One-On-One With The Charismatic Prof. Madhuresh Dwivedi
Prof. Madhuresh Dwivedi of the Department of Food Process Engineering has transpired to become one of the most endearing and warm-hearted professors among the student community. His subtle humoured approach to teaching, interacting and zealously catering to the needs of his students and the department in all his capacity, has given him an insignia of being the 'coolest' professor of the department in a span of just 2 years of service in NIT Rourkela.
However, his journey of becoming what he is today by imbibing the best of his liberal instincts and a rationale for a field so unique is even more interesting to see. Coming from a middle-class background, Prof. Dwivedi initially was inclined to pursue Geology but a twist of destiny landed him to take counselling for Agricultural Engineering instead.
Team Monday Morning hence brings you a candid conversation with Prof. Dwivedi in this edition of the CGPA (Cool and Glamorous Professors' Adda).
Monday Morning (MM): Walk us through your early life, your schooling days and graduation. Why were you so inclined to the field of agriculture and food processing?
Prof. Madhuresh Dwivedi (MD): I wasn't initially inclined to pursue a career in this field although my father was convinced that this field promises more scope. I observed a huge number of people were turning up for the exam and seats were open only for 30-35 candidates back then in 2006. So I thought why not try this! Later when I joined the course, I enjoyed it. It was an aggregate of Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Soil and Water Engineering along with Food Processing Engineering and I started believing this is what I can excel in. When I interned at IIT Guwahati, I started developing a deeper interest in Food Processing Engineering and chose this specialization. My father hereby played a crucial role to make me realize this!
I was a good kid till 10th but mediocre in my 12th (laughs).
MM: What are some of your hobbies and interests?
MD: I am really good at sports. I used to play everything starting from Basketball, Hockey to Volleyball. In my college days, people cracked jokes because I was healthy! So in my post-grad days in IIT Kharagpur, I came out of my shell from being shy and docile to a zealous sportsman hitting the gym and even contested for Hall elections (gradually becoming the Hall President for Vidyasagar Hall of Residence). I became the Captain for cricket, volleyball and basketball there. When I contested for the Vice-President post in the hall elections (the first in the history of IIT Kharagpur hall elections), I had to deliver my SOP standing in front of a 10,000 crowd which taught me public speaking and confidence. Friends from my B.Tech days would be shocked to hear me talk so much! They won't believe this.
MM: How is the curriculum in IIT Kharagpur similar or different to the curriculum we have here?
MD: Frankly, IIT Kharagpur system is more orthodox compared to our system. What we have developed here is compatible with both placements and internships. I can already see that though our department is only 6 years old, we have still managed to make ourselves visible at par excellence, and in certain ways better than IIT Kharagpur. We have a better curriculum compared to the multi-disciplinary approach of IIT Kharagpur, given the fact that we specialize in Food Processing Engineering. We have designed our curriculum after rounds of discussions with industry personnel, scientists and professors to meet all-around demands.
MM: You worked as an assistant professor at the University of Allahabad. Tell us something about your experiences there.
MD: The University of Allahabad was like a stopover to me. I joined there just after my PhD. I taught Master of Science and Bachelor of Vocation students. Students there would mostly have a Biology background and it was difficult to teach them engineering concepts but it was a really good experience because students there in Uttar Pradesh were very keen on learning to get jobs. They were completely dedicated. I quit there because I found it difficult to teach engineering there. The system was different therefrom IIT Kharagpur or NIT Rourkela which are relatively smooth unlike there, where a teacher had to be less flexible and subjective because he has to design his curriculum around students who would be involved in unions and politics. That had to be tackled. Students would barge in classes to get permission to convince the class which I didn't like. Work culture was okay (smiles). So, overall I have a mixed feeling.
MM: How did NIT Rourkela happen to you? How has been your teaching experience so far?
MD: You won't believe I had been trying for NIT Rourkela back in 2015 when I didn't have my PhD. Out of 39 candidates who went for the Director's interview, I was the only fresher. I didn't make it because I didn't have a PhD. I didn't want to go to IIT Kharagpur (the only IIT with the discipline) because they have some sort of inbreeding policies so NIT Rourkela became my dream being the only NIT that has a Food Processing Engineering department. It means that if you are here, you are second so that's good for me! (laughs).
Regarding my experience here, it's been amazing. Back in the University of Allahabad when I taught such concepts like heat transfer and mass transfer, I would be also working extra to teach them derivations and integrations or Fourier's law and spend an entire class on it. Here, when I turn back from the board, all derivations and integrations would be done by my students in a matter of seconds! Things are automatically made simple. I really enjoy this and it makes me glad. Students are cooperative. So far I have never come across requests for cancelling classes or mass bunks till now (Touchwood!).
MM: You are very popular and loved among your students for being humorous and interactive. How does that overall help in your approach to teaching?
MD: I will take that as a compliment! My father was also a teacher and I used to sit in his class. I had learned a lot about the ways to teach. We have to take classes continuously for an hour here and it's important to focus on the interest of students so they can take the lesson in. Someone with a 100 IQ also needs a break. So while I teach them concepts and handout notes, I make sure I give them some moments of leisure. I am not sure how me picking on some students goes down with them, but everyone laughing and enjoying in class is very satisfying. If they like it, then it's good for me.
MM: What would be your most fulfilling moment of teaching so far?
MD: Well, when students approach me for internships and academic help, I relate to their situation because once I was there in their shoes and was needy as well. So, when I cater to their needs in all my capacity and position and see them off well, this gives me complete satisfaction about my job. Contributing something to making up their life, their career is the most fulfilling part of my profession.
One of my students is now preparing to appear IAS. I cannot teach them that but giving them a morale boost or words of advice that can help them, adds to my satisfaction. They also keep me in the loop for their progression. My students from the University of Allahabad also keep in touch with me and ask for my opinions. That feels good!
MM: Coming to the domain of research, you have served as a visiting scholar at the University of Saskatchewan. So how different do you find the scope of R&D (particularly in the field of Agro and Food processing) there as compared to that of India?
MD: There are considerable differences. We do not lack in ideas like them but the main problem existing in Indian scenario is that if someone wants to pursue research on something really challenging or out of the box, nobody here is open to boost that person or give a platform unless results are shown. In the University of Saskatchewan, I wanted to design a dryer with a camera. They told me it was okay to fail, I could start over again. That platform to stand and build on is something that is missing here. However, we have students and faculties here with great ideas and qualifications. There's nothing great or different about people with alma mater abroad. Not all universities there are popular. The problem here is not the administration or government, it's the system. People in the same field might not understand the other person's perspective or ideas and be open about taking risks.
MM: You are associated with the research groups on Transport Process and Kinetics, Food Properties, Product Development. Tell us about your research here.
MD: As of now, I am more involved in Product development and equipment designing. Recently I started working on a project from DST Agrotech where thematically we have to develop equipment directly correlated to farmer’s income. Our Head of Department (Prof. Rama Chandra Pradhan) and I went for a presentation in the presence of Union Minister Shri Nitin Gadkari for the same. No one wants fancy names and products. Everything boils down to sustainable development and catering to the needs of India's rural population and mainly farmers. That's what I am focussing on. I am concerned about such tabletop designs at low costs. We can always think of making affordable designs like a simple jackfruit cutter that will help contain the discharge of chemicals when done by bare hands. Initially, I was into nanotechnology but right now I am steering towards these projects that can add value to the life of rural population or agro communities.
MM: Tell us about your fellowship from the American Society of Agricultural & Biological Engineers.
MD: That is a membership I have. We have such societies that conduct conferences and provide us with substantial materials to read. American Society of Agriculture and Biological Engineers is one such society that comprises of renowned food processing scientists, enthusiasts and technologists who organize these conferences and discuss current research and developments on food technology and engineering.
MM: Can you brief us something about your publications?
MD: It has been around one and a half years, my students and I have been successful in publishing around six papers. Though simple, the topics published serve a great relevance to the industry and society. The topics include product development, process technology, image analysis, mass modelling of products that have provided a new dimension to the field of research and development. Out of the six papers, there are two review papers, three research papers and one communication paper on progress. The papers published so far have bagged good impact factors as well.
MM: You have guided several research scholars as well as taught undergraduate students. Which of the tasks do you find the challenging one to go with?
MD: Teaching B.Tech students is a bit challenging. I am currently the PIC for the B.Tech projects. I find that most of the people are concerned about their placements and are inclined more to extra-curricular activities. They just want to develop something, submit it and complete the project. Meanwhile, in research, the topics are quite streamlined and the objectives have been predefined which isn’t difficult on behalf of the research scholars. But for the B.Tech students, it is a major task on our behalf to explain to them the objectives, the framework and provide them with the projects that they can complete within the stipulated time.
MM: How do you think that Food Process Engineering has evolved from your student days to now that you are a professor? How has NIT Rourkela kept up with it?
MM: When I was a student back in 2006, I used to hear from our seniors, that there is a lot of scope in this field. When we became seniors, we used to tell our juniors that there is a lot of scope in this field. Now also, I repeat the same phrase to my students. (laughs). Though more and more industries are emerging, the major challenge lies in how and what we want to cater to the society. There are various interesting topics to work upon, but at the same time, it is essential that society, for instance, a small street vendor should be able to understand the latest advancements. Take the instance of Patanjali, which has emerged as one of the biggest food processing industries in the entire nation catering to the all-round wellness of its consumers. Moreover, the Department of Food Process Engineering of NIT Rourkela also fosters some of the eminent professors like Prof. Sabyasachi Mishra, Prof. Rama Chandra Pradhan and Prof. Preetam Sarkar whose work have carved out a niche in themselves for their remarkable contribution to the society. Undoubtedly, the scope in this field has been immense. Now you can’t even imagine what different things can be produced from a mere tomato as its peel, the pulp and even its seeds can be put to use for various purposes.
The only thing that we are lagging behind is the interaction with the industries. It is not just the case here, but this also exists in IITs and other institutes as well. The industries are presently having their own R&D department to pursue research which they do by hiring numerous foreign scientists at a very high pay scale. So why would they hire the research scholars from IITs and NITs? Henceforth, it is high time that the curriculum must be set up in such a way in order to make the students industry-ready. Keeping that in mind, our HOD has taken an initiative to amend the present curriculum of the department. This is being done by two eminent personalities from the field of food processing. One of them is Prof. H.N Mishra from IIT Kharagpur, the other is the Vice President of Disruptive Innovation, Hindustan Unilever Limited. He has given very nice suggestions and that is what is required in the present scenario.
MM: Tell us something about your future plans.
MD: Presently, I wish I get a lot of projects in the future which are relevant to the societal needs. I want to work upon developing affordable products in the field of health and wellness that could sustain a healthy style of living amongst the people and keep them free from diseases like anaemia and several other neonatal diseases. Moreover, I want to develop my own style of teaching and ensure that every person in my class gets to comprehend what I teach and doesn’t feel my style of teaching to be monotonous and rigorous.
MM: Tell us about your highs and lows that have helped you become what you are today.
MD: The lowest point of my life till now would be that period of four months after the submission of my PhD theses when I was waiting for getting a job and I didn’t have anything to say to my father. I told my father that I wanted to return back as I wasn’t getting any opportunity and was facing a lot of rejections. Anyhow, I managed to overcome that particular situation and fortunately, a few days before my convocation, I got an offer of Assistant Professor at the University of Allahabad. Coming to my highs, it is all because of God’s grace whatever I am present. I am a god-fearing person and would be very much thankful to God for what I am today.
MM: Addressing the current global pandemic (COVID-19) as declared by WHO, what do you think should be the responsibility on behalf of the administration, students to mitigate this issue?
MD: As of now we should follow the Health Ministry’s directives and avoid mass gatherings as much as possible. Most importantly, we should practice personal hygiene. That could be an effective way of keeping ourselves away from the spread of the virus.
MM: In your service period, how would you like the department and your students to grow up to?
MD: I wish Centres of Excellence and various laboratories to be established in each and every field providing research opportunities to the students. Moreover, with recently conducted Faculty Recruitment Programme, we have welcomed seven new faculties to our department which would definitely prove to be helpful for our students and take our department to new heights.
Team Monday Morning wishes all the best to Prof. Madhuresh Dwivedi for his future years in the teaching profession and excelling in his field of research.