Innovation par excellence: Department of Chemical Engineering
Established in the year of 1961, the Chemical engineering department has witnessed a lot of changes in administration through the years, numerous projects undertaken by scholars and frequent modifications to curriculum structure. Therefore, to get the recent updates about the department, team MM caught up with Prof. Madhushree Kundu, newly appointed Head of Department, Chemical Engineering, to ascertain the department’s progress on infrastructural and educational grounds.
Monday Morning: Tell us about your vision as the Head of Department for Chemical Engineering.
Prof. Madhushree Kundu: As the HOD of the department, my aim shall be to sustain the academic standard of the department. Although the minor degree option was introduced this year, we found that our engineering discipline wasn’t preferred by any of the undergraduates of the Institute. Therefore it is my primary lookout as to how can the department be a desirable option for minor across the Institute.
In order to have a polished and coveted course structure for the candidates, we introduced a new MTech specialization in Energy and Environment and the response from the candidates regarding the newly introduced course has been overwhelming. Till now, a total of 18 candidates have registered for MTech courses in our department. The number of PhD students in our department saw a steep increase from 43 last year to a near about 50 scholars this year which has given a thrust of confidence.
We want to come up as a prominent team not just across the institute but across the globe.
MM: Tell us about the new faculty recruits in the Department.
Prof. Madhushree Kundu: At present we are having a dedicated force of 15 faculty member staff in the department. Three new faculty members have joined the department of Chemical engineering. They are Prof. Biswajeet Saha with foreign PhD experience, Prof. Naresh who has done his MS from National University of Singapore and Prof. Kunal N Gangwane. Therefore as of now, there is no shortage of faculty members in our department.
This is perhaps the first time that two women faculty members have simultaneously acquired the post of HOD in their respective departments. One such example is that of Prof. Rashmita Das from Electrical Engineering department and me in the Chemical Department. So this news brings a great joy to me and all my female colleagues.
MM: Ever since its inception, the department has done some commendable research work, can you throw some light on the present research practices being undertaken by the department?
MK: The research practices that have been taken up by the department are very much diversified in nature. Basic Heat transfer, Heat augmentation technique, Nano-materials, Molecular dynamics simulation, SPC (Statistical Process Control) and Data-Base modelling are a few to be named. The department has also applied for patenting the project of Arsenic Quantification through electronic transmission. A GIAN course has also been organized for Big Data application. There was a guest talk by Professor Lakshmi Narayan from National University of Singapore in which students from our institute, as well as other institutes, had actively participated. Another GIAN course on Process safety was conducted in the recent past by Professor Arvind Kumar from Chemical department.
As far as the infrastructural facilities are concerned, we are not at all running out of space in laboratories. Ample amount of space is there in the labs for the undergraduates to perform experiments. We also have 10-11 high-end facilities including the SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope). Funds worth 25 lakhs have also been raised to procure Differential Scanning Calorimeter.
MM: Tell us about the present curriculum which the department follows.
MK: We are trying to maintain a perfect balance between the core courses and data analysis. For example, thermodynamics forms an indispensable part of Chemical Engineering courses along with Molecular Dynamics simulation and so on. Apart from that, we are also offering courses like database modelling, Computational Dynamics, Nano-material courses etc. The fact is that now we are having a total of 15 faculty members which almost suffices the student-teacher ratio as prescribed by MHRD. Therefore, in my opinion, it is the appropriate time for us to smartly divide the portfolios amongst the faculty in view of excelling in teaching and learning process.
The OE courses offered by Humanities section also carry their own essence. The students in our institution have made a long and rough journey so far through all India entrance tests and then here in the college, they are grilled by semester exams throughout the year but hardly do they get time to know about society and culture. Therefore, in my opinion, Humanities form an indispensable part of the UG curriculum.
MM: This year the system of minor degree has also been incorporated in the curriculum structure. Students who have a CGPA greater than or equal to 7.5 after first year can opt for a minor degree in any discipline. So what are your views on that?
MK: Although almost all the Engineering courses are interdisciplinary, we’ve noticed some weird choices from students’ side. Some of the undergraduates haven’t adhered to their prospect of engineering discipline which was quite disappointing. The idea of introducing minor degree was to create more job opportunities but this being our first time we seemed to be a bit under-prepared when it came to the counseling process for the same. Probably during the next session, we might come up with student mentoring programs to help them make much more sensible choices.
MM: What was the scenario of placements and other graduate outcomes last year? How have the curriculum and academic processes in your department changed in response to the outcome?
MK: The 2017-18 batch of Chemical engineering department did not bag cent percent placement offers. Many graduates even resorted to Analytics & IT companies owing to their relatively fat paychecks although some have come out with flying colours in GATE exams and secured jobs in reputed PSUs in the recent past. Anyways, Analytics has become a bigger avenue nowadays and regarding this, we are quite optimistic as we have introduced some OEs on Data analysis. We have also introduced a data-analysis lab for the undergraduate course. This, in turn, will lure the companies from the non-core sectors to offer lucrative jobs in view to the advanced curriculum. Although our course does not totally resemble that of data analytics, it does contain a major application of data analysis in core subjects as well.
MM: Are there initiatives taken to motivate undergraduates to exploit the scope of core subjects?
MK: Since I come from a teaching family and have been in the profession of teaching for so many years, I always try to motivate my students to pursue higher studies. The inevitable fact is, with the institutions of higher education multiplying manifold these days we may run short of skilled professors in the near future. Although the students opting for higher studies out of this lot are meagre, they are really determined to have a polished CV when it comes to their academics. So I would recommend the interested students to pursue MS& PhD abroad if they are passionate about the subjects in their curriculum.
MM: Do you have any message for our readers?
The ultimate driving force for an individual is his passion for his own task. Without virtues like honesty and patience, man is but a crippled creature lost in the darkness of delusion which comforts himself in inappropriate alternatives to any kind of impelled duty. Therefore, love what you do and have the patience for its outcome.