Keeping the Number Game Buoyant : Debajyoti Choudhuri
Mathematics is all about raising a problem, exploring options, doing analysis and finding multiple ways to arrive at a solution. When a youngster drops his B.Tech. in search of passion for Mathematics, he becomes an inspiration to many to follow their dreams and work hard to achieve them. Prof. Debajyoti Choudhari proves to be an inspiration to all of us who pursue their dreams and go on to research about analysis and solutions at a young age.
In a talk with Monday Morning, he reveals, about his inspiration for pursuing research and working as a professor.
Monday Morning: Tell us something about your early life, schooling and graduation.
Prof. Debajyoti Choudhari: My childhood was as usual as a normal kid has. I did my schooling from Bhartiya Vidya Public School and joined for engineering at REC Nagpur for Mechanical Engineering, but left the B.E. course after a year at Nagpur and went to pursue B.Sc. in Mathematics. My post-graduation is from the University of Hyderabad in Mathematics. I belonged to Kolkata but took admissions in Nagpur because in those days there weren’t AIEEE type of exams and students have to crack state engineering exams and were given admissions through counselling in different RECs.
MM: What all are your hobbies and interests?
DC: I am mostly into sports. I play badminton and I love to watch movies which is something very common with any Indian. I also have a versatile taste in anything that’s trending.
MM: You worked at NIT Silchar before coming to NIT Rourkela. Tell us something about your experiences there and draw a comparison of it with NIT Rourkela.
DC: Comparing these two institutes will be very unfair. NIT Silchar had majorly suffered from connectivity problems, perhaps when I was there it didn’t even have trains going. The location has been a major setback for that institute so it hadn’t lately grown as much as NIT Rourkela. But it was a beautiful campus and had around ten natural lakes, surrounded by tea Gardens. On the other hand, academically the students of NIT Silchar are as good as here. I'm more comfortable here due to the greater amount of facilities given.
MM: How did NIT Rourkela happen to you and how has been your teaching experience so far?
DC: I wanted to leave NIT Silchar as it lacked facilities, I was looking for jobs at other places. I worked there for 14 months. I did get a call from Presidency University Kolkata and NIT Rourkela, but I chose NIT Rourkela because I wanted to explore and come out of my hometown.
MM: Tell us about your inspiration to join a PhD at the University of Hyderabad.
DC: I never thought of Mathematics as a career. It just happened. I left Btech, as I thought I wasn’t made for it. I found more inclination towards maths. It was only in my final year when a professor suggested me to go for masters at the University of Hyderabad, due to the rich amount of professors and research over there. Prof. Tandon was an inspiration to me, the way he taught was a storytelling business. Prof. Kannan and Prof. P.Amarnath were like mentors to me. I try to pick characteristics from them while delivering lectures.
MM: What made you take up research in the field of topology and algebra?
DC: My research interest is mainly in Analysis. It developed from my course of Classical Mechanics that I had been studying during my tenure as a Master's student. Back then I was deeply interested in this subject. A deeper study of this subject made me realize the need to brush up my knowledge in pure mathematics and that is when I took a keen interest in Functional Analysis. My love for the subject has not died yet and it has been continuing since then.
MM: How has been pursuing research pertaining to Elliptic PDEs in the past years?
DC: We basically look to minimize the energy function. To someone who has just begun studying Physics, I would say that my work basically deals with the minimization of functions defined over some infinite-dimensional space. It's a bit abstract and it is not that easy to explain to someone.
MM: What is the scope of the research that you are pursuing at present?
DC: From the industrial point of view, some of the work that we do is used in image processing and something that I happened upon recently i.e deep learning of noise. As far as academia is concerned it is going to boom in the next few years. This is one area that I usually encourage students to take up because there are a lot of problems that one can take up and work on them. It is an open field with its inception probably being in the decade of 1930 which is quite new when you look at mathematics. The research has not been developed up to the extent that it can be used for industrial purposes widely but then there is a huge scope in this area.
MM: What projects are you working on as of now?
DC: I do have two projects. One is regarding the variational techniques. The other one is also linked to that, however, it is being done in collaboration with a professor from the Life Science department who has left the institute. Both of these projects are sponsored. One is sponsored by CRB and the other by CSIR.
MM: What has been the worst and best experience in this institute, to date, as a professor?
DC: The worst or rather I would say the most difficult part of my teaching profession has been not being able to convey to the students that analysis is not something that can be learned and done justice to only by sitting in the class. It is something that the students also have to work on constantly. It is not just mere calculations. It requires an in-depth understanding. So this has been my difficulty. The best part of my teaching career is to take pride and joy in the success of my students. I have three PhD students who are doing quite fine. I also have one Master's student. It feels good to know that I have made some contributions to their successful voyage.
MM: Recently a question paper set up by you was in the limelight. How did you happen to set such a question paper?
DC: It was random. My question papers used to carry more marks than the stipulated marks because we had the liberty back then to set question papers as such and this paper had that trait too. The thing that amazed me that this paper started doing rounds two years after it was set. It was just for fun and nothing else.
MM: Can you brief us about your publications?
DC: Of late I had a publication in the Journal of Mathematical Physics. I chose the journal because variational techniques have a deep linkage with classical mechanics. The food for thought in variation of techniques comes from problems in classical mechanics. Besides that, it is a very reputed journal, especially among the theoretical physicists. Some of the earlier works published in this journal regarding my area of interest also motivated me to choose this journal. Apart from this, I have another publication in a journal called the Physics of Fluids published by the American Institute of Physics. Except for these two, all of my other publications are related to pure mathematics.
MM: How has been your experience working with the Master's and PhD scholars over the years here at NIT Rourkela?
DC: The Master's Project is more of a gimmick. You can't really expect a student to do something fruitful in a year or so if you are doing something in hardcore theory. You need around two years to develop your base and then can one do justice to the project. Regarding the PhD scholars, I have three of them working under me and I am content with them. I prefer keeping the number low because I am not into the number game.
MM: What have been the high points in your career?
DC: I haven't really counted on the high points of my life however I would like to comment on the turning point of my life. When I joined for Master's at the University of Hyderabad it changed the game. Before that, I did not have a goal to work for.It provided me with a direction to do something.
MM: What improvement does NIT Rourkela need taking into account all aspects?
DC: The first thing that should be done is the biometric system should be banned because it makes no sense to me. The second thing that I would say is that the research students need to be conveyed the message that number game is not the ultimate game. Students rush behind publications from the very first moment.The only thing that they think about is publishing papers.Well, that is the reality but a scholar has five long years to finish the course so more time should be spent in learning rather than delivering knowledge on a paper in the research arena. If the institute lessens the burden of the scholars and quality is given greater preference than quantity ,research work would drastically improve.
MM: What has been better teaching: the first year B.Tech students or guiding the research scholars?
DC: This isn’t something that can be compared as per my view.The doctoral students who come to the institute already have a certain degree of mathematical maturity, to begin with, whereas the thing that intrigues me is the raw talent of the Maths-1 students. So their talent needs to be captured at that stage and bettered thereafter.Throwing a student into a class of 150 does no justice to his/her talent. Hence the authorities need to maintain a balanced teacher to student ratio to bring out the optimum in the students.
MM: What is your message to the students of NIT Rourkela?
DC: I would urge the students to give more preference to academics. Academics should be first and everything else should revolve around it. I address the students as such in the class and here too I would like to say the same.This would be my first and final message to the students.
MM wishes Prof. Debajyoti Choudhuri all the best for his future years in the teaching profession and excelling in the field of research.