Name: Dipak Mainali
Current title/profession: Spectroscopy Application Scientist
Current hometown: San Jose, California
Areas of expertise: Molecular spectroscopy, hemometric/statistical analysis of spectroscopic (NIR/mid-IR, Raman, Fluorescence) data using different software platform, linear and multivariate model and method development, vibrational image analysis, experimental design, analytical chemistry, microscopy, protein chemistry, and molecular biology techniques
Name of project: CRS Farmer-to-Farmer Nepal
Location of the project: Nepal
Organization that sent the volunteer: Catholic Relief Services
I was very excited when I got the opportunity to share my infrared (IR) instrumentation and application knowledge to scientists working in Nepal. Being born and raised in Nepal, I was even more thrilled to travel back home and train regional scientists on using infrared instrument for soil sample measurement.
During two weeks of my volunteer period, I got chance to meet with several enthusiastic scientists who were eager to implement infrared (FTIR) technology to measure soil sample properties. The reason for applying IR technology was that it would help scientists to understand soil properties quickly compared to the existing wet chemical methods. With the wet chemical methods, it typically takes hours to analyze a sample whereas with proper model and method set up IR can analyze a sample in seconds. Even though there are well established wet chemical methods, because of the time, chemical reagents, and personnel investment, the scientists were looking for alternative way of analysis where it could expedite analysis process. IR technology was the solution for rapid analysis of soil and understand its properties so that scientists can provide recommendation to farmers on time. The overall goal of the volunteer mission was to enhance the capacity of scientists in utilizing IR technology to achieve the goal of faster soil sample analysis. At the end of training, scientists were happy to learn the fundamentals of infrared spectroscopy, multivariate model building process, and the overall workflow (all stages and procedures) of soil sample analysis using IR spectroscopy. I also felt extremely content knowing that I have motivated scientists to achieve their goal in near future. Similarly, I enjoyed every moment of training and interactions with scientists and learned many new things myself on soil science.
This is one of the experiences that I will cherish for the years to come. Another exciting part of this trip was that I also got an opportunity to meet with my family members while in Nepal. I feel lucky to have and share this experience. I would encourage other scientists to give back to the community as there are ways that you can make a difference. Similarly, I would like to acknowledge and thank to my employer Agilent Technologies for providing 6 days of paid volunteer time off for this purpose. Finally, big thanks to CRS team for making this happen and helping me during volunteer time period.