Nambrattil Sethunathan obtained his PhD (1967), University of Madras specializing in pesticide microbiology and microbiology of rice soils. He served as Visiting Assistant Pesticide Chemist, International Rice Research Institute, Los Banos, Philippines (1968-71); Scientist (Microbiology) (1971-82), Head, Division of Soil Science and Microbiology (1987-97), Principal Scientist (1983- ) all at Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack. He was INSA Senior Scientist (1998-2000) at Division of Microbiology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi.
Academic and Research Achievements: Sethunathan has done extensive work on microbial degradation of pesticides in flooded rice soils. He was the first to demonstrate that loss of control of a pest after regular use of a pesticide (diazinon) is related to its accelerated degradation by adapted microorganisms. He isolated a Flavabacterium sp., ATCC 27551, which is one of the microorganisms most intensively studied in relation to molecular aspects of enhanced degradation. His group has isolated bacteria capable of degrading not only alpha and gamma-isomers, but also thermodynamically stable beta and sigma-isomers of hexachlorocyclohexane under aerobic conditions.
Other Contributions: Sethunathan was the Editor-in-chief Oryza (1981-85) and Indian Journal of Microbiology (1999-2000); Member, Editorial Boards of Journal of Environment Science & Health (Pt B), Proceedings of the Indian National Science Academy (Biol Sci), and Biology and Fertility of Soils and Pesticide Research Journal and Associate Editor, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety. He was Member, INSA Council (1995-97), American Chemical Society (1971-74), Society of Pesticide Science, Indian Society for Nuclear Techniques in Agriculture and Biology, Indian Society of Soil Science. He is a Life Member, Association of Rice Research Workers (1971), Cuttack and Association of Microbiologists of India.
Awards and Honours: Sethunathan is a Fellow, Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi, and National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad.