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Robotics professional can work in other areas

Born in India, educated in Japan and now a scientist in Scotland, Prof Sethu Vijayakumar from the University of Edinburgh speaks about the 428-year-old university, its robotics department and impending tie-ups in India

education Updated: Mar 30, 2011 09:46 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

What’s the career scope of robotic science in India and abroad?
This is a science which brings together the expertise from different disciplines such as electronics, hardware design, algorithms and computer science along with other areas. A lot of our students have been recruited in IT (information technology) companies such as Google and Microsoft.

In India, robotics science is in very early stages. We have, however, seen changes happening and universities have started offering programmes in robotic science.

As robotics science integrates varied engineering sciences, we suppose, a professional must understand the basic dynamics before taking up the study of robotic science. At which level should the subject be studied - undergraduate or postgraduate?
I think one must study robotics at the postgraduate or doctoral level when the engineer already has a sound grounding of engineering.

At the University of Edinburgh also, we offer this programme at the master level and is known as Master in informatics (with specialisation in intelligence robotics). At the undergraduate level, we run Bachelor of artificial intelligence which gears towards research or job in robotics.

How much emphasis is given on research at the University of Edinburgh?
We give a lot of emphasis on research which is normally driven towards solutions to industry

Though we carry out basic science research also but the underlying application in the industry must be kept in mind at the same time.

Just because we are a top university doesn’t mean that we would get research funding for any project (feasible or non feasible). We have to identify critical areas which are of some benefit to the society such as climate change.

Does the university plan to open a campus in India?
We don’t have such expansion plan. Our chancellor believes that the ambience is hard to replicate and we want to maintain the quality.

The only expansion we are looking forward to is the institutional collaborations with the universities and research centres in India such as IIT (Indian

Institute of Technology) Bombay, IISc (Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore), TIFR (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research- Mumbai) for science subjects and JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University-Delhi) for social sciences.

These tie ups will essentially look at two things. One would be exchange of faculty for the research projects and the other one would entail exchanges between PhD students where they spend two years in UK and the remaining two years in India to earn the dual degrees from both the institutions.

Edinburgh is in Scotland whereas all top universities including Oxford and Cambridge are in England. Is there any striking difference between the universities of two countries?
There is no (radical) difference at all. The only difference is that the graduation is for three years in England while in Scotland, it is spread between four years.

The university is very old (established in 1583) and UNESCO has declared this as a world heritage site.

Recently the University of Edinburgh has opened an office in India (Mumbai). What purpose will be met by this office?
The liaison office will reach out to Indian universities and industries for collaborations. It will happen the other way round also. If a company wants to get in touch with the university, it would be facilitated.