For Patriotic physicist Saumen Datta, returning to India to work at Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) is a blast from the past: he obtained his Ph.D from TIFR in 1999.
The 37-year-old who worked at the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Physics Department in Upton, New York, longed for a homecoming.
An “ideal” offer from his alma matar, followed by the Ramanujan fellowship — which allayed his fears about funds for travel and for collaboration purposes — had Datta homeward bound.
TIFR’s “very good work atmosphere” is now the fertile ground for Datta’s research in the field of strong interactions.
“As a theoretical physicist, I need powerful computers. Though the computing power available in TIFR is much lesser than Brookhaven's, it’s still pretty good. We are expecting a large scale upgrade soon,” he says.
It was India calling too for University of Maryland scientist S.B. Ogale. A Ph.D from the university of Pune in 1980, he returned to the city in 2006 to work at National Chemical Laboratory (NCL).
The first NRI returnee on the Ramanujan fellowship, national pride fuels his work on nanoscience and advanced materials. “NCL’s multidisciplinary work environment is one of the best I have ever seen,” he maintains.
The results: his scientific collaborations have already led to 12 research papers in peer-reviewed international journals.
Moving back with his family
wasn’t without hiccups for Warangal-born Shasi Vardhan Kalivendi, who joined the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad, from the Medical College of Wisonsin.
“We regret moving back whenever we take our three-year-old daughter to the hospital. Even several multi-specialty hospitals are unhygienic, chaotic and don’t attend to the patient properl,” Kalivendi said.
But the fact that he can do his research — on the mechanisms mediating neurodegeneration and cancer — and still get “a reasonable salary”, makes the return worthwhile.
“I am surprised to see that the facilities for scientists in many institutes and universities here are at par with what you see abroad,” he says.
But if that is so, why are such few NRI scientists heading home? “Scientists abroad may have to weigh many things including career options, family responsibilities etc before making up their mind to return,” offers Ogale.
Datta says: “I don't know if the Ramanujan fellowship is enough to lure people back. It will also help to project the work atmosphere, which is excellent in many places here.”
“Thanks to ample job opportunities and a decent salary structure, India is known internationally as a software hub. Let’s do the same for science,” Kalivendi said.