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Monday Morning Article Cover for: Exploring Mars Along The Road Less Taken: Bijay Kumar Guha



|Earth and Atmospheric


|Higher Eduction

Exploring Mars Along The Road Less Taken: Bijay Kumar Guha

Jul 30, 2021|4 minutes

Abhishek Pattnaik

Shreya Khetan

Utsav Shrestha

Success and hard work have always been complementary to each other. Although luck acts as an added boost, it ultimately wires down to the number of hours one puts behind their work. Academic research is one such field where the difference is quite subtle but visible.

One such individual who proved that hard work always yields results is Mr Bijay Kumar Guha, who is pursuing his PhD from NIT Rourkela in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences under the guidance of Prof. Jagabandhu Panda. He was recently selected for the ‘Young Scientist Award’ by the URSI-GASS 2021 panel.

What is URSI?

URSI (International Union of Radio Science) is the pertinent organisation under the International Council of Science, involved in the science of radio waves. Its mission is to stimulate and coordinate studies, research, applications, scientific exchange, and communication internationally in areas related to radio science.

The URSI- GASS Young Scientist Award is an eminent award with a long-standing history presented to a selected number of young researchers who have made innovative contributions and discoveries in multidisciplinary research related to electromagnetic fields and waves.


To be eligible for the award, the applicant:

  1. Must be less than 35 years old on September 1, 2021
  2. Should have a paper, of which they are the principal author, submitted and accepted for oral or poster presentation at a regular session of the General Assembly and Scientific Symposium(GASS).

The author must also submit their Curriculum Vitae along with the research paper. Finally, the Young Scientist awardees are shortlisted based on the quality of the research paper they presented and their overall achievement and contribution in this relevant field.


Team Monday Morning recently had an opportunity to interact with Mr Bijay Kumar Guha to know more of his journey and tips for future researchers. Read on to find out more!

Monday Morning(MM): What was your reaction when you got to know that you have been accepted?

Mr Bijay Kumar Guha (BG): Initially, I was amazed as I had not expected this to happen so soon. I hoped to get this award someday but winning it before completing my PhD was a pleasant surprise. It motivates me to research the Mars atmosphere further as there are not many teams in India working on it currently.

MM: Can you describe your research topic, "MRO-MCS observed warming during the Martian global dust storm 2018," for our readers briefly?

**BG:**MRO (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) is a spacecraft launched by NASA in 2005 that provides observations for studying Mars' atmosphere and geology. MCS (Mars Climate Sounder) onboard MRO is a satellite-based radiometer, which is capable of simultaneous observations of dust, water ice (in terms of optical depth), and temperature. It has been providing global dust, water ice and temperature measurements since October 2006. My research is predominantly based on the impact of dust storms on polar clouds and polar warming. I get information about dust storms from dust observations. Its effect on polar warming is based on the temperature data collected from the MCS instrument. Its impact on polar clouds is based on the data from water ice observations from MCS. These three were the basic parameters that I used for the MRO- MCS observations.

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MM: What are your expectations from this program, and how do you think it opens up opportunities for you in the future?

BG: It is a great and prestigious platform. Being an old award, many renowned scientists will be present at the conference. So, I will have many opportunities to interact with scientists from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), ESA (European Space Agency), and senior scientists from ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation). Thus, it will be an excellent opportunity for me to present my work, ultimately leading me to possible future collaborations in this direction.

We (me and my supervisor Prof. Jagabandhu Panda) have already collaborated with some ISRO research laboratories like IIRS Dehradun and SAC Ahmedabad, and scientists from the USA, France, China as well, for observational and numerical model based works related to Mars atmosphere. So presenting this research will boost similar collaboration opportunities for us in the near future.

MM: Can you shed some light on the significant research and projects that helped you in this journey?

BG: I worked as a Junior Research Fellow/ Senior Research Fellow in the ISRO funded MOM-AO (Mars Orbiter Mission -Announcement Opportunity) project (PI: Prof. Jagabandhu Panda) in this institution during 2016-19, which is the primary source of encouragement for carrying out research in this field. I did my M. Tech on Microwave and Space Science from the University of Calcutta. I had already worked on 2-3 ISRO and Department of Science and Technology (DST), India sponsored projects, mainly about the impact of weather on the signal of communication satellites. We had 2-3 publications during this period which motivated me to delve deeper into this direction. I also worked in the field of the stratosphere-troposphere exchange process, which is a dynamic phenomenon and has major impacts on the Earth' atmosphere. So, these projects I worked on during my M. Tech and post-graduate helped me in improving my scientific and technical knowledge in this field.

In this field, I am working on; there is an actual need for people who have technological skills as well as the scientific capability to pursue science through technology. In the field of planetary science, technology and science work hand in hand. So, we need to be capable on both fronts.

Since I had an engineering background, I was attracted to this opportunity to do my PhD on this topic at the National Institute of Technology, Rourkela. Thus, I chose to join Prof. Jagabandhu Panda here.

MM: Enlighten us about the PhD you are undertaking at the National Institute of Technology, Rourkela? When did it start, and what is your field of research?

BG: My doctoral research is primarily based on the research data obtained by the MCC (Mars Color Camera) instrument onboard Mars Orbiter Mission launched by ISRO in 2013 and analysing it along with some instrument data taken from NASA and ESA. My PhD thesis revolves around the observation of similar satellites and other numerical model simulations.

We have also collaborated with several ISRO scientists to formulate research papers published in various journals, four of which are already published while three are under review.

It also involves researching two significant atmospheric phenomena in Mars- dust storms and water ice clouds and how they affect the Martian atmosphere.

MM: What are your opinions on the research environment and technologies of NIT Rourkela? Can you draw a comparison with other research groups in your field?

BG: Actually, I am not very aware of how technical things are going on in our institute as I am from a science stream entirely. Keeping the NIRF ranking in mind, I think NIT Rourkela's performance is good. It is still doing better in technology-related research compared to science-based research, I guess. So we need to cope up with the scientific research going on in the institute, and we are working on it.

Since I started my research in 2016, I haven't seen any publications in peer-reviewed journals. Before that, they had published but even then, the frequency wasn't constant. So in this aspect of Mars atmosphere research, we are definitely in a better place compared to them. Even though we are in a good position, there's always room for growth and improvement.

I started my research in 2016, since then I haven't seen a good number of publications in this area from other Indian institutes. There might be some publications before that but the numbers are not remarkable. So, in this aspect, we are definitely in a better place. But, there is research going on at several places, and we can't compare the outcome entirely based on the number of publications. Many teams are possibly working on developing instruments, which from the design phase to the publication phase takes a lot of time. So, in a short duration of time, we can't judge, as we need to look at the bigger long term goals. However, if we consider the research output in terms of publications on this topic during the last 3-4 years, we are definitely in a better position compared to other Indian institutes.

MM: What were the challenges you faced during the research, and how did you overcome them?

BG: There were many challenges. First of all, I would like to emphasise these points because interplanetary missions are new in India. When the first Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) was carried out during 2013-14, their primary aim was to demonstrate the capabilities of ISRO. So their mission was a technology demonstration message in a way. It has elementary sensors embedded into the satellite. So, the data available is quite rudimentary. So this was my first roadblock because most of my PhD project work is based on satellite data from the Indian mission.

I have talked to several ISRO scientists in this regard, and they have assured me that there are already many missions in the planning phase that will be soon carried out down the line, in this decade, after the Chandrayaan and Shukrayaan mission. There will be advanced instruments similar to those used by NASA and ESA, which will be essential for future studies and which will also be helpful for Indian researchers who would like to carry out planetary research based on the Indian satellite mission data.

The second roadblock is, there are not many robot or land rover missions over Mars. So, there is a scarcity of data in the lower part of the atmosphere as there are no in-situ observations available. Thus, I have mainly relied on satellite data which is sometimes erroneous. In our field, we constantly need to validate our results with ground-based observations but, due to the lack of ground-based in-situ observations over Mars, it is not possible in many instances. India is relatively new in doing Mars related research. So convincing the International scientific communities was a challenging task for us.

The situation is different from where we started because we have already made some contributions and published a few publications. Presently the scientists or faculties outside India already know that we are doing this work. So, it has become more accessible.

Although we have faced many challenges in terms of data retrieval and publication, these challenges only make the achievements sweeter.

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MM: Now that you have received this award and established yourself as a young scientist, what do you aim to achieve next in research or any other field?

BG: I would like to carry out my post-doctoral research where I mainly want to carry out my research with a team who shall be directly involved with the design of satellite instruments. If I ever got an opportunity like this, I will be able to thoroughly understand the core process of data retrieval or instrument designing. Also, this way, I can contribute my scientific knowledge in the same direction, which will be helpful for the exploration in this field.

Thus, in the future, I mainly want to work with a team that will self-design (or has direct/ indirect involvement) the instruments for Mars. I would like to work in an environment, where technology and science work hand in hand.

MM: Would you like to deliver any message to the readers?


There will be a lot of challenges when you start anything new. As mentioned on the NIT Rourkela portal, I will be the first PhD candidate from the MHRD approved institute who has done his PhD work on Mars atmosphere.

I initially faced many challenges, but it gives me a unique identity for researching this particular field. So, I would like to suggest that whenever you decide to carry out research, choose a currently emerging domain with many things to explore and is equipped with many challenges. You will face some difficulties initially, but you will get success later. And this success will be more appreciated because everyone will know that even though this field is new, you have achieved something. So, I will suggest everyone pursue the kind of interdisciplinary research where there are many opportunities to grow, and there is a lot of exploring.

Team Monday Morning congratulates Mr Bijay Kumar Guha for his success so far and wishes him luck in his future endeavours to achieve even more.

Designs by – Cyrus Roy

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Tags :
Mars Orbital Mission
Young Scientist Award

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