Reminiscent Recollections: Prof. P. K. Ray
Apr 25, 2016 | Mitesh Mishra
A patient and calm persona, Prof. P.K. Ray of the Department of Mechanical Engineering has been associated with the institute for over 30 years now. As he plans to bid adieu to his long journey with NITR, Team MM got a chance to interact with this amicable and down to earth personality. Following are the excerpts:
MM: Tell us about your education and schooling.
PKR: I was born and brought up in Calcutta. After completing my basic schooling, I decided to pursue a diploma in mechanical engineering, besides working as an apprentice in Braithwaite and Company Limited. For me, the period was marked with struggle as I continuously had to juggle between industry for four days a week and academics in the rest. I was married and hence had to continue the job and complete the degree in 4 years instead of the normal three years. I then pursued B. Tech from Jadavpur University and joined REC, Rourkela in 1982 as a teaching assistant on the condition that I would complete my masters during the tenure. I successfully completed both my masters and Ph.D from the institute and joined as an assistant professor.
MM: Why did you choose to pursue a career in Mechanical Engineering?
PKR: Well, I was very much interested in automobiles and its mechanisms since my school days. This is perhaps one of the reasons that I took to mechanical engineering. During my college days, fluid mechanics was a subject that most of the students were scared of. Fortunately, I had a friend who was fond of fluid mechanics and we studied together. Although I teach fluid mechanics in UG level, my research area is Fatigue and Fracture Mechanics.
MM: What prompted you to take up teaching and research as a career?
PKR: My father and brother were professors and my wife a school teacher. Even my son and daughter-in-law, both, are Ph.D.s and they too are in academics. So, teaching is in my blood. Also I didn’t want to be isolated, so I eventually choose the career.
MM: How has your experience been in NIT? What would you have to say about your department?
PKR: Wonderful! NITR has undergone a massive transformation and the growth and development have always been in a positive direction. I still remember that initially I had to go to institutes like IIT Kharagpur and NIT Jamshedpur to get access to various journals as neither the technology nor the institute library was well established back then. But right now everything is just a click away. It’s just a small example of change that the institute and even my department has seen over the years.
MM: What are the changes you would like to bring about in NIT especially for your department?
PKR: See, the list is a never ending one. From REC to NIT, the institute has grown in many disciplines from infrastructure to the student activities in terms of club culture. At present, I’m pretty much satisfied with the changes that are being brought and hope that it continues in the same way.
MM: How has been your life at NITR besides academics?
PKR: My life besides academics has been an interesting one. It started with serving as the Assistant Superintendent and Superintendent of the ladies hostel of REC, followed by becoming the president of the Student Activity Centre from 2008-13. I also served as the Election Officer for the election of two faculties to the senate and also the recently concluded SAC elections.
MM: There is a widespread dissatisfaction among the student community about the various discrepancies in SAC like the small budget allocation, especially to the technical society. How do you thing can it be improved?
PKR: The Budget has always been allocated after keeping everyone’s interest in mind. From my tenure to this date, the increase in the overall budget of SAC has been quite significant. But still, there have always been cases where our expenditures have crossed the limit. However, the director always supports us making sure that none of the work in the positive direction gets affected.
MM: You served as the election officer for SAC elections 2016? How crucial is the role and how did you manage that?
PKR: The role is indeed crucial and change in the system from manual vote counting to computerized methods in the current day has the made the task quite easy and fair now.
MM: What are your hobbies, interests outside of teaching and your ongoing research activities?
PKR: I do occasional photography. There are a number of places in and around NITR worth capturing. So whenever I find, time I make sure I do that.
MM: Since you would soon be retiring, what are your post retirement plans?
PKR: Well, I have not yet decided on my retired life. But I’m sure when I leave in about two months’ time, I shall surely miss the NIT Rourkela community and specially my student friends from whom I have learnt so much.
MM: On a concluding final note, do you have any message for the students?
Students need to learn the art of time management. In the last few years, a number of clubs have come up to cater to the various interests of the students. While spending time in such activities is essential, it should be kept in mind that these are mere co-curricular activities. Students are here for learning, however, many a times they fail to attend classes stating the reason that they had been working all night making a car or so. Just do as much as your body permits. Having said that, I also believe that learning is a two way process. It is not only the students who learn from the teachers, the teachers too learn from students.
It is my request that the students should make a class interactive by asking questions. Out of ten questions, 8 or 9 questions may be straight forward ones, but there may be one question which will make a teacher to think. There were occasions when I had to tell a student that I will think over your question and tell you the answer tomorrow. I thought of the question and thought how to make the student understand. This is where a student contributes in the learning process of a teacher.