Akshay K Pradhan earned his B. Sc (Agriculture) in 1978 and M. Sc. (Plant Breeding & Genetics) in 1980 from Orissa University of Agriculture & Technology, Bhubaneswar and Ph.D. (Genetics) in 1986 from Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi. Since 1986, he worked as Research Associate and as Fellow in Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI). In 1996, he joined as Senior Research Scientist and subsequently promoted to Principal Scientist in 2001 in a NDDB funded project under the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants, University of Delhi South Campus. In 2002, he moved to the Department of Genetics, University of Delhi as a Professor.
Academic and Research achievements: The main thrusts of Pradhan's work involve improvement in the yield and quality of mustard oil and meal through conventional and biotechnological means. He identified heterotic gene pools in B. juncea through classical and molecular approaches that showed high heretosis for yield. He also worked extensively on developing cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) - fertility restorer systems in B. juncea that could lead to the production of hybrid seeds in large scale in an economically viable manner. Simultaneously, he concentrated on eliminating or minimizing the CMS imposed ill effects such as chlorosis, abnormal floral or plant phenotypes, that are detrimental to the ultimate crop productivity. Thus he has contributed significantly in the area of heterosis breeding in B. juncea which culminated in the development of the first ever CMS-based mustard hybrid, DMH-1, in India. His first and foremost contribution in the area of molecular genetics is the development of high-density linkage map involving genotypes of two heterotic gene pools (Indian and east European) of B. juncea consisting of >1500 DNA markers (AFLP, RFLP and SSR) and laid the foundation for the subsequent identification and tagging loci for quality enhancing traits such as erucic acid, glucosinolates, seed coat colour, etc. He also did molecular map based fine analysis of QTL under different environmental conditions, that proves helpful in genetically dissecting complex traits into their component loci and locate their positions in their genome, which has further implications in devising strategies for transferring these loci form one gene pool to another. The first ever comparative map between B. juncea and Arabidopsis thaliana was developed from the lab which is now being used for tagging and identification of candidate genes for agronomically important traits. He was instrumental in developing suitable breeding populations through microspore derived doubled haploid (DH) production for identifying and tagging important recessive genes and guided the development of such DH populations for subsequent use in marker assisted breeding. He is involved in teaching at Post Graduate level and teaches Population Genetics and Molecular Plant Breeding.
Awards and Honours: He was elected Fellow of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi (2006) and National Academy of Sciences (India), Allhabad (2010)