Har Gobind Khorana was born in Raipur, a small village in Punjab, which is now part of eastern Pakistan. He was home-schooled by his father, the village tax clerk. He went on to study at Punjab University and then left India in 1945 to pursue his PhD at the University of Liverpool. Early in his career, Khorana performed some of his most groundbreaking work, which would lay the basis for modern molecular biology. The great achievement of this work was almost immediately recognized with the Nobel Prize in 1968, which he shared with Robert Holley and Marshall Nirenberg.
In 1970, Khorana moved his home to MIT, where he stayed for nearly 40 years until retiring in 2007. Beyond his profound contribution to the field of biology, Gobind was an active member of the MIT community with a passion for mentoring young scientists. Aseem Ansari, who was a postdoc at MIT, knew of Khorana’s accomplishments and his commitment to education and mentoring and was inspired to found a program in his name. The Khorana Program was founded in 2007 by Ansari at the University of Wisconsin. The program allows India’s highest ranking undergraduate students to do research for a summer term at a top U.S. university.
Uttam RajBhandary’s deep friendship with Khorana spurred his active involvement, along with Mandana Sassanfar, in forming the MIT chapter of the Khorana Program in 2012. And in 2013, the program hosted 35 students across 10 different institutions. For these students, this is more than just a research opportunity; it is a chance at gaining experience and connections to make them eligible candidates to pursue graduate studies in the U.S. As one scholar phrased it, “It is really a make it or break it opportunity for us.” Vivek Dwivedi and Chetan Srinath, respectively in their third and second years of the biology PhD program, are both Khorana alumni who feel a sense of commitment to the program and to helping future generations of Khorana Scholars. Every year when new scholars arrive, Khorana alumni and other current students serve as mentors to help the new scholars transition to life in Cambridge and to performing full time research. They are also able to provide invaluable scientific guidance and advice for graduate school admissions. Continue reading at MIT News.