Small Step yet a Giant Leap: The Department of Chemistry Organises a GIAN
11th Feb 2019, NIT Rourkela: A webmail was circulated to all the students announcing the cancellation of classes to facilitate the immersion of Goddess Saraswati which was met with cheers. Lost in the noise, however, was another mail of equal significance containing details pertaining to the Department of Chemistry. The DoC going organized a GIAN Course on Photochromic Molecules and Materials For a sustainable future from 14th-18th February 2019 by Prof. Burkhard Koenig from the University of Regensburg, Germany.
The Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) as stated on its official website is a Government of India approved program in Higher Education aimed at tapping the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs, internationally to encourage their engagement with the institutes of Higher Education in India so as to augment the country's existing academic resources, accelerate the pace of quality reform, and elevate India's scientific and technological capacity to global excellence.
The program aims to achieve the increase the footfalls of reputed international faculty in the Indian academic institutes, to increase participation and presence of international students in the academic Institutes, provide the opportunity to our faculty to learn and share knowledge and teaching skills in cutting edge areas among others.
The Photocatalysis Giant
Prof. Dr. Burkhard König received his doctorate in 1991 from the University of Hamburg. He continued his scientific education as a postdoctoral fellow with Prof. M. A. Bennett, Research School of Chemistry, Australian National University, Canberra, and Prof. B. M. Trost, Stanford University. In 1996 he obtained his “Habilitation“ at the University of Braunschweig. Since 1999 he is a full professor of organic chemistry at the University of Regensburg. His current research interests focus on the development of synthetic receptors for the recognition of biological target structures and the application of visible light chemical photocatalysis for organic synthesis.
In ongoing chemistry-related projects, his contributions are towards:
- the development of new tools for chemical education,
- a better public understanding of science,
- the promotion of sustainable chemistry,
- and international network building for collaborations in chemical research and education
How the program was organized
Prof. B. Koenig is one of the leading figures in the world in the field of visible light photocatalysis, so prying him from the other institutes and bringing him to NIT Rourkela was no easy task. This was however made possible due to a prior relationship between him and our very own Prof Debayan Sarkar.
I had a good relationship with him. I did my postdoctorate at Stanford where he was a trust member of the alumni. We also have collaborations with him and even send samples to him. We look forward to bringing more foreign faculties like him in the future.
The proposals for GIAN have to be applied through an online portal and go through a long review process. Prof. Debayan Sarkar applied back in 2016 and it was finally scheduled to be in December 2018. But Prof. D. Sarkar’s trip to Germany for his DAAD fellowship combined with Prof. B.Koenig’s busy schedule meant that the program had to be postponed.
MHRD provided a fund of Rs. 5.44 Lakhs for the program.
The students helped a lot in organising. I went to Germany on 30th November and came back on 11th January. So we had very less time to organise the event but I got tremendous support from my own PhD students and also the departmental PhD students.
-Prof. Debayan Sarkar
The program was attended by about 60 students and included visiting students from IIT Kanpur, IIT Goa, NISER Bhubaneshwar, IISER Kolkata, IICB Kolkata and the Pandit Ravishankar University of Ranchi. Everyone had to register through the Gian portal with a fee of Rs. 500/- (if they wanted a certificate) and the students from outside had to register with a fee of Rs. 1200/-
Prof. B. Koenig arrived on the 14th, so no sessions were conducted that day. The program officially commenced on the morning of the 15th, with Prof. Burkhard Koeing of the University of Regensburg inaugurating the event with a keynote lecture to introduce the topic--
Light can penetrate matter and provide the energy for chemical transformations. The reversible isomerization of molecules by the light of different wavelength is a well-studied phenomenon, which recently found wide applications. So I must say, this is a very important subject to study.
-Prof. B. Koenig
In the beginning, Prof. Rupam Dinda, Head of the Chemistry department welcomed the guests and participants. Also in attendance was Director professor Animesh Biswas, who commented:
Though my specialization is not chemistry I know how the subject plays a vital role. I must appreciate the effort of the Department for the organization such a programme.
Speaking on the occasion, the Gian course coordinator of NIT Rourkela, professor Sishir Sahoo wished for the grand success of the programme. The inauguration concluded with Prof. Debayan Sarkar giving the vote of thanks.
Prof. B. Koenig conducted classes the whole day on the 15th and the 16th. The schedule for both days was as follows:
Classes started at 10 AM and halted at 11 AM
15 minutes of tea break
Resumed at 11:15 AM and went on till 1:15 PM
Broke off for lunch break which lasted till 2:15 PM
Reconvened at 2:15 PM and finally concluded for the day at 5:15 PM
The classes were held in the senate hall and were also taped on video. The visiting Prof departed on the third day. Speaking about NIT Rourkela, he said
There is a lot of scope here. The student community must grab these opportunities.
Commenting about the impact of this course on the students Prof. Debayan Sarkar said:
The impact is high. I have also gotten extremely positive feedback from the students. When you get someone who is the editorial chief of the European Journal of organic chemistry and someone who has served on various very high positions and who is one the three foremost pioneers in the the field of visible light photocatalysis in the world, which is one of the most exciting field currently, you get a unique kind of motivation. When a person has seen a field developing and has played an active part in it, he knows how the changes have come about and he explains that exactly to the students. He explained the constant development of the field throughout the years. He went on from initially describing how the pioneers were keeping the vessels in Europe over the walls in beakers cause sunlight was the only source of energy long back in the 1800s, to the transformation to modern day where he did an elongation of tissue under blue light. You can also understand the impact he had on the students because almost every student was going and asking him for a PhD position in his lab. He even told my PhD students that since his lab is currently full, he will help them get a position in a bio-organic institute. So overall a lot of people got a lot of inputs from him and not only limited to research. He is going to help a lot of people out.
Despite the fact that the program was important and a milestone for the department, the question remains that there was participation from around only 60 students with 40 of them being from outside the institute. Though this statistic might be misinterpreted as an expression of ‘taking-for-granted’ attitude by the NITR students, the true culprit of this was the class timings. All of the students from all the departments had classes that period, and due to their lecture commitments missed what potentially was a significant opportunity in their college lives. Hopefully, there would be many such programs organized by the department and precautions would be taken so that the timings do not clash the next time.
GIANs are hallmarks of an institute in the upper echelons of the educational bracket. They inject the institution with a perfect blend of international prestige and world-renowned expertise. NIT Rourkela deserves to be in this premium bracket comprising the best universities across the nation and has taken another step in cementing this position by organizing this GIAN.
Team Monday Morning congratulates the Department of Chemistry for organizing a successful GIAN and hopes for similar gambits in the future.