More than 300 students and faculty members showcased their technical know-how and craftsmanship at the Innovation Exhibition organised by IIT Delhi. The institute's director, RK Shevgaonkar, spoke about the exhibition and research opportunities for students in India:
How is such an exhibition relevant to those outside the precincts of this institute?
This kind of an exhibition is proof of the extensive research done by students and faculty members at IIT. There are lots of science students and aspiring engineers who would be interested. The second aim is to invite young people to try their hand at research and development in India.
There is a growing belief among students that research opportunities are limited in India, which makes the West seem more lucrative. How is that ever likely to change?
That’s not true. This mindset is now changing. Earlier, in a class of 50, almost 20 students would come to us for recommendations because they were applying abroad. That number has now come down to five. India is one of the best places to carry out research work because a PhD student is given infinite opportunities to explore his field of study.
Do you think that more funds need to be pumped by the government into research in Indian universities?
Money is definitely required. But the Ministry of Human Resource Development gives funding for the basic infrastructure. The funding for research is usually provided by other agencies, such as the Department of Biotechnology and the Department of Space or Department of Atomic Energy. Students should actually take a look at the CSIR or DRDO labs to get a fair idea of the extent of research that can be undertaken in India.
So what role are the IITs playing to encourage students to take up research?
From the next academic year, we will double the intake of students in PhD courses. Currently, about 200 PhD scholars graduate every year. We are going to increase that number to 400 from next year and we hope to increase it further to 1,000.
There were complaints that there was a massive shortfall of teaching staff. How prudent is it to invite more PhD scholars when you don't have the required number of teachers?
That complaint has come from undergraduate students. Originally, the teacher-student ratio was 1:10. Now, because of the OBC expansion, the number of students has significantly increased. We are trying to fill that gap and are going to go to the US soon to recruit some faculty members.