Reaching the Precipice: Prof Dilip Kumar Pradhan
Sriya Sainath | Sep 05, 2016
A perfect instance of how one chooses a fixed path for oneself and treads upon it; never, for once, deviating from his aspirations: Prof Dilip Kumar Pradhan is almost landmark for someone in the Physics Department. Team MM caught up with this highly successful yet down-to-earth personality during recent times. Excerpts from the interview follow.
MM: Could you give us a few details of your life before you joined NITR?
DKP: I spent the earliest stages of my life in Naktideul, which is about a 100 kms from Sambalpur district. I completed my education up to my intermediate stage there itself, following which I went on to pursue my BSc. in Deogarh College. After that, I joined the Sambalpur University for my MSc. degree, and then, after qualifying GATE, I went for my PhD to IIT Kharagpur.
MM: What made you opt for a career in Physics? Since when were you interested in this field?
DKP: I had an extremely inspiring Physics teacher back in my 12th standard. His role in motivating me to join this stream was pivotal. Since the start of the decision-making stage of my career, I actually had a set direction. Never did I glance at any other field; never did I waver in my choices. I guess I was lucky that each option of mine led on to the next one and I managed to create a firm foothold for myself.
MM: You’ve worked at a lot of places, on many disciplines of Science. Has anything in particular in any of such trips left a lasting impression on you?
DKP: After my PhD, I went to USA for a year and a half, where my specialization was Ferroelectrics and Multiferroics Systems which are used for high-energy density capacitors, sensors, actuators, etc. My supervisor there was Professor Katiyar, who is a student of Dr. K.S. Krishnan, the co-discoverer of Raman Scattering, for which C.V. Raman was awarded the Nobel Prize. He was aged 62 then, but he still worked from 8:30 AM to 7:30 PM tirelessly, with hardly a couple of food and tea breaks in between. His dedication and the working environment there was exemplary.
MM: You recently visited the University of Basque Country, Bilbao, Spain. What led you to choose the research project there?
DKP: The field of research which I worked upon there was Crystallography. The person who was one of the major reasons behind me working there was Prof. M. I. Aroyo, Chairman, IUCr Commission on Mathematical and Theoretical Crystallography at the International Union for Crystallography, who is also the editor of Volume A1 of International Table for Crystallography. I had met him at a workshop at IIT BHU, after which, I, being greatly impressed with his adeptness, had wanted to work with him.
MM: Crystallography is a sphere of experimental science people usually believe the department of Chemistry researches upon. What lured you into the subject?
DKP: That is general misconception which, I feel, a lot of people are stuck with. Crystallography concerns people related to Physics, Chemistry, Life Science, and what not! In fact, the present president of the Indian Crystallographic Association is Professor Dhananjay Pandey, who belongs to the department of Physics! It’s a field which concerns a lot of sectors, and hence, the Congress of the International Union for Crystallography is going to be organized in the august of 2017 at Hyderabad, with Professor Gautam Desiraju as its convener.
MM: Are there any measures in progress at disseminating the knowledge gathered during such projects amongst the enthusiastic youth?
DKP: As advised by Prof Desiraju, I’m going to be involved in conducting outreach programmes from the next semester, where we’re going to visit schools and colleges, so as encourage students to get interested in Crystallography by giving them a basic idea of it an conducting interactive quizzes. Also, we are going to conduct the “International School on Fundamental Crystallography and Workshop on Structural Phase Transitions” from 30th August to 4th September, 2017.
The details of this workshop can be viewed at: http://nitrkl.ac.in/Academic/1Department/ph/CEP/Structural%20Phase%20Transitions.aspx
MM: What do you believe is the standard of research in our education system?
DKP: I think the most prominent problem evident in the current generation is the habit of jumping to higher levels of education without a proper knowledge of its basics. It never helps: climbing a higher rung without a firm foundation. One must learn at the grass root region and then he’ll be able to discover the unknown easier.
MM: Have there been times you wish you could have undone something you did? Have you ever regretted anything in your life?
DKP: I know it’s going to sound a little hard to believe, but I’ve got no regrets. There’s been nothing I’d hoped to happen, but life carried me off elsewhere. I’ve had very little dejection, mostly succeeding in my first attempts, so I’ve hardly got anything to complain about. My career’s been decent, my colleagues and supervisors have been extremely supportive, and my life’s been pretty satisfactory.
MM: What advice would you give to the NITR populace?
Start from the basics before grasping at the peaks, keep working towards what you have in mind, and you will learn, eventually, to climb up the mountain to reach on top.