Reaching, engaging and supporting ECRs in the atmospheric chemistry community

ECR Spotlight: Saurabh Sonwani

Dr. Sonwani has been awarded the “Young Scientist Award” for outstanding contribution to Environment and Sustainable Development by the Society for Science of Climate Change & Sustainable Environment (SSCE) at the WNO NEEM Summit 2024.

He earned his PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India and is currently an Assistant Professor at Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi, New Delhi India and an iLEAPS Early Career Scientist representative of the South Asia and the Middle East Region.

What was the reason for the award?

The reason for my “Young Scientist Award” at the WNO Neem Summit is for my outstanding contribution to Environment and Sustainable Development, my participation as an Observer in UNFCCC COP28 at Dubai, UAE from India was especially appreciated. They also appreciated my publication as corresponding author for “Investigation of forest fire activity changes over the central India domain using satellite observations during 2001‐2020” (Jain et al., 2021, GeoHealth), which was also highlighted in the UNFCCC COP27 side meeting on “Wildfires: past, present and future-human health and environmental impact” on 11th Nov 2022 held at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

I think that this is a prominent reason because I was the only ECR who participated in COP28 in this domain of “Climate impact on Environment” representing India and Future Earth. Whereas, considering my publication highlighted in COP27, that was the first and only publication from India within this domain of “Wildfires & Environmental Impact from Central India”.

Elaborate on the experience of receiving the “Young Scientist Award”

It was a delightful experience to receive this honor during the prestigious WNO Neem Summit & Global Neem Trade fair 2024. This is an inspiration for me to contribute more in the field of atmospheric chemistry, environmental health and sustainability research.

I am very thankful to all the board members and the Secretary of the community of Society for Science of Climate Change & Sustainable Environment (SSCE) for considering me for this “Young Scientist Award”. I am also thankful to the Neem Summit & Global Neem Trade fair, organized by collaboration with lCAR-Central Agroforestry Research Institute, Jhansi in New Delhi on 19-20 February 2024. I am also thankful to Dr. Akhilesh Gupta, Senior Adviser at the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, and Dr. S K Chaudhary, Deputy Director General, (Natural Resource Management), Indian Council of Agricultural Research for their onsite presence and the word of appreciation during Award ceremony.

Did you get noticed and receive new opportunities specifically for having received the Young Scientist award?

After the “Young Scientist Award”, I have received an invitation to participate as an Early Career Speaker in the Interactive Roundtable session “Heterogeneous Role of Urban Blue-Green Green Space on Public Health and Environmental Sustainability” in the Sustainability Research & Innovation 2024 (SRI2024) Congress to be held from 10-14 June 2024 in Finland to talk about my expertise in the field of “Climate change and Sustainability”.

I also got highlighted in iLEAPS (Global research project of Future Earth) NEWS letter released in March 2024. iLEAPS also highlighted this honor through their Twitter handle @iLEAPS18 on 22nd Feb 2024.

The Society for Science of Climate Change & Sustainable Environment (SSCE) has also given me an opportunity to submit a proposal on Air Pollution and Climate Change Mitigation through NEEM Tree, in this project my team will focus on biogenic volatile organic compound (BVOC) emissions from NEEM tree and test bio-chemical parameters to check its sensitivity and tolerance in reference to air pollution. This project will be helpful for the Green belt development program in India.

What are you currently working on?

Air pollutant sources, impacts and their mitigation.

What is the greatest challenge you face in working life?

Finding research funding.

What do you love most about the field?

Unlike many other communities, the research community is relatively honest and clean.

Why do you enjoy being a researcher?

I love being a researcher because I am naturally curious, eager to learn new things.

What have been the low points of your career?

The phase just after my Ph.D., when I was searching for a position.

What are your career aspirations?

I wish to carry out my research to understand nature in a better way, so that I can solve the existing air pollution issues and may reduce the environmental impact of climate change by following/suggesting its mitigation and adaptation approaches.

What area of your field do you feel needs more funding and research?

Air pollution mitigation.

How do you create a good work life balance?

By preparing a list of my priorities (putting the most urgent and important things in the first place) and by following good daily life practices such as Yoga & Meditation.

What advice would you give to other ECRs?

Literature review is the first and important thing that ECRs must take seriously as it provides a foundation of knowledge on the topic, helps in identifying research gaps in the area of your research, avoid any conflicts/duplication with previously reported studies, and helps in identifying its possible contribution to the topic.

Always try to upgrade yourself by learning new tools and techniques in your disciplines.

Before proposing any research idea to any funding agency, try to explore its requirements and possible contribution to science and society.

Always try to connect your research to different United Nations sustainability agenda to enhance its utility for present and future generations (especially for the ECRs working in the field of environment & related disciplines).

To have a Transdisciplinary (TD) approach is key to solve any environmental issue and it can be done by having transdisciplinary collaborations.

And last but not least, never forget to acknowledge any person/organization/team that helped you to achieve any of your goals in your research project/career journey.

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