A Metallic Diva with Panache: Prof. Archana Mallick

A real life-resemblance to that teacher in movies who ignites crushes and admirations among her students. Yet she is much more than just a pretty face.

A hard working and zesty personality, she is a Fulbright scholar which is the second most prestigious scholarship in the world. Extremely popular and one of those handful professors who can really relate with their students. In a rendezvous with team MM Prof Archana Mallik shares her journey.
She grew up in a small town under the chaperon of her grandparents. A poor student in her early years, she was nudged and pushed by her father to work hard and get into the bracket of “good students”. Her favorite memories from school are tournaments of kabaddi and kho kho which she enjoyed playing immensely. In high school, she learnt that bright students are generally expected to study medicine or engineering. Buildings and sophisticated structures inspired her to study engineering and she enrolled in IGIT, Sarang as an undergraduate student of Metallurgy and Material Science Engineering. Prof Archana Mallik, unlike her colleagues did not opt for a software job instead followed her passion and joined IIT BHU to earn an MTech degree in Process Metallurgy.

Prof Mallik proved her mettle again when she was selected for pursuing PhD in IISc, the holy grail of science and technology in India. But owing to her husband’s persuasion to stay here, she appeared for an interview at NITR and commenced her doctoral research under the guidance of Prof B C Ray. When asked whether she regrets not joining a world class institution like IISc she said she would’ve never been able to achieve what she did here, at any other institution. She is extremely grateful to NITR and Prof B C Ray who provided her with all the equipment and assets required for her thesis problem and enjoyed unprecedented freedom throughout her four year journey. Prof Mallik told MM that this was the turning point in her life.

Teaching was her foremost choice; the fact that she chose this profession help build our society speaks volumes of her temperament. Earlier the paycheck wasn’t very attractive but after the 6th pay commission things have improved and graduates from foreign universities are also being drawn to Indian institutes, said Prof Archana Mallik.
She is one of those few gen-next professors who relates with the student body’s tribulations and is strongly against the unpopular 85% attendance tenet of the institute. Prof Archana Mallik is of the view that if a professor is confident about his/her skills and can engage the students for an hour or two in informative and creative learning then a full show is not unachievable (she chuckled and mentioned herself as a bad teacher). Forcing students to attend classes doesn’t guarantee that they learn. She also told MM that the 300MB limit enforced on the students was ridiculous. She expressed the level of relevance of the internet in the lives of present-day students.

Prof. Archana Mallik further spoke about the dearth of practical approach in class room teaching in Indian Universities and Institutions. She narrated her experience in UC Berkeley, where classes are more fun, and a strong sense of passion exists among the students in practically dealing with the various equipments, instead of cramming their lessons. She, however, believed that Indian students are even better than the others with regards to intellect and analytical skills. So, what are deficient are not brains but the drive to achieve something which arises from the futile way of teaching here. The consequence of this is a lack of desire among students to pursue higher education. Their aspiration is mostly money-oriented. The academic procedure, too, is quite flexible there allowing students to change their subjects at the 3rd/4th year according to their wish.

Coming to the pervading question of inadequate amount of female students in technical institutes and even lesser number of them as professors in these institutes, Prof Archana Mallik had some very enlightening points to make. She affirmed that the problem did not lay with the male society but with the female psyche. Girls need to start being positive of themselves and believing that they can do whatever they want. If they stop bowing down before the negative remarks of the society, no prejudice can hinder their goals. She stated her example of choosing a subject like Metallurgy and Materials, and in it, again Process Metallurgy, something which is quite unheard of a girl. But she was determined to achieve her goals. She cited that in her experience she has witnessed girls to be more motivated and workaholic than boys. This is evident from the face that most of the articles that were published in foreign journals under her guidance were from her female students. She stated that perhaps, we, girls are too conscious of what the others will say, and in the process get scared to work harder, take risks and pursue their dreams. They do not opt for certain branches and then higher studies presuming a lack of scope in the area.

     But one must realize that it is we who build the scope..

Prof Archana Mallik spoke of being interested in painting. She also mentioned being a state-level badminton player. She also takes keen interest in preparing various types of cuisines recipes of which are procured from the internet and television.
On being asked about her prospective endeavors, she mentioned with satisfaction that she had successfully attained all that she had wished for till date, being well-established in a distinguished area and meeting eminent people from across the world. She now plans on taking risks and making further explorations.
She would like to see a few reforms in the system here; Prof. Mallik stated that academics here prove to be more pressurizing for the students, rather than being a platform of learning. She spoke of students she came across who had language problems and was disappointed to see termination of such relatively intelligent students. Therefore there should be measures by the authority (She herself as a part of authority) to take care of such students who face language problems. She also assessed the issue of surliness of the TAs in labs. Prof Archana Mallik therefore stressed upon a more casual relationship between the professionals and the students.  She also urged the students to be open about their problems and speak to the teachers regarding them, as teachers are the representatives of the students in front of the director.

     Do not be scared to push the bar up and work hard.

is her mantra to all the budding engineers out there.