The Electronics Phenomena: Prof. L. P. Roy
A messiah for the first-year students registering for the course of Basic Electronics Engineering, Prof. Lakshi Prasad Roy of the Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering is famous on and off campus for his video lecture series on ANKCTEL. An avid researcher, with his numerous papers receiving multiple citations, this soft-spoken person sat with Monday Morning one evening to talk about his life and work. Read on to find excerpts from the conversation:
Monday Morning: Tell us something about your childhood, schooling and college life.
Prof. L.P. Roy: I was born in a very remote village in West Bengal; we had no electricity and modern day facilities. My father was a primary school teacher. I was admitted to a missionary school 20-30 km away. I completed my primary schooling there. In my sixth standard, we moved from the village to a small town. I matriculated from there and then I had to move to Raiganj to study further and complete my higher secondary education. After that, I pursued my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in technology from Institute of Radiophysics and Electronics, Calcutta University. Subsequently, I did my Ph.D. from IIT, Kharagpur. Before joining NITR in 2012, I worked for nearly a year and a half at Rajiv Gandhi University of Knowledge Technologies; a state-government run university of Andhra Pradesh.
MM: What are the major differences that you notice on comparing the current engineering students to the students of your time?
LPR: Since the last few years, I am noticing that students are becoming job-oriented. While preparing for the various entrance examinations, they are very careful and serious about their coursework and learning. After that their interest decreases; they just seek for a degree with decent grades and then, a job. For most students, getting placed in a decent company becomes the first priority. This is something I had not experienced during my time. Education was our only priority. Training and placements are important, but the quality of education should not be compromised.
MM: You were a research scholar at IIT, Kharagpur, how would you describe your experience there? Which field of Electronics did you work upon?
LPR: I did my doctorate in Radar Detection and Estimation. This is basically synonymous with Signal Processing; application wise, it uses radar for target detection, estimation, and other such works. After the inclusion of computers in all scenes, the research work in this field has been propelled further. Earlier radar was only used to detect the target; now it’s also used for high-resolution imaging. I did my research on the signal processing part, which is a difficult but important aspect.
MM: How did NIT, Rourkela happen to you?
LPR: After completing my Ph.D., I had applied for IIT, Guwahati and NIT, Rourkela at the same time. I got selected here and hence, joined NITR. The selection procedure was perfectly satisfactory; the board along with the Director constituted the panel which interviewed the candidates.
MM: How would you compare and contrast the research facilities, opportunities and environment provided by IIT, Kharagpur, NIT, Rourkela and other institutes that you are familiar with?
LPR: NITR always strives to climb higher in the ladder of rankings and be at par with the IITs, which is a very good thing. IITs have become good over the years; which is why NITR can’t compete with them just about now, but certainly will in the future. We are definitely approaching their standards and are very close. Prof. S K Sarangi had worked very hard towards that. If NITR were to get the kind of opportunities and facilities that IITs get, then we’d prosper even more.
Students in IIT, Kharagpur, or any other IITs are very much focused on their research and work. NITR is improving day-by-day on these lines. I have witnessed so many changes in my four-five years here; the standards of the papers being published, even the procedure; everything is improving.
MM: What are the other domains in Electronics that fascinate you?
LPR: There are many fields that I am interested in. When I did my Ph.D., I opted for the topic that I was interested in; signal processing. I did not know much about signal processing and its applications then. My supervisor asked me for my choice and I wanted Speech Processing, but then researched in the similar field of Radar Signal Processing. Statistical Signal Processing is another important domain which also interests me. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to research in; since I wanted Speech Processing, but later on I realized that it would not have been the right choice for me. I was very happy with my topic and it required me to research physically. I did some modeling and research on them and I completed my research with practical data instead of cybernetics data. I learned so many things from that, and I continued to pursue that same field in subsequent research work.
But my primary interest tends towards Acoustics in Electronics. I am planning to develop a laboratory in this field; the plan has been approved already. I’m searching for funds to develop the lab. Recently, in 2017, I attended a conference on speech and music which was an educational experience for me. I convened the conference as I wanted a challenge and am personally interested in this field. We invited many students, professors, and researchers to attend it. Through this conference, we made people aware of this vast domain and topic. Till now, there hasn’t been much research in this field here at NITR, for which I’m planning to develop it.
MM: Your video lectures on ANKCTEL for the students of Basic Electronics have been immensely popular. What motivated you to start such online lectures to help the students?
LPR: I was assigned to teach the Basic Electronics course in the first year of my joining in NITR. The students in their first years join the institute immediately after appearing JEE and other entrance examinations. They have a refreshed approach and outlook to everything, which excites me in turn. I found that the students were interested to learn but faced some challenges. Since they came from different disciplines, they were already attenuated to it. So I took that up as a challenge and decided to teach in such a way that students from all the branches should take part and be interested in it. My primary objective is to motivate them towards electronics.
MM: The Basic Electronics course which the students study in their first year used to be a four-credit course but now it has been made a three-credit course. Do you think it has affected the learning process in any way?
LPR: I think this reduction of credits has affected only the number of classes but not the content of the course. Quality is not compromised in any way. I heard that contact hours would be reduced enabling the students to study on their own for longer durations. This would actually help the students. The professor can then ask the students to check out online video lectures on a topic and understand the concepts thoroughly. Learning from different sources is better than learning from a single source. I think reducing the number of contact hours would be quite useful for the students.
MM: Students of our institute feel that the attendance rule is a little stringent. What is your take on it? Do you think the rule is helpful or it needs to be relaxed?
LPR: I feel it is already relaxed. In a 4-credit course, 8 absents are allowed while in a 3-credit course, 6 are allowed. Though it is relaxed, it pains me to see a student getting a grade back or failing a course because of a grade back.
All of us are humans. We say many things but it’s tough to implement them. There is no other way actually. Attendance ensures that the students are present. It gives you a push to attend classes. When a student is not feeling well, there is a provision for not attending classes then. So, I feel there is no other way to push the students and I think it is good that the rule exists.
MM: Apart from academics, what are your other interests? Tell us about your hobbies.
LPR: I used to spend my time in various kinds of document collection on YouTube. I also used to collect different kinds of music and watched a lot of movies. I don’t get time to watch all these nowadays (Laughs). Apart from that, I used to search for elements in my areas of interest like acoustics, speech processing etc.
MM: What is your vision for NITR and its students?
LPR: I feel the B.Tech students can do more research. Presently, one year is being allotted for the M.Tech students but noticeable results aren’t produced in research. I feel if the B.Tech students give one year of their time towards research, we will be able to see changes. Most of the students get placed by the beginning of their final year. So, once they get placed, they are free. They can utilize this time towards research which would help everybody. The professors would get something in return; the interests towards students from faculty would be more. It would be a way of giving back to the institute. It would help you, your faculty and your NIT.
MM: Have you held any administrative posts other than the ones in the department?
LPR: I am not much comfortable with them and I have not got offers as well. The maximum I could go was till the post at the library, where I am currently holding the post of Library Representative for the Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering.
MM: Any message that you would like to share with the readers of MM?
LPR: We should have a mutual sense of respect for each other. The students and teachers must respect each other. The students should be good towards the teachers which would make the teachers respect them. Be a good student, raise your voice if you feel something’s not right, the professor may feel happy that the student is showing some enthusiasm and he may thus respect you. Having this mutual respect would help us all in maintaining a healthy environment.