Guiding Light

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On 28th February, 1928 Dr. CV Raman, working in Kolkata, discovered the Raman Effect related to the scattering of light. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery in 1930- the first Indian to receive the coveted award in science for research done in India. However, it was to also be the last. To spread widely the message of the Importance of science in the daily life of the people, 28th February is celebrated every year as the ‘National Science Day’.

As a part of its National Science Day celebrations, the institute organized public lectures on 5th March by professors from the science departments. The event was declared open by Prof. Devang V. Khakhar, the Director, who emphasized the work done by Dr. C. V. Raman in the field of physics and the applications of his research, much later, in technology.

Prof. Ruchi Anand from the Department of Chemistry, spoke on “X-Ray Crystallography: Photography at an Atomic Level”. She enumerated the use of X-rays in determining the structure of crystals (e.g. proteins) and in determining levels of water pollution.

Prof. Srikanth Srinivasan from the Department of Mathematics gave a talk on “Mathematics behind the Computer”. He spoke about the various historical developments in mathematics which led to the notion of a universal computer- the idea that programs and data share the same memory.

Prof. Varun Bhalerao from the Department of Physics talked about “Building a Space Telescope”. He gave a presentation on AstroSat, India’s first multi-wavelength space observatory which was launched by ISRO in September 2015. He also gave a comparative analysis of AstroSat with other existing satellites.

Prof. Kiran Kondabagil from the Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering presented on “Viruses and Tree of Life Conundrum”. He spoke about the ambiguity among scientists regarding the inclusion of viruses in the tree of life and also about their omnipresence in our body and environment.

The talks were followed by a panel discussion on “Bringing together science and technology at IIT Bombay” involving Prof. R. K. Shevgaonkar, Electrical Engg, Prof. Prita Pant, MEMS, and Prof. Subimal Ghosh, Civil Engg. The panelists lamented the fact that many undergraduates are not exposed to research work. Proper emphasis on seminar courses, guided by professors, was one of the suggestions to get UG students involved.

There was a general agreement among the panelists regarding the very little formal collaboration between scientists and engineers in IITB. The reasons cited for this were the mindset gap between the two parties, lack of avenues for conversation and fear of stepping out of one’s comfort zone. They also agreed to the fact that there is a presense of expertise in the institute in various fields but there is a need for more opportunities to link them to places where it might actually be of use.

Many suggestions were also floated to alleviate these drawbacks – informal Faculty-Students interactions; weekly or monthly seminars on ongoing research; updated online institute faculty brochures with information about research interests; institutional investment for collaborative projects; flexibility and de-compartmentalization of PG programs; encouraging interdisciplinary PhDs; one or two day general talks (along the lines of TED talks) for new faculties to showcase their interests and mingle with old faculties; use of CERN resources; and obtaining funding for long-term scientific research.

As Prof. Shevgaonkar put it, “We need to think a scientist and work like an engineer.”