The Herald Of Success: Nihar Ranjan Panda
Passionate. Perseverant. Prosperous. Three words that aptly sum up Nihar Ranjan Panda, a final year student from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. He has significantly fostered his passion for Thermodynamics and managed to bag a summer internship through the coveted IAS program. Team MM had the wonderful opportunity to get into a conversation with him where he spoke about his passion for research. Read on to find more:
Team MM: Tell us about your childhood days, the days that you spent at school before NIT, Rourkela happened to you.
Nihar Ranjan Panda: I am from a very small town near Chilika Lake in Odisha. I was studying in K.V. INS Chilika. I studied up to my matriculation there, after which I moved to D.A.V. Public school in Kota. As a child, I had a very limited number of friends and I was a bit introverted. Although I played Basketball and Volleyball during my school days, I was disconnected from these when I went to Kota. I had to be very focused on academics during my time there. During my senior secondary schooling, I had a lot of interest in the subjects of Mathematics and Physics. This led me to pursue Engineering, for which I prepared for JEE Mains. I was hoping to get a seat in the IITs but I failed to get a core branch in any of the top IITs. This led me to choose Mechanical Engineering in NIT Rourkela.
MM: What impression did you have about NIT Rourkela before joining it? And why did you opt for mechanical engineering, any specific passion in regard to this branch?
NRP: Before I joined NIT Rourkela, I knew that the Department of Mechanical Engineering was quite good in this institute. Many of my seniors and acquaintances were already studying in this institute. They told me that Mechanical Engineering at NITR is one of the best among all the NITs. I was told that the labs and facilities were very good, which further became a reason to choose this institute.
I chose Mechanical Engineering because, from my 11th and 12th standard, topics such as Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer had always fascinated me. I knew that there was a lot of scope for these topics in this branch. This eventually led me to choose Mechanical Engineering.
MM: You have been the branch second topper in the first year, joint topper in second year and topper in the third year. What according to you were your strengths that helped you to excel in academics?
NRP: When I first came to NIT, I was quite depressed as I could not secure a seat in any of the IITs. Over time I realized that the NITs were also very good institutes. So, from the beginning of my first year, I began to solely focus on academics. I wasn’t very active in any of the clubs, which led me to put my entire efforts on academics. I don’t think it’s very difficult to become academically strong as the key to success is focus and confidence. We must never hesitate to ask our professors when we’ve doubts. They will always help us with their experience. There is also an ample number of resources on the web that can be used to clarify basics.
MM: What were the projects for which you worked with Prof S. Anabarasu and Prof Suman Ghosh?
NRP: In my second year, I started to study my branch subjects and further developed my interests in the thermal subjects. There was a competition for which I was supposed to design a Hydrogen fuel station. I failed to receive accolades in the competition but I learned a lot. I had to do a lot of research under the guidance of Prof S. Anabarasu.
Going for a research project in your domain of interest will help you to learn a lot. In my 3rd semester, I was working on Metal Hydride Storage which tied into my work at IITG. In my 5th semester, under Prof. Suman Ghosh, I worked on fluid dynamics and its real-world applications.
MM: It is a general perception that it is tough to get a good internship at the end of the second year. But you successfully bagged an internship at IITG. How did you get through it and why did you choose a research-based internship rather than industrial ones? What was the procedure that you followed to bag the internship?
NRP: The professor I worked with at IITG was working on Hydrogen storage and I had previously done some work in this regard during a competition. I e-mailed that professor with my resume after which I was accepted. He asked me to join him by working under a Ph.D. student. This was not a paid internship.
From my 3rd semester onwards, I completely focused on my studies and my projects in the thermal field. This lead me to choose a research-based internship, as I believed more could be learned by pursuing it.
By working under Prof. Suman Ghosh, I developed a lot of interest in the field of Thermodynamics. This helped me to have a good statement of purpose. I was also able to receive a good recommendation letter which helped me to bag the IAS internship. My prior experiences were useful when I framed my project proposal.
MM: Can you provide us an insight about the IAS program and the exact procedure of application for the same?
NRP: The Indian Academy of Sciences offers research internships for the summer in reputed institutions of the country like IITs, CSIR and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). The online portal to apply for this internship opens by the end of September. The students can go through the list of the names of professors and their subject of research, and can accordingly categorize their project. Along with the form available on the website, a convincing statement of purpose and a proper letter of recommendation are two important documents that are required for the application. Essentially, we must convince them that we want that internship. So having prior internships and projects will help to build a good statement of purpose, which in turn will help to convince them that one deserves the internship. By considering these documents, the results are declared by the end of February.
MM: At the end of the third year, you did your internship at IITM. What was your area of research and was it a paid internship?
NRP: At IIT Madras, I worked under Professor Srikrishna Sahoo of the Thermal Department. My area of research was Simulation of Droplet Evaporation and Impact of the Droplet on Different Surfaces. My main objective was to develop a code that will be useful to study the dynamics of droplet evaporation under certain conditions like conductivity transfer. It was an experimental work, where I had to impinge a jet of droplets onto a stainless steel surface. I also captured the images and thus used a MATLAB code to process the images and reached a conclusion. This is useful while working at space industries or while designing atomizers for automobile industries. It was a paid internship and I received 10000 INR per month as stipend and also got the traveling expenses reimbursed.
MM: How do you differentiate between the research environment of the IITs and NIT Rourkela?
NRP: As far as IIT Madras is considered, the funding is too good and the Department of Mechanical Engineering is very well established. They have different buildings for sub-departments of Mechanical Engineering and a set of specific equipment for each field, which makes the system very well-organized. In IIT Guwahati, the funding is not bad but the labs are not as much channelized as that in IITM. Now, comparing with NIT Rourkela, the laboratories’ set-ups in our institute are not proper for specific research work. It may get solved after the inauguration of the new departmental building. Another problem is the absence of skilled technicians for preparing the experimental set-ups. In IITs, a student just needs to focus on the research, the technicians develop the experimental set-up on the basis of design provided to them. The loopholes at our institute may be sorted with the appointment of skilled technicians and channelized laboratories in the new building.
MM: Presently you are the Vice president of SAE. How do you ensure that your responsibilities are fulfilled properly? How much did SAE help you in honing your technical skills?
NRP: As a Vice-President, my primary objective is to ensure proper management and efficient functioning of both the clubs under SAE. Secondly, I learned proper time management and improved my interactive skills by communicating with different people. Since I am not a part of any team, in particular, the club helps me in honing my management skills more than technical ones.
MM: You have been an excellent academic scholar since your school days. Apart from it what other activities do you nourish as your hobbies? Do you still indulge yourself in the game of basketball which was indeed dear to you during the school days?
NRP: In my leisure time, I solve Rubik’s Cube, watch animated movies and play computer games. I played basketball at school but discontinued it during after class 10th. But I strongly feel that one should learn to devote time to both academics and co-curricular activities, as that helps a person to stay relaxed.
MM: Amidst the hectic academic and co-scholastic schedule, you still manage to contribute time for reading Bhagwad Gita. Since how long have you been practicing this custom and how much does the holy book inspire you?
NRP: I have been practicing this custom since class 6th. I really get inspired by the holy book because it helps to maintain a balanced life amidst the hectic schedule. Devoting some time towards reading the book provides calmness in mind. Reading Bhagwad Gita teaches a lot about life and aids to become a better person. Moreover, in the four years of B-Tech career, we face many ups and downs. At times of depression, the book has helped me to build my confidence and to think positively.
MM: Four years have swayed at NIT Rourkela. How do you plan to shape your career in future?
NRP: I am still analyzing on the areas of my interest. But I would definitely wish to gain some industrial working experience, so I would opt to join some urban sector company. In the next 2-3 years, I don’t have any plans for further education.
MM: You have been an inspiration for the students of NIT Rourkela. Any message that I would like to leave for our readers?
NRP: Generally after joining an institute of national importance, students start taking academics lightly. But the journey is not that easy. One has to work hard and needs to be confident on what he/she is learning because that would help them to get into good research projects and good companies. Another thing I would like to advise is- students should involve themselves in some extra-curricular activities because it helps to maintain a relaxed mind amidst the stressed scheduled. Apart from this, following the passion and thinking positively are two essential things that help an individual to grow.