Achieving New Milestones: New Department Issues

Achieving New Milestones: New Department Issues

The National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, has a slew of departments, quite a few of which are fairly new. These departments include the Departments of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Industrial Design, Planning and Architecture and Food Processing. Given that these departments are fairly new, it is understandable that they face a significant number of issues, which this article attempts to cover.

Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science

The Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences was started only two years ago, and it has grown from strength to strength in the interim. Despite the many insufficiencies that it faces in terms of funds, it has made the most of existing facilities in order to provide its students more than just a degree. There are a total of 33 students in the department right now, with 3 in atmospheric science and 30 in applied geology, out of which 10 will be graduating this year.

The department has a total of 9 faculty members, 5 of whom are specialists in applied geology and 4 of whom are experts in the field of atmospheric science. The department has a total of 7 laboratories which are the common ones. One of the major problems that they face is the shortage of space which will come to an end when they expand out into the current Department of Planning and Architecture Building.  Head of Department, Prof. Equueniddin says,

We have always received the support of this institute and the problems that we are facing are those in general faced by any new department in its initial phase.

This department in most other established institutes have turned into centres of scientific research; therefore, the fund inadequacy has its greatest impact in the purchase of sophisticated equipment whose price could run into a few crores of rupees. Some of the instruments which would help this department improve its research and outreach facilities are Electron Probe Micro Analyser used in X-Ray Fluorescence and Induced Couple Plasma Mass Spectrometer used in Thin Section Preparation.

Despite the shortages, this department has managed to bag 5 sponsored research projects from the Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Mines, Ministry of Earth Science, MCA and a consultancy project from Coal India Limited. Due to the existing constraints, they conduct their research in collaboration with institutes like IIT Kharagpur, IIT Bhubaneshwar and IIT Delhi. They have not earned any accreditation yet, but the institute has applied to NAAC, and the request is under process.

One of the major concerns being faced by this department is with regard to training and placements. Their students had bagged a summer internship opportunity in the last summer due to the contribution and efforts of their own faculty. The institute’s training and placement centre has failed to provide them with adequate opportunities. While the Head of Department, Prof Md. Equeenuddin says, “They have to understand that it is also important to sit for IT and Analytic Companies, since not many core companies will come for recruitment. This is our first batch of graduates and we sincerely hope that this problem will reduce over the years.” The placement representative for their batch appointed by the department to aid the TnP, Archhi Sarkar however had several complaints with regard to her exchange with the Training and Placement Centre. She said that they had failed to approach the companies she had listed out and handed over to them. In addition, their disciplines had been misquoted and corrected much later. Since Coal India Limited only recognises Applied Geology and not Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, they lost out on an opportunity to sit for its recruitment process.

 

Department of Planning and Architecture

According to the Council of Architecture, the norms by which every architectural department in this country has to abide, an intake of 30 students requires a department to have a faculty strength of at least 15 and according to the institutional requirements, the number is lowered slightly to 13. In the last academic session, the department of architecture took in 20 students into their undergraduate program, for which the minimum requirement for faculty remains the same. The department currently is greatly shorthanded due to a total strength of six members, out of which five belong to the core architecture discipline and another comes from civil engineering background. Recruitment processes are underway, but Head of Department, Prof. A. Banerjee says that it is looked into at the institute level.

The entire department has 3 studios, 1 classroom, 1 seminar hall, 1 computer laboratory, a small departmental library and a small space that is currently shared by students for conducting experiments in their climatology lab, as well as for their model making workshop. The space crunch is a major issue that is faced by them according to Prof. Banerjee and they are looking to shift the department to the TIIR building before the commencement of the next session.

The department has the approval of the Council of Architecture and the recent success of the Zonasa that they conducted vouch for the rapid development that this department is undergoing. When asked if it was a hurried decision to host the Zonasa when the department itself was at such a nascent stage, Prof Banerjee said, “Everything depends on the outcome, so since Zonasa was such a huge success I don’t have any complaints. However, it is understandable that our students faced a lot of obstacles in this endeavour specially because they were few in number and lacked the guidance of alumni who had established themselves professionally. These problems are not specific to our department, but pertain to any new department in its initial years. At this point, it is of utmost necessity to applaud the colossal effort put in by our students and their dedication towards achieving their goals.”

In terms of Research Projects, there are talks of helping out in the Rourkela – Smart City Proposal, but nothing has been finalized yet. The department is looking forward to any help they can offer to institutional infrastructure development. Also, they are preparing the base plans for the renovation of the old academic building and have conducted a few surveys in this regard, already.

The growth of this department has been satisfactory, but the addition of new faculty members will definitely spur it exponentially. Prof. Banerjee says, “There are needs and there are wants. All our emergency requirements always get taken care of, but the ones that can be are deferred till it is possible to address them.” There is a dire need of getting more experts from the industry to acquaint students with the professional dynamics. Thus, there is a direct benefit of hosting Zonasa which helps in facilitating such interactions. The location of the institute in Rourkela allows the department to request professionals to come from only Bhubaneshwar and Kolkata, for now.

The students particularly show a lot of enthusiasm and participate in competitions and events beyond the course of their curriculum. There is a departmental requirement of conducting a minimum of 2 study tours for every batch during their 5 years of study. These tours should be spanned over a minimum of 10 days and should cover places of architectural importance in varied aspects. The last tour was conducted in winter, in South India. These tours are currently funded only partially by the institute.

The paucity of funds has affected the department mostly in terms of conducting workshops which would require inviting and accommodating guests from outside. Also, funds are required to purchase equipment for the climatology lab.

Prof. Banerjee says that according to a circular issued by the institute, all departments have access to all other departments’ laboratories. However, there is no need to collaborate with any department right now, even though they are open to such opportunities in the future.

 

Department of Food Process Engineering

The Department of Food Process Engineering started in July 2013 with Prof R.K Singh as the Head of the Department. Currently, there are 72 students pursuing Bachelor’s degree 30 in 3rd year, 26 in 2nd and 16 in 1st year. Subsequently, the academic activities of the department expanded with the start of M. Tech and PhD programs in July 2014 with 14 research scholars (9 PhD and 5 M. Tech).

The department has a total of 4 faculty members and at least three more is the need of the hour considering the number of subjects and strength of the students. Prof R.K Singh says, “Advertisements for recruitment have been sent out and probably we can expect new faculties to join from the coming session.”

Students are of view that course structure of the department is not appropriate and needs to be revised. Clearing the air, Prof R.K Singh says, “Curriculum is formulated in consultation with the faculty members of the institute, industrialists and other academicians. I believe the course structure is balanced, incorporating most of the aspects of food industries required at this level. However, since this Department is just two years old, we cannot just hurriedly change the course structure. There is a scope for improvement in due course of time.”

Considering that the Department is just two years old, the faculty of the Department have managed to bag 6 research projects worth INR 2.2 crores. But the major problem faced by the department is scarcity of lab space, lab technicians, classrooms and computing space. Presently, the department is managing with just 4 rooms allocated out of which 3 have been converted into laboratories and just one as classroom for all the three years. According to the HOD, this problem can only be solved when new Lecture Annexure comes up. More than 50 lab equipment worth INR 1.5 crores have been procured till date and more are required. But the purchase order is on hold now as there is shortage of space in the department.

The major concern of the students of pre-final year is bagging a summer internship which is mandatory. For this, the Training and Placement centre of the institute in consultation with the faculties of the department are contacting all possible companies for internships as well as placements.

 

Department of Industrial Design

The batch strength of undergraduate students is nearly 120, from 4 years of 30 students in the freshmen, sophomore, junior and senior years respectively, while that of the two years in post-graduate is 60. Additional increases in the seat count is not expected, in order to accommodate the current number of faculty and an ideal student-teacher ratio.

In conversation with the Head of Department, Prof. Khan, it was found that the major issue persisting in the department is the faculty shortage. Over the course of this academic year, two new faculty members have been appointed. One of whom is from the Acoustic Design background, and the other from the Robo-Dynamics background. Despite these new appointments, the total faculty strength remains underwhelming for the range of courses the department seeks to offer. There is an additional requirement of at least 4 to 6 faculty members, for which the shortlisting process for viable candidates is underway.

In required equipment overhauls, the financial crunch and resulting fund shortage has not enabled any major equipment to be procured this year. A very expensive piece of equipment amounting nearly to INR 50 lakh rupees had been donated by the Baba Atomic Research Centre, and that denotes a huge influx of equipment, which did not originate from department allotted funds. This was possible through a sponsored research project of the department related to Electro-Pulse-Magnetic Welding. This installation will be ready by the last week of April.

“Procurement of such equipment at no cost to the Institute is a huge achievement from the department’s side”.

The department has succeeded in securing two sponsored research projects, from BARC and ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) respectively. An additional sponsored project from NRB is underway as well.

Space crunch is another problem too, as the limited space which has been allotted to the department in a share-basis with other departments has reduced any possible scope for expansion of labs. This situation is expected to be resolved with the opening of the new building coming up which will have both the Mechanical and Industrial design departments.

The accreditation process is underway for the department with sufficient paperwork having already been filed under the NBA (National Board of Accreditation). It is expected to finish soon.

A major issue which has been covered this academic year is regulation of classes. Acting upon reports that the classes were getting frequently cancelled in the preceding years, relevant steps were taken to ensure 100% conduction of classes, as the academic feedback report shows.

In order to improve the quality of curriculum, experts are being consulted twice a year from IISC Bangalore to provide a report on the quality of the course being provided here. This is expected to improve course quality and implementation. The workshops which had not taken place are expected to be conducted at the end of the current academic year or at the start of the next academic year. NEST has been contacted for the setting up of these workshops, along with offering of week-long courses on different design principles.

The placement situation has always been a rather underwhelming situation, but it may be safely said that the situation is better than last year. Also the department is trying to provide internships for its students in design oriented institutes like CPDM. Different Industrial design heads in various institutes have been contacted to ensure that students get internships with ease.

 

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