Glimpses of a Benevolent Persona: Prof. Suman Ghosh
Prof. Suman Ghosh is a blend of many virtues, two of which he religiously practices; being humble and attaining perfection. Keen to always see his students grow and prosper, not many can strike a balance between being strict and lenient like he does. Adding to this is his love for biking that gives him a cult status among his students. On a blissful Saturday morning, Team Monday Morning caught up with him for a candid conversation. Here a few excerpts from the interview.
Team Monday Morning (MM): Tell us about your childhood and your family background.
Suman Ghosh (SG): I am the second literate generation of my family and owing to this, I had a sober upbringing which was shaped with the will to learn more. My father was a sub-inspector and back then he was posted in the northern part of West Bengal. The region in which he worked in was infamous for its terror activities. During that time, we lived in a village and at the age of 11, my father sent me to live with my aunt. I stayed there until I completed my class 12th from Bansberia High School situated in Hoogly, West Bengal and afterward I appeared for the West Bengal Joint Entrance Examination.
MM: Why did you choose to pursue Mechanical Engineering? What was it that attracted you towards that stream?
SG: I was always interested in the Basic Sciences. Since my childhood, I loved to explore topics in Physics and Mathematics. When my father insisted me to pursue Engineering, I searched for a branch that would interest me and give me a lot of freedom to explore. During my class 12th, Mechanics was one such part of Physics that was quite clear to me and I felt like I could go to any depth on that subject. I also thought that the domain of Mechanical Engineering would give me more scope for exploration and hence it would be the most suitable for me. Hence, I completed my Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (B.M.E) and Masters of Mechanical Engineering (M.M.E) in Fluid Mechanics & Hydraulic Engineering from Jadavpur University, Kolkata and subsequently completed my Ph.D. in the specialization of Thermo-Fluid Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur.
MM: What differences have you found in the engineering domain during your time and now? How do you compare the quality of the students and the educational atmosphere?
SG: When I was a student at Jadavpur University, the subjects were taught to the core and the learning of fundamentals was prioritized. For example, for the course of Engineering Drawing and Machine Drawing, we used manual methods using ‘T’, drafter, protractor, etc. as well AutoCAD and AutoLISP coding. These courses were evaluated through real-time end semester examination which was conducted for a duration of six hours. But, now the number of subject and syllabus both have been reduced considerably with no application of manual methods. Moreover, if you were a student from the Department of Mechanical Engineering in my days, there were a fixed core list of subjects which were mandatory. Now, the students have more freedom to choose their subjects. In this era, vast sources of information are easily available and it is very easy to learn if you have the will and students should use these opportunities efficiently.
MM: Why did you choose to pursue the field of research as opposed to going into the corporate world?
SG: I have always had a will to learn and explore. I worked for one year between my B.E and M.E in the corporate world yet I could not get satisfaction in my job. Therefore, I switched over to the academic and research domain to acquire more scope and freedom in the process of learning and exploration which was minimal in the industrial field.
MM: You pursued your Ph.D. from IIT Kharagpur. How was your experience there?
SG: In IIT Kharagpur, the students are in charge of everything and one has the freedom to do whatever he/she wants to. The professor acts as a guide and one has the choice to select the field of research yourself, so everything is under the individual’s control. This provides a greater scope of learning and opportunities to acquire a great amount of confidence.
The experience of which one gathers by defining a real-life problem, solving it and handling the complexity arising during the solution process on their own, is unique and invaluable.
I got this experience in IIT Kharagpur during my Ph.D. My guide never interfered with my working procedure, even during the publication and it was only when I finished my paper, he gave me few tips to polish the final product. The experience at IIT Kharagpur filled me with confidence and made me independent.
MM: You joined NIT Rourkela right after completing your Ph.D. How has the journey been? 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?
SG: I joined NIT Rourkela in July 2011. The basic difference what I have found between IITs and NITs is that in IITs, resources (lab infrastructure, lab space, lab instruments, materials, etc.,) are easily available and it is much easier to access and acquire them. However, in NITs, we are sustaining with the available resources. Although, in NIT Rourkela, the research atmosphere is much better as compared to the other NITs and we are gradually improving day by day. We should definitely promote and increase the research culture amongst the students at NIT Rourkela as it will help in their holistic growth as I previously mentioned.
MM: Your research area can broadly be defined as Multi-Phase flow. Tell us something about your research interest. What are some of the prestigious projects/publications you have worked on in this field?
SG: Phase is defined as the state of a matter and can be in the form of solid, liquid or gas. The concurrent flow of numerous phases is known as multiphase flow. Petroleum industries and approximately half of all chemical engineering processes are concerned with multiphase flow. The simplest form of multiphase flow is the two-phase flow in which only two phases flow simultaneously. Two-phase flow is a complex phenomenon because of a random fluctuation of phase fraction and phase distribution in the flow channel. Hydrodynamics of two-phase flow contains much more non-linearity and complexity as the basic equations of fluid mechanics associated with two-phase flow are more complicated and numerous compared to single-phase flow.
In terms of publication, I have published 13 international journal papers and 22 international conference papers to date. Several have been communicated and are under preparation. Among these, 5 journal papers and 13 conference papers are specifically in the field of Multi-Phase flow. These papers were published were in renowned international journals like International Journal of Multiphase Flow, International Journal of Thermal Sciences, etc.
In terms of Research Project, till date, two Sponsored Research Projects have already been completed, one is ongoing, and one has just been accepted. I have completed the first project as the Professor-in-charge(PIC) which was funded by DST from India and FCT from Portugal. For the second project which has been completed, I was assigned as a Co-PIC and BRNS from India was the agency which sponsored it. The third sponsored research project is funded by SERB-DST and recently, the fourth sponsored research project has just been accepted wherein BRNS is the funding agency, both in which I am the PIC.
MM: What were some of the high points in your professional career?
SG: I received Gold Medal from Jadavpur University in 2006 during my Master’s work which I want to consider as one of the high points in my professional career. It boosted my morale and motivated me a lot. I also want to consider my first journal publication (An evolutionary optimization of diffuser shapes based on CFD simulations) on International Journal for Numerical Methods in Fluids, as one of the high points in my professional career.
MM: Your friends and students alike find you to be one of the most workaholic professors in the department who strives to attain perfection. What motivates you to always give your best?
SG: The term perfection is a relative term and its definition varies from person to person. According to me, perfection is working till I achieve satisfaction in my job. The sense of responsibility and my self-satisfaction for a particular task motivates me to give my best.
MM: You are one amongst the few teachers who focusses on teaching the students rather than just completing the syllabus. So, what is your approach towards teaching-learning process?
SG: This is again related to the satisfaction of my job. According to my opinion, understanding the basic concept is more important than rote-learning and the knowledge achieved from the former will stay with you forever. If the concept is correct then you will never forget it and if your fundamentals are clear, then you can follow the correct path to solve any real-life problem.
MM: You know the right mixture of being strict and lenient which brings out the best from the students, how do you manage it?
SG: I ask a lot of questions to my students in the class and force them to take an attempt to answer it. That might be making me a strict professor amongst my students but I do not believe in maintaining stringency in all the matters.
A little bit of leniency is also required to bring the best from the students.
MM: You are known to respect your fellow faculty members, senior or junior alike, what inspires you to do so?
SG: When you are in a professional world, the problem will not be solved by arguing with people around you. People will help you only when you approach them with due respect. It is very difficult to get that positive vibe and day by day I am trying to adapt myself.
MM: Apart from academics and research, what else fascinates you? Any hobbies that you passionately pursue?
SG: I love watching meaningful philosophical movies as well as exploring new places. I have a soft corner for bikes and cars. Since childhood, biking is my passion. I love riding my bike and enjoy going on long drives in pursuit of reinvigorating myself.
MM: What do you feel about the present scope of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at NIT Rourkela? What according to you are some of the fascinating fields of research at this point in time?
SG: There is a wide scope of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the present scenario. Some of the fascinating realms of research include Mechatronics, Multiphase Flow, Microfluidics, Rocket propulsion and Jet propulsion, Hypersonic Flow, Flow radiation interaction, spectral modeling of gases, etc.
Advanced Manufacturing Processes, Non-traditional Micro-machining, Metal Matrix Composites, Quality Management, Biomechanics (current: brain injury, optic nerve injury), Quantitative imaging, Machine & Human Vibration, CNT Based Nano-resonators, Fault Diagnosis/Prognosis of Bearings, etc., are also some of the emerging fields.
MM: What are your plans for the future?
SG: My aim is to become a better professor and in the upcoming five years, I want to see myself publishing a lot of journals.
MM: Lastly, what advice would you want to give to the student populace at NITR?
Whatever you are doing one should strive to do it honestly. If you are learning something, try to follow all the steps through which you can learn properly and avoid taking any kind of shortcut.
Scoring in the exam should not be the ultimate goal rather learning and understanding the concept should be the major objective. Try to increase your fundamental knowledge, research on your queries and eventually your grades will soar with the gain of knowledge.