Differential Dynamics: Prof Debajyoti Choudhuri
Jan 25, 2016 | Saileja Dash
After a year as a faculty in NIT Silchar, Prof Debajyoti Choudhuri joined the NITR fraternity in 2014. Hailing from Kolkata but having stayed in Hyderabad and Delhi, he is an avid football fan and movie buff. Prof Choudhuri has completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics from Osmania University, Hyderabad and his Master’s Degree as well as PhD from the University of Hyderabad. Monday Morning joined him on a sit-down for a get-to-know session and the following are excerpts from the conversation.
MM: Why did you choose mathematics as a career?
DC: It was quite a late realisation, actually. It wasn’t something I had known since school. Yes, I was good at maths but not something which I thought I’d take up as a career. It was during my BSc when I was a silver medallist at the regional Olympiad when I thought that there is some scope for people like me. For now, I would like to stick to academics and carry on with what I am doing. I am enjoying this stuff.
I was good at sports so, at one point, I had thought of being a footballer. That never materialised though.
MM: Why Academia?
DC: This job suits me. Firstly, I do not have a boss over my head so I don’t feel like I have to work at a gunpoint. It allows me to spend time with the youth. When you are in the corporate sector, you sometimes need to spend a considerable amount of time with a set of people who are not from your generation. It gives me immense freedom to do what I like. More than that, there is an option of taking leave, there are a huge number of holidays and so a lot of time for yourself.
MM: What kind of differences exist between the senior faculties and the relatively new?
DC: When I was recruited here, the equation was heavily tilted towards the older generation. But with our recruitment, a lot of fresh faces have joined in. In the next 4-5 years, with this rate of influx of new faculty, NITR is not very far behind the IITs; we are just catching up.
There is a difference in the styles of teaching as well as dealing with the students which I would attribute to nothing other than generation gap and nothing to do with individual personalities.
MM: What do you think of the research atmosphere at NITR? What do you have to say about the general disinterest among students for research.
DC: As far as research is concerned, it’s because of the youth influx currently that the research scenario has improved. Not all previous faculty were full time researchers and most of today’s faculty have taken up research as a passion.
Coming to the students’ disinterest, I think it is we, the faculty, that are to blame. We are somehow unable to motivate them for research. It would be wrong to blame the students directly because when they come here, they are almost ignorant about what research is all about. For example, one may not know the distinction between pure and applied mathematics. To him, it is only Mathematics. I would attribute this to the teachers for not motivating the students enough. In the first 2 years of the integrated MSc courses where students are taught alongside their B. Tech counterparts, the motivation for research is somewhere lost there.
MM: Previously, you were a faculty at NIT Silchar. What are some similarities and differences you found?
DC: The comparison wouldn’t be fair because NIT Silchar is a relatively remote area, not well connected to the rest of the country. The mentality of the students is pretty much the same since they also come through the same process as they do here but the resources make all the difference. NITR is a lot older and more established.
MM: How is life at NITR?
DC: Compared to the other NITs and new IITs, things at NITR are a lot better. It has to do a bit of catching up before it can be compared to the established IITs. The overall atmosphere is very good. It is electrifying especially during the many fests; the campus looks lively. Like most from a middle class background, I am completely drawn towards movies and cricket. Every first day, first show is mine. Also, Rourkela is a very good place but wouldn’t have suited me had I not been in Silchar because being there had prepared me to stay in the smaller cities.
MM: What would you change about NITR at present?
DC: I would like the administration to loosen up a bit to the students. Personally, I have been to many college campuses and this is the only one which is devoid of a proper night canteen. I think this is a lacuna here. 12 at night is when night canteens are supposed to open up. For the faculties, it is fine, at least according to me. For the students however, there is a scope of the administration loosening up. Another thing I have noticed is that the student-teacher relation isn’t that great. We need a lot of interaction. This part is terribly lacking. I don’t think it is because of the rigorous class hours because personally, I do not know of an institute which does not have a packed schedule. I think it is because of the old school of thought where this has been a trend since the ages and is only being carried on.
MM: What advice would you like to give to students?
DC: I haven’t been much of an advisor. I would like to say that just because you are studying, it is not only academics that you have to pursue. Listen to your own thinking instead of what society thinks.