Friday, November 16, 2018
Academics
From The Desk Of The Director

Dr. B.K. Misra, Director- IIT Goa

Excerpt from an Interview with Prof. B. K. Mishra, Director, IIT Goa


As the Founding Director, what is your vision for the institute & how do you propose to shape it in near future?

My vision for IIT Goa is simply that of creating a premier institution with an unparalleled academic environment where excellence and relevance of academic pursuits go hand in hand. I have asked the student committees to perform in such a way that when outsiders look at IIT Goa students, they must notice a significant difference and immediately perceive their uniqueness as a student body. While recruiting faculty, I ensure that we have the finest scholars befitting the stature of an IIT. I also ask faculty members to introduce innovative teaching and research methodologies so that our students get the best learning experience possible.I have also drawn up a detailed plan about the possibilities to initiate various research activities and attract student interns to IIT Goa. This will be the first step for our institute in terms of R&D activities. We also plan to take up consultation assignments and are already in talks with the Environmental Panel of the State Government. On the "outreach" front, we are sensitizing our neighbouring industries about our expertise and beginning to advise them on issues relating to their particular areas. With respect to students' outreach, I requested our student representatives to organize talks in local schools and share their knowledge about JEE as well as academic and student life experiences at an IIT. Our job is to make young Goan students more ambitious by learning about our students' backgrounds and experiences, thereby motivating them to take their future goals seriously.


Being the Founding Director of IIT Goa, could you please share your experiences of managing a new IIT?

At the outset, the primary issue faced by us is that our campus is being hosted by GEC. At the moment, my main aim is to provide a state of the art learning experience to our students, at par with the other IITs. In this regard, the GEC authorities and their staff are extending to us their best possible cooperation. Another challenge is posed by the distance between our current location at Farmagudi and the city of Ponda, which offers all urban amenities. We are trying to resolve this issue by providing a shuttle service between Farmagudi and Ponda. We are requesting some of the best professors who have recently superannuated from other IITs to be a part of our teaching community. Once they join IIT Goa, we hope to provide them good accommodation and help them settle down in our campus comfortably


According to you, what kind of changes would have taken place in the institute by the year 2020, when the first batch graduates from IIT Goa?

Because of our existing arrangements and other constraints, the first batch of IIT Goa will most likely graduate from the GEC campus. However, the second batch will see the new campus with a capacity to accommodate around 1200 students. The new campus will host a main academic and administration area, along with student hostels and faculty and staff houses. While the campus will be ready by 2021, our 2016 batch will definitely see the new hostel at the GEC campus.It is a beautifully planned hostel and will be ready by June 2018. We are also planning an additional academic area to house our research equipment and facilities.


At present, IIT Goa is temporarily housed at the campus of Goa Engineering College (GEC). Could you please elaborate on the future plans for the new IIT campus?

The permanent campus is most likely to be built in an area of about 320 acres of land away from the coast. The main reason I agreed to this site is due to its proximity to a water dam and a United Nations Biodiversity Heritage Park. It is a picturesque place where we will get plenty of water and other amenities without depending on major urban centers. For safety reasons, I agreed to this site which is not too close the beaches. We have already shortlisted a panel of architects from all over India to work on the site Dr. B.K. Misra, Director- IIT Goa plans. As soon as they are ready, we will go ahead with the construction of a campus that will be self-contained in all possible ways.


Could you throw some light on the formation of the institution's placement cell?

Placement is an important component of any Institute. I see that students nowadays are career-oriented from day one and rightfully so. They have all put in a lot of effort in securing a place in an IIT. There are companies which are willing to come to IIT Goa. Surely, next year onwards we will seriously consider having a placement cell established with different industries. In its absence, students are encouraged to go for internships to gain experience. Also, students don't have to think only in terms of jobs, but also consider the idea of startups to create employment for others. For this reason, I plan to invite colleagues from other IITs to share their experiences so that we can get ideas and begin on an innovative note.


At the IITs, the faculty is required to give their best output in the areas of teaching and research. What would be your advice to the young faculty members who have joined recently?

After returning from the United States, I started to teach in IIT Kanpur and realized that it is somewhat challenging to adjust to the academic demands. It is particularly challenging for a young and fresh faculty member to start teaching undergraduates in the IIT system. For this reason, we request experienced faculty members to join IIT Goa and share their teaching experience with their younger colleagues. I would advise the younger faculty members to attend classes of senior professors, so that they can improve their teaching skills. Furthermore, I will emphasize on conducting summer courses here in IIT Goa for our students.


What is your advice to people, who desire to join this institute, either as a student or as a faculty member?

I foresee IIT Goa to be quite different from other IITs in many respects. An IIT in Goa is already creating a brand for itself. Many academics and colleagues from around the world are interested in coming here. I would also invite professors from other IITs to IIT Goa to teach a topic or two. I am planning to formulate courses that are completely inter-disciplinary and can be taught in short 15-day sessions. In this context, I must say that the Fractal Academic Program developed by IIT Hyderabad is the most appropriate model to adopt. This concept of fractal courses is currently gaining popularity. Many professors will even be interested in coming on sabbatical for longer periods as well.


As you are aware, the field of Artificial Intelligence is currently blooming. However, in the process, the world is losing humanitarian values by discarding concerns, viz. poverty, hunger, health hazards, etc. What are your views in this regard and what kind of human culture you would like to foster at this institution?

All of us must realize that we are here in an IIT at a huge cost to the general public. Therefore, we must do something in return for the local community and the society at large. Community outreach is a very important activity for any educational institute. So the question is how do you connect with the society? There are local school students who are interested in meeting our students, as they want to know what it is like to study in an IIT. Our students will be sought after in areas like energy, water, and environment, where new technologies are coming up. Social problems like poverty, hunger, unemployment and health hazards can be addressed through technology and innovative thinking. So no matter what research or teaching one does, there has to be a component of relevance or applicability in the outcome. Therefore, our aim should always be to remain relevant in our academic pursuits and be useful to society through our endeavors.