In Retrospect

Subba Rao

Juggernaut was waiting for his turn to face the professors as part of evaluation of thesis he submitted as part of his graduate studies. It was ironic, the examiner, a distinguished professor in the field was the teacher of Juggernaut's professor in the past. As he waited, he felt light headed and dehydrated from fear of unexpected questions and all he can find in the lab was a distilled water bottle which he used to quench his ever ending thirst. He kept reading the following thesis abstract again and again just to make sure he remembers everything.

Thesis Title: "Inorganic Phosphate Transformation in Submerged Lateritic Soil" (Submitted in 1971 as a partial fulfillment for M.Sc. degree at Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology, Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India.)

"An acidic lateritic sandy loam soil was incubated under submergence separately with ground rock-phosphate from 5 different sources namely, Missouri, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Egypt and Udaipur (India). The change in soil pH, inorganic and available P fractions were determined at an interval of 30 days during 5-month incubation. Submergence caused an initial increase in soil pH in all the treatments. An increase Al-p, Fe-P and Ca-P following submergence and rock-phosphate treatment was observed up to 60 days of incubation after which period a decrease was observed. Both Brays-I and Olsens P were significantly correlated with inorganic P fractions at some stage during the incubation period. Depending on the extractability of available P, the rockphosphates are arranged as follows: North Carolina = Egypt > India > Florida > Missouri."

Then he got a call inviting him into professor's office. It was comforting to see his own professor smiling and in a good mood chatting with the examiner. Juggernaut had no problem answering questions from the distinguished examiner but then he was asked a fundamental question about the amount of nutrient element used to incubate the soil samples. Juggernaut couldn't answer and looked towards his professor for help since he recommended the application level. To his surprise, the professor kept quiet. Sweat pouring from his head, Juggernaut kept silent since he has no clue to answer the question; after all it was his professor's idea. After few minutes of dead silence, Juggernaut's professor gave an answer that sounded so lame, the examiner laughed, dismissing it altogether. Somehow, the test was concluded and the examiner congratulated Juggernaut for his fine work. The irony here was, Juggernaut's professor who obtained a Ph.D., from a reputable University from Midwestern United States, with several years of experience teaching graduate students recommended a ridiculous low dosage according the external examiner, an authority in the subject matter. Years after, while going through literature, Juggernaut found that the level of nutrient used in his research was ridiculously low, no wonder why, he could not see significant trends to record during his research.

Fast forward, three years later; Juggernaut tried his best to get away from similar experience but no luck. He landed in merciless hands. While his fellow graduate students having good time working on one or two soil types, his thesis supervisor in Trinidad for Ph.D., asked him to work on twenty different soil types collected from five different depths, a total of one hundred soil samples. To grind over 30 pounds of each of 100 soil samples took several weeks. Other staff members were flabbergasted at the work assigned to Juggernaut by his supervisor Dr. Dayal. At one stage, getting sick of grinding soil, Juggernaut thought of telling his supervisor to go f--- himself. But instead, Juggernaut prayed Lord Vinayaka, the God capable of removing hurdles in life to let his supervisor get a better job in the United States, Canada or someplace like that. Though Lord Vinayaka's transportation, a mouse, was slow but his actions were swift. Dr. Dayal got a better job in a faraway land and he left the island for good. The lab staff celebrated his departure with drinking rum and danced for calypso music like celebration of death of the wicked witch of the West in the movie Wizard of Oz.

With totally no supervision and purely with own planning, Juggernaut worked three years, almost round the clock and submitted manuscript of his thesis to the Head of the Department (a native son of Caribbean ofIndian descent) who was totally unaware of the topic on which Juggernaut was working. Juggernaut was pleasantly surprised when the Professor said that the work submitted could get at least two, if not three Ph.D., degrees.

Thesis Title: Urea Adsorption and Urease Activity in Some Trinidad Soils (Ph.D., thesis submitted in 1977 at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad.)

Factors affecting urea adsorption and urease activity in several Trinidad soils with contrasting properties were investigated. Soils factors that promote urea adsorption i.e., high organic carbon content and clay content were also associated with urease activity. However, soil pH had a detrimental effect on urease activity but at the same time it facilitated the urea adsorption process.

Michaelis constant (Km) of soil urease for the different soils was variable. Fine textured soils with high organic carbon content showed higher Km values than coarse textured soils. The free energy of activation of urease was almost similar for different soils but entropy and enthalpy of activation energy differed considerably.

Amendment of soil with glucose or animal manure increased urease activity considerably. However, the induced activity urease activity diminished with time and also with toluene treatment. Toluene treatment in urease assay resulted in both increases and decreases in enzyme activity depending upon the soil type. The treatment reduced difference between the urease activity of air-dry and field moist soil samples.

Different methods of soil storage influenced more markedly the urease activity of fine textured soils with high moisture content than coasts textured soils. Preservation of field-moist samples by refrigeration at 4˚C was found to be the most appropriate method of storing soil samples for urease assay.

2, 5-dimethyl-p-benzoquinone was the most effective urease inhibitor and the magnitude of inhibition persisted for longer periods compared to other quinones tested. Naturally occurring tannins in bark extract of Terminalia arjuna produced considerable inhibition. Among the several plant protection chemicals investigated, parathion, nemagon and thiram produced significant inhibition of soil urease activity, whereas herbicide treatment resulted in both increases and decreases in the enzyme activity depending on the soil characteristics.

Research papers written from Ph.D., Thesis.

· Role of organic matter in urea adsorption.

· Urea adsorption in some Trinidad Soils.

· Effects of soil acidity and saturating cations on adsorption of urea in soil.

· An infra-red spectrophotometric study of the mechanism of urea adsorption in soil.

· Relative adsorption of urea on soils, clays, humic acids and clay-humic acid mixtures.

· A study of different parameters in assaying soil urease activity.

· Distribution of urease activity in some Trinidad soils.

· Influence of different methods and periods of soil sample storage on its urease activity.

· Kinetic characteristics of soil urease activity. 1. Michael-Menten constants of soil urease activity. 2. Thermo-kinetic parameters of soil urease activity.

· Influence of glucose and animal manure on production of urease activity in soil.

· Influence of quinones and naturally occurring polyphenols on urease activity in some Trinidad soils.

· Effect of different insecticides on urease activity in some Trinidad soils.

· Effect of toluene on urease soil activity.

On completing Ph.D., Juggernaut wrote several research papers from his thesis for publication and gave it to the Head of the Department for review; while some were published several others were never published, still laying somewhere at his former Professor's office collecting dust over the last three decades. The most disappointment came when a visiting professor from an Ivy League university in the United States offered a post- doctoral fellowship to Juggernaut, it was blocked by the Head of the Department on flimsy grounds (apparently he insisted that a local Caribbean student should get it, surprisingly there were none in the program.)

Juggernaut was lucky to land on a job in Jamaica through a recommendation from Jamaican Professor. With no supervisor and for the first time in full control, Juggernaut was happy at his new job as a Soil Chemist/Chief Chemist at the Sugar Research Institute in Jamaica. His work was fulfilling and his work at the Institute was still appreciated even after 25 years.

Research Work at Sugar Industry Research Institute. Mandeville, Jamaica (1978-85)

· Nutrient value of distiller's waste and it's effect on soil pH.(1983)

· An update on irrigation water quality in Clarendon and St.Catherine plains in Jamaica.

· Productivity levels of some major cane soil types in Jamaica.(1982)

· Secondary and micro-elements in cane nutrition. Jamaican situation.(1982)

· Conducting soil salinity surveys in cane areas of Jamaica. (1981)

· Influence of split and late application of potash on cane quality and yields.(1981)

· Various classifications of cane soils in Jamaica.(1981)

· Quality of irrigation water at Monymusk sugar estate between 1975 and 1981. (1981)

· Filter press mud, a by-product from sugar factory.(1980)

· A review of weed control practices in Jamaican sugar industry. (1984)

· Cane soils of Jamaica (1984)

· Subject index to the annual reports published by the Jamaican sugar Industry Research Institute between 1948-1981.(1983)

· Sugarcane response to phosphates and potash in Jamaica. Results of field experiments conducted between 1948-81. (1983)

· A bibliography of research work on sugarcane in Jamaica between 1937 and 1982. (1983)

· An index to nutrition experiments conducted between 1948 and 1978 at the Sugar Industry Research Institute, Mandeville, Jamaica (1982)

· Soil salinity survey of Caymanas sugar estate in St. Catherine, Jamaica (1981)

· Soil salinity survey of Bernard Lodge sugar estate in St. Catherine, Jamaica (1980)

· Acid soils and liming (1979)

· Saline and alkaline soils (1978)

· Potassium and sugar-cane nutrition (1980)

· Post-harvest deterioration of cane (1980)

· Soil physical properties and cane productivity (1979)

· Irrigation water crisis in Clarendon and St. Catherine plains (1983)

The Director of research, a fair minded person at last, appreciative of Juggernaut's work insisted that he continue his work even after 7 years at the Institute. But Juggernaut thought it was time to move on since there wasn't any interesting work left to do despite the fact it was the most beautiful and wonderful place to live. And more importantly, the people were kind and giving. The staff at the General Hospital where Juggernaut's wife worked loved her and were sorry to let her go.

Looking for a job with a foreign degree in the United States was no fun. Though miles apart from his research background, Juggernaut was happy to get a job in the industry. He reinvented himself in the field of environmental science and managed to sustain for several years. Not surprisingly, his boss was from Bombay, no kidding. Again, same old Indian tricks to hold down and other paraphernalia that comes with it (read short story entitled "Crime Scene.") Nevertheless, the job gave opportunities to travel extensively within the United States. When Juggernaut left the Job, he was proud he documented his work for others to benefit.

Technical Papers Written for Animal Rendering Industry (1985 - 2000)

· Water reuse at various rendering plants.

· On-site treatment of wastewater generated from used restaurant grease processing.

· Nitrification in CMAS tank/ wastewater lagoons.

· A checklist to implement Spill Prevention Control and Counter-measures Plan (SPCC).

· A checklist to implement Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP).

· A study of odor control chemical usage and its costs.

· Maintenance checklist to operate air-scrubbers.

· Why packed-bed air scrubbers sometimes under-perform?

· Do incineration of rendering odors in thermal oxidizers (TO) guarantee odor free operation?

· Why more odor complaints in summer?

Emission factors for animal rendering operation

Inspired by reading travel essays in National Geographic, Life Magazine and local Railway Guides, his father subscribed, Juggernaut orchestrated his own journey. Met lot of people, some very kind and some not so. It's all about journey not the destination, Pam Collins, originally from Scotland, a fellow graduate student in Trinidad used to say to Juggernaut, perhaps she read Juggernaut's mind well having desk next to him for almost five years.

While reading Aurobindo's work recently Juggernaut came across this "To judge from appearances and apparent success is precisely an act of complete ignorance." This was so real thought Juggernaut from his experiences. He was not sure whether it was his ignorance, timidity, or from his upbringing to accept the events, some totally unjust. But he always thought of saying "go f--- yourself" to the people so unjust. But he never did. In retrospect he should have done it.





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