A Star Counting Stars: Rupesh Mahore At ISRO
“Those who dream and those who believe can become what they want to.” Rupesh Mahore fits aptly to this line and has presented an example that one can follow both his passion and profession hand in hand. Currently, in his 3rd year of Integrated M.Sc Physics department, Rupesh is an example of sheer patience and perseverance. Many physicists and space enthusiast dream of becoming an astronaut but Rupesh has actually done the groundwork that goes into launching a space mission, by bagging an internship in ISRO this summer. While interning at ISRO (India Space Research Organisation), he worked on a project that directly contributed to Chandrayaan-2, which was launched just a couple of weeks back. Apart from that, the physics enthusiast has also worked on research projects at IIT Guwahati and IISc Bangalore. He has also worked under Prof. H.C. Verma, a renowned professor, researcher and author in the world of physics. Currently working on a specialization in Nanotechnology, Rupesh has always been a great thinker and promotes physics in every possible way.
The NITR Junta knows him more for his stand up comedy, which he had performed at the pro-show in Innovision-2018. He is a renowned stand-up comic and has done more than 90 corporate shows in more than 16 cities of India. No doubt, he knows how to balance passion and profession in a beautiful manner.
Monday Morning: How did you get Int. MSc Physics at NITR and why did you leave IIT?
Rupesh Mahore: It’s because the branch I’d have got there was called ‘Textile Technology’ and I wasn’t interested in that. I had been into Physics Olympiads and was very interested in Physics. I had dropped a year and started working as a tutor in Bhopal for a year or so and then I came here.
MM: Walk us through the process through which you got the internship at ISRO.
RM: As such, there is no application for internships at ISRO. But, if you are interested in the particular field or in the work they do, you can go to their website and contact the scientists directly through email. ISRO has about 15 centres in different departments. You can choose a lab according to your interests and write to them. Basically, you would have to send your research work and your research proposal to them. Though it is highly selective, if they like it, they would accept it and then you can intern there.
MM: Tell us about your work at ISRO. How was your research at nanotechnology related to it?
RM: I was working at the laboratory of electro-optical systems at ISRO, Peenya, Bengaluru. It deals with space optics, which includes all the optical sensors which are used in spacecraft and all the space missions. I had been working in the field of nanotechnology and thin films for the last two years. In my first year, I had interned under Prof. H.C. Verma and at the end of the year, I interned at IIT Guwahati in the Department of Nanotechnology. These helped me to know more about it and acted as a headstart in nanotechnology research. The work at ISRO is quite sophisticated than any other lab I have been to, but the previous experience gained at internships and research in my own department helped me a lot.
MM: What was your role in Chandrayaan-2?
RM: I was in the laboratory of electro-optical systems, which deals with all space optics instruments that are used in every space mission, including the Chandrayaan-2 and other missions like GSAT, MicroSAT and Aditya mission which they are going to launch in the near future. Though I didn’t exactly make the actual sensors used in Chandrayaan-2, the work I did was part of the research that is involved in such projects.
MM: Share some interesting and unknown stories about Chandrayaan-2.
RM: There are quite a lot of interesting stories and experiences. One of the most talked-about things out there was the story of the cryogenic engine. We were able to launch the Chandrayaan 20 years later than intended because of the lack of cryogenic engines in India. Russia had cryogenic engine technology when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India. When he went to Russia to ask for the cryogenic engine technology which we were supposed to use for our moon mission, Russia declined to share it, due to some pressure from the US. So, we went on and developed it on our own. We also used to discuss a lot about lunar dust which is ionic. There’s no atmosphere out there and there’s a continuous bombardment of particles on the surface due to which the electrons are expelled. As a result, there’s a cloud of electrons on the surface of the moon and the lunar dust is negatively charged. All the instruments that go along with the probe need to be tested in that environment. We simulated that kind of environment at ISRO so that the instruments work well in those conditions.
MM: Tell us about how the Chandrayaan-2 launch got postponed.
RM: The Chandrayaan-2 launch got postponed as there was a problem with a nipple joint in the propulsion system. And about 55 minutes before the launch, they realize that there was an error in the system and they stopped the countdown. It’s a normal thing and it happens in most of the missions. In fact in 2001, in one of the missions, the countdown was stopped just a minute before the launch!
MM: What role did NITR play in bagging the internship at ISRO? What more did you expect from the institute?
RM: I think my department and my professors had a huge role to play in the internships that I have got till now. But the institute lags behind in a lot of aspects which had been responsible for a few hardships that I had to face. I had got the internship offer from ISRO in the month of December and I had to work there for around 45 days. I wasn’t able to get leaves, despite talking to the director and the Deans. They didn’t grant me any leave even after considering the fact that I was going to work at ISRO. I was sad and disheartened by their action of forcing me to leave such a big opportunity in the name of compulsory attendance. So, I couldn’t do my winter internship at ISRO. I had to postpone it to summer, though I had other plans like going to NTU. Nevertheless, the professors from my department helped me a lot.
MM: Are you happy with the labs and facilities in your department at the institute?
RM: I can’t really comment about the labs being good or bad as the amount of research that I’ve done in the labs here isn’t too much. But after working at IIT Guwahati and IISc Bangalore, I would say that we lag a lot in terms of the instruments that we have in our labs like for characterization. Also, there’s this slot problem wherein the timings clash a lot.
MM: How did you feel working for ISRO? What perks or stipend did you receive during your internship?
RM: The most amazing thing I experienced there was the work environment. The punctuality and dedication towards the work that scientists at ISRO show are unmatchable. It’s not just about fulfilling the deadlines but also the values they impart. Though it was an unpaid internship, what I’ve learnt there was worth more than anything else. Coming to how I felt working there, I would say that it was truly enlightening. For the first week, after seeing the instruments in the labs out there, I was mindblown! You learn the concept of nationalism from your schools and the Republic Day but working there at ISRO for three months provided me with a true sense of nationalism that I couldn’t learn from my school times.
MM: What difficulties did you face during your internship? How did you overcome them?
RM: I was not exposed to the kind of research they were doing at ISRO. So it took me some time to adjust to their ways and protocols in which my guides helped me a lot. Also, the sophistication of their labs and machinery was quite high and I had not worked in that type of environment before. But since I had some research experience in my first year in IIT Guwahati, IIT Kanpur and IISc Bangalore, and so I got accustomed to their labs pretty soon and rejoiced my research internship.
MM:- How was your experience while working under H.C. Verma?
RM: Prof. H.C. Verma is currently working under a project Shiksha Sopan which comes under Rashtriya Avishkaar Abhiyaan and IAPT (Indian Association of Physics Teachers). So, we used to bring some of the concepts of Physics to life by constructing experimental setups based on those concepts. Obviously working under him was like a dream come true for me. Working with someone whose books you have been reading since high school is like going over the moon. It is rare to find a person who is such a genius and dedicated to his work totally even after retiring. All in all, it was a great opportunity.
Talking about his balance between Education and Stand up career, he says:-
The balance between Physics and Stand up is what puts me in existence. When I met Kenny Sebastian after one of my shows in Bangalore, he tipped me, ”until and unless you are doing your job right, you cant do your stand-ups right too.” It means if I am a good physicist, only then can I become a good stand up comedian.
MM: What changes and improvements do you think this institute needs to incorporate in the Department of Physics and Astronomy?
RM: Over the last two years, I have seen the department grow extensively. There have been improvements in the quality of lectures and lab equipment too. What more that we need is the flexibility and fidelity from the professors to take up more research projects and apply what we learn in the theory classes.
MM: Give a few words of inspiration for our budding physicists.
RM: As a physicist, I would say that Physics helps me see the universe through a different perspective which a normal set of eyes cannot visualize. The present scenario in India is that most students want a career which would pay them very soon. As a result of this, Engineering is taken up by many students rather than Basic Sciences. Moreover, the pay and opportunities of a professor are much less than that of a corporate job. Also, pursuing Basic Sciences as a career takes a lot of patience and time. My personal enthusiasm for Physics led me to open a Physics club called Planck Society, in which we try to bridge the knowledge gap which a student experiences when he comes after 12th to engineering. We also try to promote research in Physics amongst the students on and off the campus.
Team Monday Morning congratulates Rupesh Mahore for making great strides in the world of physics and successfully contributing to such an important project at ISRO.