Umesh Chandra Lavania earned his BSc (1971), MSc (1973) from Agra University, joined faculty of the PG Department of Botany at Hindu College Moradabad in 1973 and taught Cytogenetics and Plant Breeding to M.Sc. students, and conducted researches in cytogenetics. He worked at the Centre of Advanced Studies in Cell and Chromosome Research at the Botany Department of Calcutta University from April 1976 to March 1979 as a UGC Teacher Fellow to earn his Ph.D. (1980) under the supervision of Prof. AK Sharma, and also D.Sc. (1998) from Calcutta University. He joined the CSIR-Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP), Lucknow as Scientist C in July 1982, became Scientist G in April 2002, and continues there as the Chief Scientist and Head of the Division of Genetics and Plant Breeding. He has visited UK and Japan under various exchange, invitation and collaborative programmes for research and training in molecular cytogenetics, delivered invited Plenary Lectures at Kew Chromosome Conf., Kew, and Asian Chromosome Colloquium, Osaka, and established facilities for plant molecular cytogenetics at CIMAP, Lucknow.
Academic and Research Achievements: Lavania’s scientific contributions are focused on structure and behavior of chromosomes at cellular, in vitro and organismic level, to elucidate evolutionary dynamics of chromosomes and genomes in speciation and genetic improvement. Based on extensive studies on cytogenetics of polyploids he has proposed and implemented ‘polyploid model’ for fixation of heterozygosity, suggested and implemented ‘genotypic strategy’ for pre-selection of diploid progenitors for distal chiasma localization to realize high fertility and stability in autopolyploids, elucidated differential response of polyploidy to body size vis-à-vis qualitative composition and metabolic costs of native secondary metabolites, underpinned mining of de novo diversity in palaeopolyploids, and demonstrated that elevated ploidy level causes enhanced cytosine methylation as revealed from immunodetection in situ . He has the credit of developing the species cladogram in Papaver based on karyo-evolutionary features and postulating that there is equal reduction of DNA in homoeologus chromosomes leading to increased karyotype asymmetry with speciation, and pinpointing that there is progressive reduction in heterochromatin through preferential loss of intercalary followed by telomeric fraction as adjudged from comparative banding of several taxa.
Other Contributions: Lavania has been on the editorial board of Plant Genetic Resources: Characterization and Utilization published by Cambridge Univ. Press since its inception in 2003, Guest Editor of its Special issue on Medicinal Plants (2005), Associate Editor : Journal of Genetics, Managing Editor : Nucleus, Sectional Editor : Jour Indian bot Soc, Member Editorial Board : Indian J Genet Plant Breed, President : Plant Science section of the Indian Science Congress Association in its centenary year (2012-2013), Member of the continueing committee of the International Conferences on Vetiver since 2000, Organizing Secretary of the 5th International Conference on Vetiver (2011), reviewer for several international journals including Genome, Chromosome Res, J Heredity, Plant Breeding, Plan Cell Reports, Plant Syst Evol, Biol J Linn Soc, Bot J Linn Soc and others, and Expert Member of Plant Science Research Committee of CSIR.
Awards and Honours: Lavania is a recipient of many awards/ honours that include: Agra Univ. Gold Medal for standing first in MSc (1973); INSA Medal for Young Scientists (1984); Hira Lal Chakravarty Award of Indian Science Congress Asso. (1986); YS Murty Gold Medal of Indian Botanical Society (1990); RB Ekbote Prize of the Maharashtra Asso.of Cultivation of Science (2001); JSPS Invitation Fellowship (2002, 2008); Editorial Award by the journal Plant Genetic Resources (2005); Uma Kant Sinha Memorial Lecture of the Indian Botanical Soc. (2008); King of Thailand Vetiver Award Certificate of Excellence of Chaipattana Foundation, Thailand (2011).