As a child, Dr N Kalaiselvi was curious about the symmetry in nature around her. Be it a leaf, a feather or a butterfly, I used to be fascinated by the perfect arrangement of things in nature, she says. At school, I actively participated in elocutions, essays and poetry writing, and I recall that my choice of topics used to be related to nature. So my interest in science was not an accident or sudden. All children are curious and, as we grow, we develop an interest in one area or the other. That interest happened to be science for me.Today, Dr Kalaiselvi is the first woman Director-General of the CSIR (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research), a consortium of 38 state-run research institutes across the country. She is the first woman in the 80-year-old history of the organisation to become its chief. When I was chosen to be DG-CSIR, I was excited. Heading CSIR is a huge but unique responsibility. I am honoured and humbled. The short-term goal is to consolidate CSIRs Ministry connect-driven societal impact, and the long-term goal is to strengthen our industry connect-driven societal implications through CSIR technologies. Reaching the unreached is the mantra of CSIR. CSIR will consolidate its strengths as a leader to handhold the Indian industry to achieve the societal and strategic requirements of India in food, water, health, strategic security, and so on. We also have several UN SDGs to be addressed, and CSIR is developing a vision for CSIR@2030 and CSIR India@2047.In the years between 1984 and 1987, Dr Kalaiselvi completed her Bachelors in Science from the Government Arts College for Women in Tirunelveli. My education was in a women-rich setting, she says when asked if there was enough female representation in her batch. There were 30 girls, and seven or eight, including me, secured university ranks. While pursuing my MSc from 1987-89, I joined the Government Arts College in Coimbatore, in a batch of seven boys and seven girls. There again, I was among the top 10 university rank holders.Although she didnt have many women role models growing up, she counts her teachers as inspiration. Today, there is a considerable number of promising women scientists in India. As the DG-CSIR, I am getting to know more bright and talented women scientists within and outside the CSIR labs.Dr Kalaiselvis entry into electrochemistry was by chance. Though she pursued a PhD in synthetic organic chemistry, particularly in the area of heterocyclic compounds, it was when she joined CSIR-CECRI in 1997 that she plunged into the world of electrochemistry. At that time, my PG courses on electrochemistry helped me understand the RD basics of electrochemical science and technology, she explains. CSIR-CECRI offered me the opportunity to work on batteries, especially lithium batteries. In 1997-1998, India's Lithium-Ion Batteries (LIBs) technology was in its infancy. It was a new area that offered an enormous opportunity to do RD at the electrode level. This turned out to be an exciting area. Today, 80 per cent of Indians have mobile phones, which are powered by LIBs. In the future, we shall witness a revolution in e-mobility, in which different kinds of batteries will power them. So research in this area is fascinating and will radically change the way we generate and use energy.About her pathbreaking work on lithium-ion batteries, she says, Every school child knows that a battery comprises a cathode, an anode, and an electrolyte. In my early years of research, I began to work on developing cathodes and then later, anodes. I did some work on polymer electrolytes as well. My work on cathode-anode electrodes was encouraging. I got projects from DST, CSIR, MoES, and DRDO. From small-budget projects, I began handling larger, umbrella projects on LIBs and coordinating Mission Projects involving many CSIR labs on multi-functional materials and electrodes.Dr N Kalaiselvi has contributed to areas such as developing indigenous approaches to prepare electrodes and electrocatalytic materials, and the development of LIB-based coin and cylindrical cells. She has coordinated the creation of infrastructure, a sophisticated dry room, and analytical facilities at CSIR-CECRI. After taking over as the Director of CSIR-CECRI, she oversaw the development of a first-of-its-kind LIB-production facility that produces 1000 cells per day.About the gap in the STEM workforce, she says, To bridge the gap or to correct the gender imbalance in STEM, we need more women-centric initiatives in academia and research labs. That said, in recent years, the number of girls completing their higher education and women taking up research as a career, has been rapidly increasing. The Government of India has prioritised this. From time to time, we see new government programmes, schemes, and initiatives that create a favourable and encouraging environment for women. And these are not just core research-centric schemes for women, but also support systems, such as setting up creches and having clear policies that support the natural responsibilities of having and raising children.She believes that the next 20-25 years are crucial for India. India has entered a phase of Amrit Kaal. During this period, the countrys youth population will increase. Our performance in the coming two decades will have a bearing on Indias long-term future. We must work towards self-reliance and achieve Atmanirbharata in all sectors. We must sustainably use our available resources and leave a better planet for our future generations, because we have only one earth on which we can all have only one future.