At 19, Sakshi Jain can boast of an achievement that most of her undergraduate batch mates cannot.
Her first international paper in physics – Secure Quantum Concentration – was published in Euro Physics Letters this October. “At my age, no one has published a research paper. It’s a big deal as I have contributed to science,” said third-year engineering student at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.
Jain’s work is among the 40 research papers by undergraduate students published in highly acclaimed international and national journals in the last five years.
The research papers are a result of the mentorship programme, National Initiative on Undergraduate Science (NIUS), launched by the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education in 2004 with 400 students across India.
With university education in India not integrated with research, undergraduate students have no opportunity to work on original problems. Even summer projects in premier institutes like IITs involve students helping professors in their research. So, getting work published in peer reviewed international science publications is a way to attract students to pure science research.
“It is rare in India, not so in the US or Europe,” said Professor Manoranjan Singh, Laser Physics Applications Division, Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology, Indore. Singh who mentors students under NIUS added, “Undergraduate students trying to publish in international journals get to familiarise themselves with the state-of-art affairs in science and learn what scientific research is all about.”
Papers have been published in international journals like the American Physical Society, American Chemical Society, Applied Physics Letters, Solid State Communications as well as Indian publications like Resonance and Pramana Journal of Physics.
“We wanted to nurture talented college students pursuing basic science courses as well as Olympiad students in the IITs,” said Professor Vijay Singh, NIUS convener.
For Vinay Uppal (20) publishing a paper titled ‘exploring black holes physics using dimensional analysis’ in Resonance – in the Indian Academy of Sciences – was a stepping-stone. “I got an actual taste of research,” said Uppal, fourth year IITB student.
“Undergraduate students can attempt new problems with a fresh perspective,” said Professor Prasanta Panigrahi from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata.