A Leader, Mentor And Comrade: Sanatan Panda
Sanatan Panda, a final year student from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, has been the epitome of perseverance and the results are apparent. With achievements that transcend excellence, he has been beckoning light for all.
He is known to be a guide, a leader, a mentor to all his juniors who have always had their back in their times of lows and highs, standing out for his experience in wide domains of institutional activities. From being the convenor of fests, hall representative, Deans’ Nominee of Film and Music Society to bagging the internships at Apollo, National Chung Cheng University (NCCU)- Taiwan and CSIR, he has been an all-rounder.
Let's have a look at his beautiful journey, which Team Monday Morning(MM) had the privilege to hear from him and his comrades.
MM: Walk us through your life before NIT Rourkela. Please share with us some of your memories before joining NIT Rourkela.
Sanatan Panda (SP): I was born and brought up in the coastline city of Berhampur in the Ganjam District of Odisha. I completed my schooling at Saraswati Sishu Bidya Mandir and my XII from Khallikote Junior College. I was quite a serious lad in my early school days and rarely used to smile. In my 6th grade, I figured out my excellency in Mathematics, which pushed me further to study hard as I was good at it. This also helped me bagging various prizes in state-level competitions; one of them was the Pathani Samanta Medhabruti Scholarship exam, for which I bagged state rank 6th.
MM: How did NIT Rourkela happen to you? Was Biomedical Engineering always your choice, or did it happen with fate?
SP: Life was quite easy before JEE happened (chuckles). In my first attempt, I landed at the Electrical and Electronics Engineering branch at VSSUT Burla as I always preferred the branch over the college. However, as the first year progressed, the infrastructure, the environment and tinge of ragging culture made me take up JEE again. In my second attempt, I chose NIT Rourkela, but the branch Biomedical Engineering chose me. And this is how my journey at NIT Rourkela started!
MM: The first year is always challenging for a student. How was yours? How was your experience making new friends?
SP: As the saying goes, whatever happens, happens for a reason. So was with me. My first-year hostel life at Burla taught me quite a thing which made my hostel life at NIT Rourkela quite easier. Being an extrovert, talking to people around me always made me more comfortable. That was a big reason I made new friends and learned how to communicate with everyone around, including the seniors, quite quickly and easily.
EXPLORING THE WONDERS OF SAC AND ACING IT
MM: What clubs are you a part of, and what have been your roles in those clubs?
SP: Needless to say, NIT Rourkela has a great club culture but initially, it got me too puzzled. It was difficult for me to figure out which clubs to join, and more than the clubs, the SAC Societies fascinated me. I didn’t go for any club orientation or inductions.
It was around the 20th of August. I was lurking around LA when I discovered Cognizen Club's poster, the political and economic club, and went for the induction. I had a hilarious experience there. Mehul Anand (2019 batch, Department of Mechanical Engineering alumnus) was taking the personal interview, and he asked me the name of the constituency I belong to. Just out of the Hall Elections mode (that happened sometime prior to this), I answered that I was from ‘First-Year Constituency’! After that, the interview went well, and I was inducted. I was quite active there.
I was also in a Robotics Club and the management team of Road Runner, the Formula Racing Team of NIT Rourkela.
MM: Even with not-so-amazing experience with clubs, you became the Deans’ Nominee of Film and Music Society. How did that happen, and what motivated you to take on that responsibility?
SP: Deans’ Nominee-I consider, was the third stage of my NIT Rourkela life. I was the Environment Secretary of GD Birla Hall of Residence, which made me fall in love with elections and the other SAC jobs; I found those more interesting than my academics. I devoted more time to know the nitty-gritty of SAC functions, how clubs and fest work in my first year.
I also held the responsibility of the Secretary for the Film and Music Society, which was then called ‘Art and Culture Society’ in my second year. This experience gave me the strength to stand for Deans’ Nominee's position in my third year.
In my second year, even though I tried to do many things and bring many changes (including introducing a new fest), I realised that I needed more time to get the things aligned and do further good for the institute. So I filled in for the Deans’ Nominee and went for the interview. Prof. Saroj Kumar Patel was direct in his approach, and I faced questions like why I wanted to become the Deans’ Nominee, what I aimed to achieve, how I could manage my co-curricular with academics, and there were questions on corruption in SAC. I guess I answered them well and thus bagged the position.
MM: How do your responsibilities and work as the Environment Secretary in your first year help you discharge the role of Deans’ nominee?
SP: For anyone who holds such positions of responsibility in his/her first year, it’s a new and learning experience. For the first four-five months, one won’t understand working around in the halls, as the administration doesn’t really like the students intruding too much into such areas. I did have a tough time coping up with that and get used to it.
So, to get more of an idea of what I was actually supposed to do, I started meeting and interacting with people from the hostel, mess, the gardeners and the Warden.
MM: Tell us about your experience as the Convenors of the two most prominent events of NIT Rourkela, Roots and Cosmopolitan 2018.
SP: Cosmopolitan is newly introduced; previously, it was called the Multi-Ethnic Fest and was actually scraped off by the Director as it was a common perception that the fest was promoting “zonism”. So, along with the Deans’ Nominee of 2018, and one of my closest seniors, N Vivek Kumar, we came up with the thought of restructuring the fest and introduced Cosmopolitan, with a motive displaying the diverse cultures of the country. The tagline was ‘Unifying-the-Diversified’. It was the brainchild of Pritish Kar, who was the Content Writer then. It was conducted in October 2018, (Click here for the article on Cosmopolitan ’18) just after the Dussehra break, and so much planning went into it. It was an overall exhilarating experience for me, and I learnt a lot from my mistakes. And I believe the legacy has continued, and Cosmopolitan 2020 was the biggest success of my NIT Rourkela time. (Click here for the article on Cosmopolitan '20)
Next, it was ROOTs 2018. (Click here for the article on ROOTS '18) Even there, I always saw another senior of mine, Debasis Mishra (Click here for the article on Debasis Mishra) (former secretary of Art and Culture Society), having my back. He paved the path for the successful conduction of the event. ROOTs is a very different concept. It is more of professionalism. Unlike Cosmopolitan, more than timing and audience, the guests matter. This is an event that every student should attend, but yes, reaching its full potential will take time.
MM: Since you had such hectic SAC responsibilities, how did you manage to strike a balance between your academics and co-curricular, and how it actually shaped you as a person?
SP: Balancing both was indeed a very arduous task for me. In my first year, I wasn’t too serious about my studies and exams. I used to watch movies just before the mid-semester exams. Over-confidence was the key, due to which I had a not-so-great SGPA of around 7.2 at the end of my first semester. I spent my first year enjoying the new things I was exposed to, exploring the hostel life and knowing about SAC. In the second semester, I somewhat realised my mistake, and my CGPA increased a bit.
In my second year, when I entered my department, I understood the gravity my academics carry, and from there, I started taking it more seriously. In my fourth semester, I thought of keeping myself away from SAC and spending more time in my room studying, but soon I got bored (chuckles), while I didn’t see much more of a difference in my academic performance. It, more or less, remained the same. So, more than a balancing act, it was about being constant and efficient in time management.
The co-curricular activities I was a part of really helped me develop great skills and experience, and I could come out of that bubble and develop interpersonal skills. And this is something I would recommend to everyone. Clubs, sports and other activities are of great aid when you want to get refreshed and make very productive use of your time out of studies.
EXEMPLARY PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCES
MM: You bagged a summer internship at Apollo Hospital in your second year itself. Tell us something about that.
SP: Initially, my branch had chosen me, but after the second year, I accepted my branch. I realised that it is a good branch to make my career. Seeing my friends getting internships and doing something productive, I tried to find opportunities for myself. My branch seniors suggested doing training in Apollo hospital, Bhubaneshwar. It was about one and a half to two months. A specific Biomedical department is there in Apollo hospital. I used to go around 10 AM and return at around 6-7 PM. For my daily work, there were about two hours of the inspection. I had to go to every ward and department to see how the instruments were working. I had to check if they were in working condition or needed repair. I also had to do some paperwork and this, like the database management for all the instruments, which are to be renewed, which is very old, etc. I also learned some procurement work, like how equipment is procured and how companies are dealt with, how the servicing is done. In the second half, we used to get calls from various wards if there was any breakdown in machines. At that time we used to go with our manager. He used to repair those, and we watched and learned. It was an excellent experience.
MM: In your third year, you cracked the NCCU Taiwan Internship, which was unfortunately cancelled due to the COVID. How was the application procedure, and how did you crack it?
SP: In my second year, there wasn’t any specific project that I did in my college as I was very much into co-curricular. In my third year, I tried very hard to get a research-based internship. I used to mail four to five persons from reputed institutes daily. There were some basic things in Biomedical that I liked. So considering those parts, I used to mail professors from universities. It was around November that Smruti (Smruti Sudha Biswal, Prefinal year, Dept. of Life Sciences) sent me the details about NCCU Taiwan internships. I noted the details like the documents that were to be submitted, cover letter, etc. They had also asked what kind of research I aimed to do. This was an important aspect. I submitted all the necessary documents by the deadline.
The notice for this programme comes around November-December as an advertisement letter on their website. So one must look out for that.
When the COVID thing happened, I had planned that if this internship is cancelled, then once the COVID break ends in a few weeks, I’ll return and do an internship at Ispat General Hospital, Rourkela. Of course, I had no idea that this COVID lockdown would extend so long.
MM: And then you got the opportunity of interning at CSIR. Share with us the application process, work you did there and your overall experience?
SP: Once the lockdown began, many were worried about their internships. Some even lost their internships. For a research internship, an online internship is not a very good option as one does not have access to labs. In internships, you get experience about how the work environment functions. There was a government notice about CSIR, about which I was notified by Smruti too. It was a very anxious moment as lakhs of students had applied for it. I was not very hopeful about bagging this. I got a notification that I had been selected to my fortune, and a mentor has been assigned to me. The BioMedical branch has various sectors like BioMechanics, sports mechanics, BioInformatics, drugs-related sectors, etc. Initially, I was confused about which sector I should go for. In the CSIR internship, I got some friends from Bio-Tech and Pharmacology in my team, who introduced me to Computational Drug Discovery.
As it was COVID lockdown, we chose a research topic to find a good drug that could inhibit the action of COVID. Our task was to find some natural molecules available in plants, and we had to test if they can inhibit coronavirus proteins. We collected various molecules- about 400-500 of them. Then we used to check if the molecule is good enough to act against COVID. We found about 60-70 such molecules. We made a report and submitted it. We have also applied to publish that report as a paper. It is in the process now. This was about two-three months of internship. After this internship, I am really into the field of drug discovery.
MM: You are right now working with Siemens Healthineers part-time. Please enlighten us about your work and experience there.
SP: I also came to know about this program from Smruti. She has been the one who tells me about the opportunities I have come across in my four years at NIT Rourkela.
Smruti Sudha Biswal elaborated on the same and said,
There was this person from VIT who I got in touch with through a senior. Towards the end of July, he contacted me about the write-up they were giving for the Siemens workshop and told me he would need my help. At that time, I was already occupied with other internships. So I gave them the gist of the idea and was not much involved thereafter. To my surprise, I received an email saying that despite the fact that I had applied as a team, I was selected as an individual for the workshop. I was in a team with two people from IIIT Naya Raipur who were absent since the first day of the workshop. So the person in charge called me and asked if I wanted to recommend two people as a replacement. So I gave Debabrata Panigrahi’s and Sanatan’s names. They sent their CVs and then attended the workshop.
SP: After I was in the team, there were 11 days of the workshop, and we had to make some prototypes related to Multi-model imaging. We also had to find out the market scenario of imaging parts in India. Debabrata helped to make a good prototype. The process is going on with the prototype in the development phase. There are meetings every week with Siemens officials where we have to give them updates about the work.
MM: What has been the role of your professors and especially your friends in this?
SP: My interaction with professors has been more in the field of projects that I am going on campus. I am currently doing a project under Prof. Sirsendu Sekhar Ray about amino acid circuits. It is related to bio-electronics. I am also doing the final year project under the able guidance of Prof Sivaraman. Pritish (Pritish Kumar Kar), Rajat (Rajat Panda), and Siba (Siba Prasad) have always been there with me throughout college life to handle the various pressures and frustrations. As you would have noticed, Smruti has helped me to identify opportunities I could apply for and bag those opportunities.
A MENTOR FOR THE JUNIORS
Debabrata Panigrahi, 3rd year, Biomedical Engineering shares:
I had a low CGPA, and multiple debars in my first year. I was thinking about leaving NIT and start preparing for NEET. Sanatan said one thing that changed my perspective. ‘Whenever you take a risk, take a comfortable risk.’ So Sanatan has a hand in shaping my career as it is today. Till today for us, Sanatan is the one we contact for any advice.
Pritesh Kumar Patro, 3rd year, Chemical Engineering shares:
I have seen him struggling many times, but one thing anyone can learn from him is optimism and problem-solving skills.
THE UNEXPLORED PERSONA
MM: Share some of your best and worst memories at NIT Rourkela. How has every challenge and success helped to shape you both professionally and personally?
SP: I imbibe many good experiences as memories to rank them as best or worst. Nonetheless, one of my best memories in recent times was the successful execution of Cosmopolitan 2020. Those late nights Bonfire “khatti” along with my comrades was one of the best memories before everything went online. And about the worst memories, one of them would be the cancellation of the NU’18 celebrity night. It was one of my lowest points as a lot of mishaps happened, but as life goes on, it was just a bad phase along the journey. The Journey of four years has made me the capable and better person I am today and has also made me capable of my professional achievements.
MM: What’s always been your Success Mantra?
SP: The only Success Mantra I have followed throughout my life is “Never have a Plan B in your mind”. I always took a decision, made a single plan and stuck to it till the end, considering there’s no going back. Taking calculated risks and sticking to the decision has always helped me achieve the things I’ve planned for.
MM: What are your future aspirations?
SP: Considering the near future, I plan to go for research-based operations in the core. Nonetheless, I haven’t missed any of the placement scenarios on the other side. I plan to stick to the core and work on the Biomedical research fields or Biomedical engineering in a hospital. Being a fresher, getting through off-campus placements is tough considering the number of on-campus core companies that have visited the campus. So I am still in the process and looking forward to the R & D department in a biomedical based company.
MM: Your final message to your fellow NITR mates.
The first advice would definitely be to live your college life to the fullest as these four years will not return in your life. And second, would be don’t confine yourself to your own Bubble. Explore the college, talk to people, go for adventures, be in touch with professors and make sure you make full use of every facility the college provides you. In the end, live your life to the fullest and don’t get into depression or indulge in narcotics.
On a concluding note, Pritish Kumar Kar shares:
One thing we all learnt and anyone should learn from Sanatan is never get depressed over any failure. Get up and keep moving forward towards your goal. Additionally, apart from his close friends, he always kept a tit for tat personality for the others, which helped him become the best leader carrying the whole crew.
Team MM wishes him the best for his future and believes that he will achieve all that he aims to, and keep growing!