A Visage of Vibrance: Prof. Sasmita Mishra
A dynamic lady who manages to be calm and smile away the strains and toils of teaching, research, SAC and family. MM caught up with the Vice-President of Cultural and Literary society, Prof. Sasmita Mishra, to know all about this lively personality.
MM: Let’s go back to your school and college days. Where did you grow up and how did you choose Physics as your branch?
SM: I grew up in Tulsipur of the Puri district of Odisha, and went to school there. I went to SCS College, Puri. Then I went to Utkal University, and did my Masters in Physics. Then, I did PhD in IIT, Bombay, spending 5 years there. After that, I went for a post-doctoral fellowship in Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad.
I came to NIT, Rourkela in 2014 and will be completing two years in NITR on 30th April.
From school days, Maths and Science was my favourite and Physics is a combination of both. Also, I had great teachers in school, who inculcated this interest in me. Though I found it difficult at times, I enjoyed taking up the challenge.
MM: What made you become a Professor?
SM: My MSc. teachers were very good, so I thought of doing a PhD. The professors during my PhD were also very good. Their teaching, way of talking, personality and behaviour- everything inspired me a lot and I wanted to be like them. I found my area of interest and went to IIT to do my PhD and decided to become a professor.
MM: What is your main area of interest?
SM: My area of interest is particle physics. Right now, I'm working on neutrino Physics. My work is purely on theoretical grounds. So, I'm not associated with the laboratories too much.
MM: Do you feel that the Physics department has undergone any change during your stay?
SM: When I joined NITR, three others joined with me and all four of us were theoretical physicists. Theoretical physics is getting more and more emphasis, which wasn't there earlier. The laboratories have also undergone some degree of change during this period.
MM: How do you like the role of Cultural VP?
SM: As a student, I was very active in extra-curricular activities and used to take part in essay writing, quizzes and debating. However, when I was doing my PhD, it got reduced a little. The IIT Bombay atmosphere was very invigorating, the student life was so active. Students are so dynamic and along with their studies, they manage drama, dance, music, debating etc. They do everything. I learnt a lot there, attending festivals and workshops. However, getting the role of a Cult VP here was totally accidental.
The first event that I handled was the Freshers. I was not very satisfied with the students. I felt that they weren't doing enough. They did not have the foresight to anticipate many of the difficulties that might pop up, and did not do all the preparations properly, like sound checks, stage preparation, etc.
The students are not always very happy with the authorities, and they are often at conflict at each other.
MM: Do you find life at SAC very hectic?
SM: When I got the role of Cult VP, I was told that I would be taking up a lot of work, which was true. However, I like to be involved with the students and be a part of the activities that they are doing. Initially, SAC was crazy and completely incomprehensible to me. It was difficult to understand when to say yes and when to say no to the students, and I often consulted my seniors during decision-making. Gradually, I'm getting a hang of the working at SAC.
MM: How do you manage to balance teaching and SAC activities?
SM: It’s very difficult. I have to wake up every morning, get my son ready for school, then come to class, pick my son up from school, give lunch, then come back for classes and go to SAC in the evening. I don't have much family support and take him along everywhere as much possible. However, I love my work in SAC and being associated with the students.
MM: Do you think SAC can be made more transparent?
SM: Yes, definitely. I hear stories from both the students and authorities. Sometimes students are right and sometimes the authority. The Authority is always there to listen to your grievances. If there is any budget crunch or prize money issue or anything else, then it should be addressed to the authority and a proper decision taken that can then be followed in all cases thereafter. But every time these happen, the issues get diluted and diverted. A forum should be made and these major issues should be discussed there among the students and authority. There should be strong leaders to bridge this gap. It’s only the students who can take initiatives towards making the relation between them and the authority better. We being the faculty cannot do everything along with our academic and other commitments but we can surely help the students in this.
MM: Many times it has happened that the clubs ask for the budget allocated to them for their events but SAC is unable to provide them even if they haven’t used the total budget allocated. Why do you think this happens?
SM: SAC doesn’t encourage clubs to spend their money for external purposes. SAC wants students to use funds for themselves. So SAC can supply you with funds only if it can be used in a right way. There were many events in NU 2K16 on which a lot of funds were spent but the participation was too low. If you are not able to arrange a sizable number of participants or spectators, then there is no point of spending so much for that event. There is a SAC constitution and students should check at every step how closely they are meeting the objectives of that.
MM: What is the best part of being a professor?
SM: The best part is I am associated with young minds. I am going to get older but even younger and brighter minds would be associated with me as the time passes. Students are energetic here and that’s what makes the professors energetic and active. And another thing I like is being in a teaching and research profession gives you a much broader idea about the world.
MM: Apart from academics and SAC, do you pursue any other hobbies?
SM: After spending a hectic day in the institute, I teach my son for 2 hours in the evening (laughs). I am learning swimming. I love writing poetry but now I don’t even get time to think of a poem. Apart from this, I love cooking.
MM: What do you like the most about NITR? What changes would you like to introduce for making it better?
SM: The best thing I like about NITR is the campus and its greenery. I love the bands of green trees standing high throughout the campus.
Talking about the changes, I would like to reduce the pressure on the students. They attend classes from 8am to 5pm. When do they get time to study and rest? Along with that bugging them for attendance is even more pressurising. Especially the students pursuing Sciences here need more time to study. The pressure results in students bunking classes. Either because they find the subject boring or they are too lazy and uninterested in taking classes.
MM: Any message you would like to pass on to the students of NITR?
SM: I would suggest students to attend the classes in the morning and come to SAC in the evening (chuckles). That is a student’s life, to enjoy all that college can offer to you.