Deepak Pental earned his BSc (Hons School) and MSc (Hons School) in Botany from Panjab University, Chandigarh and PhD (1978) from Rutgers, USA under the supervision of Professor JE Gunckel working on "in vitro morphogenesis of wheat". Subsequently, he worked as Postdoctoral and University Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham with Professor EC Cocking on protoplast culture, somatic cell hybridization and genetic transformation of plants. On returning to India in 1983, he joined as Fellow in the newly established Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI). In 1993, he moved to the Genetics Department, University of Delhi and set up the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants. He was Director of the South Campus of the University and is currently Vice-Chancellor of the University of Delhi (2005- ).
Academic and Research Achievements: At TERI, Pental initiated work on breeding of mustard (Brassica juncea), a major oilseed crop of the dry land areas of India with the objective of setting up in vitro genetic manipulation techniques on the crop and developing hybrid seed production technologies. A major finding was that Indian types of oilseed mustard, when crossed with the east-European types give hybrids that have significant yield increase over the best parent. He extensively worked on breeding of mustard using conventional and molecular methods at the University of Delhi. The first hybrid DMH-1 based on a novel CMS system discovered by his group is now under extensive cultivation and has been officially released by ICAR in 2008. Another hybrid based on transgenic technologies is awaiting regulatory clearances. The group produced first molecular marker based map for any major crop in India, followed by extensive marker based breeding for oil and meal quality and quantitative traits in mustard.
Other Contributions: Pental has written extensively on agricultural policy, particularly on the use of transgenic technologies and edited a special issue of Current Science on this subject. He has served on a number of committees of DBT and DST. He coordinated one major crop biotechnology network project for DBT and two network projects for CSIR under NMITLI. As Director, South Campus, Delhi University, he set up a Biotech Centre for translational work. As Vice-Chancellor, Delhi University, he has taken initiatives to strengthen undergraduate and postgraduate education through revision of syllabi, and created an Institute of Life-Long Learning (ILLL).
Awards and Honours: Pental was conferred the Jawahar Lal Nehru Fellowship in 2005 and OP Bhasin Award (2008) for Research in Agriculture. He was elected Fellow of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi (1993), National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad (1994) and Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore (2000).