A Research Zealot: Prashant Kumar Dash
Prashant Kumar Dash, a fourth-year student in the Department of Metallurgical and Material Sciences did an internship at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bangalore which is one the premier research institutes in the country. In his meeting with MM, Prashant opens up about his expeditions at Bangalore.
MM: How did you come to know about this internship?
PKD: I got to know about the internship from the website of JNCASR itself. Every year they publish a list of projects and anybody can get access to this information. As I like research, I had opted to pursue my internship there.
MM: Had you applied for any other internships?
PKD: I had applied at various places. I got internships from Bhabha Atomic Research Centre(BARC), Mumbai, IIT Mumbai, IIT Chennai, IIT Kanpur and JNCASR. I chose to go to JNCASR because I was fascinated with my project which was about Nanomaterials and Semiconducting devices. Plus, being a totally research oriented institute it motivated me to do my internship from there as I have a lot of interest in research.
MM: What were the prerequisites for the internships?
PKD: Every year, they publish an online set of requisitions, details like your CGPA, which should be above 8, research interests, etc. and the most important is the recommendation letters from your professors or guides and I was very fortunate that the professors with whom I had worked, Prof. Ashok Mondal and Prof. Anandita Basu who wrote the recommendation letters for me. Also, an abstract which asks you about the details of the area of interest you plan to work on with should be perfect. You should have a clear idea about what you want to do and portray in the site. For material sciences, I had to apply in the physical science category and transmission electron microscopy. As the project on the latter couldn’t have been completed within two months, I decided to go for the Physical Science category. The mentor for a particular topic selects the one form he finds most satisfactory and thus I got selected from the process.
MM: How is JNCASR different to the other premier research institutes in the country?
PKD: I got to do my research work in IISc on the weekends. Some of the equipment in JNCASR are obtained in collaboration with IISc as it doesn’t have adequate funds of its own.
While the teachers of our institute and IISc are pretty friendly, the whole staff of JNCASR seemed to be reserved. They meant business, and as C. N. R. Rao, a Bharat Ratna awardee is one of their faculty they have high expectations from the institute. So, they are pressing hard and trying to deliver the best out of the resources they have currently got.
MM: Can you please elaborate on the project which you worked upon?
PKD: The title of my project was “The effect of Oxygen Plasma on the nature of band gap in few layers of MOS2”. MOS2 is basically a transition metal with one metal from the D block of the periodic table and the other being a group VI-A element. So my project was on the Molybdenum element, and I chose sulphur to be the element from the VI A group. The aim of my project was to check its properties so that it can be used in the sector of electronics like diodes, transistors, etc. The surface composition and layer thickness of MOS2 may cause some hindrance in the properties which facilitate conductivity.
MM: You got selected as one of the best summer projects by your mentor. Please shed some light on this.
PKD: We were asked to give presentations towards the end of our projects. So I gave mine at International for Material Sciences(IMS) whose director is Dr C. N. R. Rao. I had to give my presentation to Dr Rao and my mentor. Some 7-8 students were selected finally and evaluated further. So, I got the best project award on the basis of my presentation and an extra stipend from my guide. My guide was Mr Ranjan Dutta, whose area of interest matched mine and he inspired me to work and do something evolutional. He had done his B. Tech from IIT Chennai and was a gold medallist at IISc.
MM: How do you think the internship has helped you?
PKD: My guide played a pivotal role in taking some of the tough decisions in my life like should I pursue M. Tech or do a job. He told me that I should do M. Tech as I should have one post-graduation degree and not regret later while doing a job. Initially, my aim was to get a job in PSU, through GATE, but as there are limited seats in my branch. So now I am trying to go for M. Tech and doing an R&D job.
MM: How important are research internships in one’s career and how is it different from industrial ones?
PKD: Many people have a belief that research internships don’t help in placement scenario. Personally, I don’t think so.
What companies look for is a dynamic personality and that you are doing something in a better and efficient manner than others. It’s not necessary to get industrial internships from NALCO, RSP, etc. or a research internship from JNCASR and IISc.
One should focus on his subject and try to learn the fundamentals which according to me go a long way in deciding one’s fate.
MM: What did you do as your pastime or as a hobby in Bangalore?
PKD: There are a lot of things I did in Bangalore like horse-riding. One of the Ph. D. students of my department had been learning it for 7 years. I didn’t have much time to explore Bangalore because my guide was strict and he used to give me tasks on Friday evening which had to be submitted by Saturday evening. They have their own standards. Even Sundays are not holidays for Ph. D and M. Tech students as they expect a lot from them.
MM: You’ve been in the department of metallurgical and material sciences for three years. Where do you think it has been lagging?
PKD: From a research point of view, our department lacks certain equipment and some of them are obsolete. There’s this microscope ‘Titan’ which is the latest version of transmission electron microscope which costs around 60 crores and to carry out the experiment one has to shed off 500 dollars per hour. At IISc, we are not allowed to touch the microscope. The Ph .D students operate it and give us the results for us to analyze.
MM: Is there anything we can learn from JNCASR and incorporate in our institute?
PKD: Both institutes have similarities. The faculty is helpful. If the student is vying for a job, the course structure should be according to the job point of view. For students interested in research, the course structure should be according to the research point of view. Basically, the course structure should be decided in such a way that it helps both research and job oriented students.
In our department that is “Metallurgical and Materials engineering”, most jobs are based on metallurgy and not material science. But according to me, 65-70% of our course is based on Material Science.
MM: How do you think this situation in your department can be tackled?
PKD: After second year one must choose between job and research career. If one wants to pursue research he/she has to get an M. Tech and/or Ph. D. degree and then work in the R&D sector or just concentrate on research. If someone is job oriented, he/she has to start preparing for GATE.
MM: What are your future plans?
PKD: My plans depend on my GATE score. If I don’t get a good GATE score, I will take up the job during placement and after one year of working, I’ll prepare for the GATE exam again. If I get a good GATE score, I’ll apply for PSU and if selected, I’ll go for it. Secondly, I will try to get admission into NTU or NUS based on my GATE score.
MM: What message do you have the readers regarding internships?
PKD: First of all, consult with your seniors. During weekends and in free time, make it a habit of surfing the internet about possible courses and internships, because if you want to reach your goals, you have to put in sincere efforts.
In order to achieve success, the three things you need are consistency, hard work and sincerity.
Also, learn from your failures because you can be successful only if you rectify your mistakes.