The Cymbal of Success : Mayank Mohanty at NSYSU, Taiwan
A pleasant evening with the usual drizzling weather, amongst the chitter-chatter of the visitors at Moksha, Monday Morning had a conversation with the marshal who is making great efforts in the field of research- Mayank Mohanty. The first impression of him would come off as a sober and solemn person and after a small conversation with him, one could realize his zeal and avidity towards his work and future plans. He had been active in both extracurricular and research-related activities of NIT Rourkela and is making the institute proud by each step. He recently bagged an internship in National Sun Yat-Sen University (NSYSU), Taiwan. He is also going to get two of his research papers published very soon, one from his internship project at NSYSU regarding the conversion of harmful compounds and toxic-metal ions into non-toxic states and the other one from the research project regarding electrolytic magnesium dioxide he did in CSIR- Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology.
Keep reading to have a sneak peek into this ardent final year’s life.
Monday Morning: Tell us about your childhood and school days.
Mayank Mohanty: I was born in Rourkela. Since my father had a government job we kept shifting from city to city. I did my schooling from Bhubaneshwar, completed my tenth grade from Loyola school and my twelfth grade from Mother's Public School. I took up coaching for JEE and since I couldn't back a very good rank in JEE (Advance), I decided to go for an NIT.
MM: How did NITR happen to you?
Mayank Mohanty: I was getting Metallurgy and Materials engineering here in NIT Rourkela and I was advised to go for it as I was told that material sciences have a huge scope in higher studies and research activities. Also, I was more inclined towards management so I was determined to bag an MBA degree after engineering. Little did I realise back then that life would take another turn for me.
MM: How many clubs or extracurricular activities were you involved with in NIT Rourkela?
Mayank Mohanty: In my first year, I was very excited to go for the Institute's cricket team inductions as I had this cricket fervour since my childhood days. I even became the team captain for the GD Birla cricket team. Also, we had a hectic schedule back then for academics, so my first year went commuting from college to cricket field.
By the time I reached the second year, I realised I wanted to explore different horizons as well and wanted to interact more. I wasn't a very confident person as I might seem now (smiles bashfully), so I decided to go for E-Cell inductions as I was pretty much impressed by the National Entrepreneurship Summit (NSE) they organised the previous year. Unfortunately, after I joined, the NSE wasn't organised again. However, Innovision, 2016 proved to be a huge break and an ice breaker for me. I was appointed as the manager of the publicity team. That was a phenomenal experience for me. Handling the volunteers, holding the responsibility and getting all work done satisfactorily was like a thrill for me. I was also a part of NITRAA (it was initiated in that very year) but because of my abyssal involvement in the research projects, I couldn't continue to work for it further.
All these experiences, however, proved to be very edifying. I learned that if you need your presence to be felt, you need to showcase your qualities and talents.
MM: Tell us about your internships at NALCO and CSIR-Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology in your sophomore year.
Mayank Mohanty: The one at NALCO was a vocational training program to the smelter plant. The training included understanding the detailed working of the smelter plant. It was more of an observation-based work and industrial experience rather than practical activity.
My first research internship was CSIR-IMMT, Bhubaneswar. I applied through the official portal and received a reply mail containing the project proposal. We worked on a couple of projects for a period of two and a half months under Prof. Bankim Chandra Tripathi from the department of Hydrometallurgy and Electrometallurgy, CSIR-IMMT.
Since it was my first research internship, initially I was assigned a simple project which I completed pretty quickly. My Professor was convinced of the outcome so he assigned me another project which infact had some important applications. The first project was on copper nanoparticles and the second one was on electrolytic Manganese Dioxide. The lithium-ion batteries that we use in electric hybrid vehicles are known for their long-life cycles and Manganese Dioxide is a very good anode material for it because of the higher energy storage capacity. Manganese dioxide is cheap and also eco-friendly. This was the essence behind our second project. We were able to produce a paper out of the second project which is accepted and is to be published in a conference that is to happen this January.
MM. What was your motivation behind working for consultant work with BuzzLogic?
Mayank Mohanty: Since I was very much inclined towards business management so I joined BuzzLogic. This was a start-up by one of the alumni of NIT Rourkela. The objective of the start-up was to scale down the growth curve of small and medium scale industry in Odisha. My job was basically to reach out to the thought leaders of the core sector industries and help BuzzLogic organise digital marketing workshops for them. We had to convince them to accept us as consultants but mostly we couldn't get the responses we desired. After a period of time I was more occupied with my research projects and so could not contribute much. But it was a great learning experience and I got a fair bit of idea about data sorting using SQL.
MM. Tell us about your internship at National Sun Yat-Sen University, Taiwan. How did you come across this internship?
Mayank Mohanty: I didn't apply for any foreign internship other than MITACS and NTU India connect Singapore program. My professor at IMMT was hopeful that I would be able to secure an internship since we were to publish our paper. Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was rejected by both. By then it was January, which is pretty late to look for an alternative. It was then that I heard of Taiwan Experience Education Program. I applied through the official inquiry portal and received a mail asking for my cover letter and CV. And I was later accepted after a personal conversation with the professor. Since he didn't have any readymade project for us so I was given the choice of deciding my own project, which took around twenty days to be finalised and another one and a half month to complete the research.
MM. What was your area of research? How do you think research scenario there is different from what we have in here?
Mayank Mohanty: The area of research was Nano-materials. We worked on nano-composites of Nickel-Zinc ferrite on the base of zinc oxide nanorods. These materials act as good photocatalysts, thereby are used for the degradation and mineralization of hazardous compounds and toxic metal ions to non-toxic states. Since, the NZF nanocomposites present sufficient magnetisation, they are recyclable from the solution using a magnet. The paper we produced out of this was submitted to the micro-optics conference at Taipei where a review was done. The official conference would be held this October for which we are working on the manuscript.
The research scenario there is a lot different. They always ensure that you learn something out of the work you do. The experience there is more student-friendly and based on learning. They give you ample freedom and you have to capitalise on it. We worked in the lab of Nano-materials and optoelectronics, the facilities there were too advanced and my lab had an affiliation with the material science industries. The lab assistants and the colleagues were very supportive and cooperative. Furthermore, we could approach the professors there, quite breezily and discuss anything without being shy or afraid.
MM: How was your overall experience interning in the foreign land?
Mayank Mohanty: It was my first foreign trip. This was the experience which cleared my mind and now I am decisive that I would be taking up higher studies. In a place as that, you get to know a lot of different people from different nations with diverse culture and ideologies. The beauty was, the relations and contacts you make there continues throughout your life.
Personally, the experience shaped me a lot. Earlier I had this wavering feeling of deciding between research and management but the Taiwan experience made it pretty clear for me. Now I am really decisive about taking up higher studies instead.
Talking about the people there, I got to know many international students from Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Argentina. I could learn about their culture and ideologies. There were things which I found peculiar about them and vice versa but eventually, friendship evolved through it. The beauty was in admiring how they were different and getting along with them. The one aspect that remains the same wherever you go is humanity. I made some really good friends there with whom I am still in contact with.
MM: How do you think NITR helped in backing this internship?
Mayank Mohanty: I think the brand name of NITR was really helpful for me. My professor checked for the NIRF ranking and found the institute to be at a decently reputed position of 12. So, I think this made my shortlisting easier.
MM: What are your future plans?
Mayank Mohanty: I will be going for higher studies. I will be appearing for my TOEFL exam in October. Also, I have shortlisted some universities for higher studies. Currently, I am working on my research paper and since I am not getting enough time to prepare for GRE, I will be appearing it for my Ph.D. only.
MM: Any message that you would like to be communicate to the NITR Junta?
Like anyone of you, I have myself experienced the phases of doubt-dubiety, sorrow, anxiety or uncertainty and I am yet to experience more. But one thing you have to do is remain pretty hopeful that everything will be clear and lucid at one time. Don't be a person who always plays the safer options and a few years later looks back again and asks himself what if I had taken the other way. One rule that I have always abided by is to take risks for yourself, it doesn't matter how many people believe in you, it is you who is going to get the work done and you who would be responsible for the consequences of your actions.