Meet Dr. Abinaya Sekar, our newest Advisor of the Month

Abinaya Sekar at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, India

Mendeley Advisors can be found not only in university settings but also at research institutes, government departments, and working in private industry. We were excited to meet Dr. Abinaya Sekar, a Senior Research Associate at India’s Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, visiting faculty at School of Planning and Architecture Delhi, and a Mendeley Advisor since 2021.

Abinaya’s research focuses on policy related to air quality and human health. She holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering Technology from National Institute of Technology Calicut, a Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental Law from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, a Masters in Environmental Engineering and Management and an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from Thiagarajar College of Engineering.

How did you become interested in your field?

During my undergraduate study, my professor, Dr. Chandran, raised a question that stuck with me forever: “How to control the water hyacinth invasion in water bodies in Madurai.” It was then that I realized I wanted to work for the environment and especially pollution. The paradox that the level of water is increasing, but we do not have water that we can consume, is hard-hitting. For both my undergraduate and master’s thesis, I studied the invasive and beneficial characteristics of water hyacinth. Later, for my Ph.D., I went on to study the challenging discourse of air pollution and gained expertise in exposure assessment, human health risk assessment, and air pollution science.

What attracted you to working at the Centre for Policy Research?

Since my Ph.D. I was interested in working with Delhi’s air quality crisis. I preferred working with the organization because CPR has been a consistent voice in the public discourse regarding the air pollution situation in Delhi. Working with CPR’s scholars, who are from the world’s finest universities, is a truly rewarding experience.

Where do you work the best? What kind of environment suits you?

I function best when it is peaceful. I cannot work around chaos. The Environment Engineering Laboratory at NIT Calicut is one such place. During my Ph.D. days, I would spend most of my time in the lab, carrying out my research. Often, days turned into nights and I often lost track of time while working. It was one place where I was disconnected from the other world and it was me, the instruments and my research. That is the kind of environment I thrive in.

How long have you been using Mendeley?

I was first introduced to Mendeley by professor Dr. Arun Kumar from NIT Calicut in 2017. I’ve been using it since then.

What were you using prior to Mendeley?

Before getting introduced to Mendeley, I was using the very difficult and tedious referencing method in Microsoft Word. After getting familiar with Mendeley, there was no looking back. Not only did it make referencing easier, but it also saved so much time. It was actually a life-changing decision.

Why did you decide to become an Advisor?

For the simple reason that more people should be familiar with such an easy to use and time saving referencing tool.

Is there a researcher you admire (dead or alive) that you would like to work with or meet?

Dr. George K. Varghese, my PhD supervisor, is someone I like and look up to. In India, Prof. Varghese is a pioneer in the field of Environmental Forensics. The questions he highlighted throughout our research discussions influenced the way I thought and approached my research questions. In addition to research skills, I’ve learned how to respond to people despite a hectic schedule, how to be approachable, and how to avoid procrastinating on work. I also deeply admire the work of Ms. Sunita Narin, Director General of the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi. I would like to meet her.

What are you reading or listening to at the moment ?

This week I listened to the episode “Breathing the air in Lebanon: E-cigarettes, water pipes, and beyond” featuring Prof. Najat Saliba, professor at the American University of Beirut (Lebanon), hosted by Atmospheric Tales, a podcast that focuses on stories from around the world related to air pollution and climate change.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned this week?

The fact that globally, 40% of the secondary organic aerosols are formed from ammonia. In addition to the health effects associated with ammonia, its secondary particle formation potential makes it an important pollutant to regularly monitor. It may be a well-established fact; however, I came across it only this week.

I also picked up some skills in making chicken biryani as well. This week I made it for my husband’s birthday party, and it was a huge hit.

What is the best part about working in research?

The best part of research is searching. Every time I dig for something I end up finding some other newer related thing and the tabs in my browsers keep increasing.

And the most challenging part about working in research?

The challenging part about research is also attributed to the researching part of it. The fact that to be good at it, one has to go into such depths, can often be mentally draining. I am often tired by the end of the day. Also, there are many repetitive corrections, which require a lot of consistency and commitment.

What advice would you give to young researchers? 

My advice for young researchers is to read, re-read and read again. With that, write and jot down your ideas. Writing is an acquired skill which one acquires from writing a lot.

What is the most important thing that people should know about Mendeley?

Taking notes within the app is the most useful feature for me. It makes Mendeley a useful platform for literature review in addition to referencing.

You can read more about Abinaya and her work on these sites:

Centre for Policy Research Staff pages:

Interested in the Mendeley Advisor program? Visit to learn more.