Prof. Nemai Karmakar from Monash University in Electronics department
Aditya Tripathi | Jan 20, 2020
On 15 January 2020, a seminar on “Recent Advances in Chipless RFID Sensors” was conducted in the Electronics Department at NIT Rourkela. The invited speaker for the seminar was Prof. Nemai Chandra Karmakar, a professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering, Monash University, Clayton, Australia.
Prof. Nemai Chandra Karmakar graduated with BSc (EEE) and MSc (EEE) from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology in 1987 and 1989, respectively, MSc in EEE from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada in 1992, PhD in EEE from the University of Queensland in 1999, PGDipTHE from Nanyang Technological University in 2001 and MHEd from Griffith University in 2007. He worked as a microwave design engineer at Mitec Ltd., Brisbane from 1992-1995 and contributed significantly to the development of Optus Mobilesat smart antennas. He taught senior-level courses in electronics, radar, microwave active and passive design and antennas at QUT, NTU, and Monash University.
The seminar started in EC 303 at 11:30 AM with a total footfall of around 60 including Hon’ble Director Prof. Animesh Biswas. The seminar focused on the tremendous potential of RFID and also shed light on the importance of industrial collaboration and multi-disciplinary outlook in modern-day research. Prof. Nemai took the example of the implementation of RFID in manufacturing/ construction in the context of the cement industry to give a unique perspective on the scope of RFID sensors. Monday Morning got a chance to interact with Prof. Nemai on a variety of issues after the seminar, a brief excerpt of the interview is given below:
MM: How has your experience been in NIT Rourkela?
Prof. Nemai: It has been an excellent and exciting experience here in NIT Rourkela and I’m glad to be here.
MM: What is the perception of NIT Rourkela as an institute for someone who is doing research abroad?
Prof. Nemai: I can only tell about this particular lab, i.e the Microwave and Antenna Laboratory at NIT Rourkela. It is a world-class research lab according to me with a lot of facilities. The research students here are really intelligent and highly talented. Also, they are doing world-class academic research.
MM: You did your Bsc and Msc from Bangladesh University in Dhaka. How different is the research scenario in the south-east Asian region as compared to the same in Australia?
Prof. Nemai: When I did my graduation (more than 30 years ago), the research culture was nonexistent. Now if I compare with that time, I think in Bangladesh we have at least 5-6 international conferences happening every year. I just visited the Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (KUET) in the south-west part of Bangladesh and I noticed that a vibrant research culture is developing. I was really surprised to learn that more than 7500 papers were submitted in Electrical Engineering from Bangladesh itself out of which around 500 were published which amounts to an acceptance rate of less than 10 % showing the quality of publications. I attended the International Microwave and RF Conference (IMARC) in IIT Bombay this year where the acceptance rate was around 48 %. Also, I attended the Conference on Electrical Information and Communication Technology (EICT) in Bangladesh where the acceptance rate was around 33 %. Although the quality may not be up to the standard of IMARC I think it’s quite significant.
MM: You were also associated with Nanyang Technological University from 1999-2004. How was your experience in Singapore?
Prof. Nemai: It was a highly rewarding career development experience in NTU, Singapore. I published around 180 papers in 6 years during my tenure at the university. Also, I graduated 2 PhD students, 6-7 masters students there. At that time, NTU was not as high profile as it is today. But as they had the right policy they have come up to a world ranking of 11 presently.
MM: You have been associated with Monash University for the past 15 years. Tell us something about the environment for research at Monash University and how different is it from the other universities that you have worked in?
Prof. Nemai: I can compare Monash University with NTU. NTU being an Asian university had the culture very similar to Asia but the government put a lot of funds. They had the policy of filling up the boxes like research, teaching, administration and so on. Once I felt that there was nothing much to learn in that environment, I left. It’s a matter of pride for me that at present every day I’m learning something new. Although the workload is 2-3 times more in Monash University there is a lot of academic freedom. I graduated 24 PhD students, around 60 graduate engineers got training from my lab and they are highly successful in the industry as well as the academy. So, it is a highly rewarding career at Monash University.
MM: How different is undergraduate studies in today’s age as compared to when you were an undergraduate?
Prof. Nemai: 3-4 years ago, when I was developing my curriculum I visited NPTEL, the Indian online academic program. Also, I looked at the Canadian and MIT version of the same. I saw that you have exposure to those visual resources that we never had. So your outlook is very different than what we had as our professors used to come and write on a blackboard (not even whiteboard) with chalk. The cultural shift in the education system is very significant in the Indian subcontinent.
MM: Can you tell us about any opportunities for undergraduate students of an institute like ours to pursue research at Monash University through internships. If yes, what is the procedure?
Prof. Nemai: That is not feasible because we get a lot of requests from IITs and sometimes from NITs, we didn't find much avenue for that because the students from here don't have exposure to those advanced resources that the Monash University graduates have. We have a master’s program where I see a lot of Indian students but I have noticed that they have a lot of limitations like they don’t have much idea about a lot of software like MATLAB. That’s why there is no such exchange programme happening between Indian universities and Monash Universities (there are exchange programmes between European universities and Monash University). I don't think that the condition will get better very soon unless you take some big measures.
MM: You have talked about the gap between University Research and Industrial needs in this field. Can you give us some examples of the same?
Prof. Nemai: For example, in this institute, Prof. Santanu Kumar Behera is working with the interest of academic excellence without much interaction with industry but my projects are associated with the industry. One of the projects I had taken up was the authentication using chipless RFID for Australian banknotes. What I realized was that if a student does industry-oriented research they become well equipped for jobs as they learn things like time management, leadership, teamwork, critical thinking and analytical skills. When I compare two graduates one focusing on academic research and other on industry-oriented research, the industry one has more weight.
MM: We often hear of buzzwords like 5G in this field, You are also working on projects related to smart antennas for 5G wireless communications and Li-Fi technology for 10 GBPS Data Transmission. But in many places, even 2G networks is not sufficiently available. How important do you think will accessibility be for this field?
Prof. Nemai: A lot of technologies like Iridium failed in the past because they failed to take the alternate rescue measure, but 5G has a very interesting prospect because they haven’t discarded 4G completely and they are piggybacking 5G on 4G. Hence, even if 5G fails, the world will not fail. Earlier it was feasible to relinquish 2G to 3G then 3G to 4G, in every 10 years a new generation would come and now 5G is coming. I attended the International Microwave Symposium in Boston, where there was a special focus on 5G. A lot of technologies are developing around 5G and beyond, they are targeting up to 100 GHz keeping also the low-frequency ones (Few 100 MHz). Beyond 5G they are talking about 200-300 GHz and even 1THz, so good part about 5G as compared to its predecessor is that 5G is not coming by relinquishing 4G or others. Once 5G matures, then maybe the older ones will be relinquished because particularly in developing countries like India and Bangladesh they cannot remove the old technologies because of the limitation of resources.
MM: In 10-20 years, what according to you will be the biggest revolution in this field?
Prof. Nemai: I attended the International Communication Conference 2019 in Vietnam where most of the professors were from Europe. In that conference there was extensive talk on visible light communication and few of the professors who have expertise in optical domain talk about Li-Fi (Light Fidelity), I am also working in this field. But the major constraint in this is the line of sight because without visibility it cannot work. Hence, Wi-Fi can never be replaced by Li-Fi, as a result, there is need for a hybrid technology, where there will be handover issues (how to handover from Li-Fi to Wi-Fi when required) and I am working on this too. Modern technology is such that you cannot achieve much by sticking to your domain, there is a need to be multidisciplinary in today’s age if you want to flourish.
MM: Finally, what message would you like to give to our readers who are students of NIT Rourkela?
Prof. Nemai: Keep your mind open, be interactive and multi-disciplinary. Also, try to be innovative.
Team MM congratulates Prof. Santanu Kumar Behera for the successful organisation of this seminar and we wish Prof. Nemai Karmakar the best for all his future endeavours.