An Electro Magnate: Prof. Anup K. Panda
Apr 04, 2016 | Abhishek Panda
MM had a wonderful opportunity to meet up with one of the stalwarts of the institutes. Hailing from the department of Electrical Engineering, the contributions of Prof. Anup K. Panda are numerous. During his tenure as HoD, the department saw huge overhauls and major advancements. Excerpts from the interview:
MM: Tell us about your educational background and the early days.
AKP: I hail from Bargarh, which is near Sambalpur. I completed my primary higher secondary education there. Following that, I got admitted into UCE, Burla (Rechristened as VSSUT). During that time, I was into cricket and was the captain of our cricket team. It taught me how important is teamwork and communication. After completing my under graduation, I finished my masters at IIT Kharagpur in the field of power electronics. Before joining as NIT-R, I was a professor at IGIT Sarang for 11 odd years.
MM: We would like to know about your field of research and any interesting projects undertaken by your students.
AKP: As I said earlier, my specialization lies in the field of power electronics and drives. Hence, the primary nature of my work deals with converter topology, sub converting techniques, power quality issues and motor drives etc. My Ph.D. students are pursuing research in the aforementioned areas of interest. Few of my students are working on power quality issues and a scholar is pursuing research pertaining to input power factor correction. One of my students is researching SMES (Superconducting Magnetic Energy System), a hitherto unexplored territory, which interests me.
MM: You also got a fellowship at IET, UK. Tell us about it.
AKP: The fellowship is awarded to professors who have contributed towards the advancement of electrical engineering. There are certain criteria like the number of papers published and administrative experience among others, following which they enlist the candidates whom the fellowship has been awarded to. I did face hardships and it was not easy, but I'm glad I received such an honour. Since 20 years, I have been involved deeply in my profession. I was the convenor of Central Seat Allocation Board (CSAB) and they do respect such efforts.
MM: What changes have you seen in NIT-R since the past decade?
AKP: I joined NIT-R in January 2001. We did not have proper sitting facilities back then. I did not have a designated sitting place until about a year and half later. No provisions were present for internet connection and a lot of restrictions had made their way into the institute. Since then, the institute has changed a lot. There was no intake of Ph.D. students back then. I got to supervise my first Ph.D. scholar in 2005. After that, the student flow increased, and so did the research avenues.
There was a drastic augmentation in the quality of research after this. This led to improvement in the quality of teaching.
MM: How has the Electrical Department changed?
AKP: The visible change is definitely the construction of Electrical Sciences building. Apart from that, the quality of research has improved and various labs have been renovated to augment research facilities. Apart from that, the student intake has increased. Earlier, there were 60 students in total and a maximum total of 3-4 Ph.D. scholars. Now the number of students has increased to 90, with 3 dual degree specialisations and a Ph.D. student intake of about 90 students. As of today, we are publishing 10-15 SCI (Science Citation Index) journals, which is not a small number.
MM: Tell us about your tenure as the HoD of the Department.
AKP: I was the HoD from July 2012 to June 2015. It was a hectic tenure if you ask me. The equipments were shifted under my scrutiny. I renovated the Electrical Machines lab. Around 1 Crore INR was spent to procure low power consuming machines from De Lorenzo, Italy. These machines are fast, efficient and virtually noiseless. I also refurbished the Power Systems Lab and the High Voltage Lab, incurring expenses of about 1 Crore for each lab. Under my tenure we got accreditation from NBA (National Board of Accreditation) for our dual degree programmes.
MM: You are known to be a student friendly professor, who maintains an informal classroom atmosphere. How do you manage to balance that and discipline among the students?
AKP: This is something that comes from experience alone. My only demand in class is that the students remain silent so I can concentrate on delivering my lecture. There are times when things might seem to get a little out of hand, but that is all part of being a young student. I think that that acceptance is what allows me to perform the balancing act. I take things sportively and know that my students are fundamentally good people. That knowledge allows me to be interactive and approachable to my students.
If you maintain a good student-professor rapport, they won’t hesitate to ask you queries and it helps create a healthy learning environment.
MM: Where do you think is our department lacking?
AKP: I think it’s the number and quality of projects. It is not up to the mark. That is where I feel we are lacking. There is a lot of untapped potential in our students, which is not being realised. This time the GATE topper was from our branch, but the total number of people with good ranks is comparatively less. There is a quantitative need that also needs to be fulfilled.
MM: Any message you would like to leave before we conclude our interview?
AKP: I request students to keep up their efforts and develop good projects and innovative products in the PD lab. I wish them all the very best.