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We should have a strong focus on clinical research, says IISc director Govindan Rangarajan

As the premier institute is ranked 155th in the QS World University Rankings, Rangarajan talks about its achievements and plans, including for establishing a postgraduate medical school and an 832-bed hospital on its Bengaluru campus.

IISc director Govindan Rangarajan. (Express photo)

The QS World University 2023 Rankings, which were released Thursday, saw the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru rising 31 places in a year, finding itself at the 155th rank and becoming the highest placed Indian institute–pushing IIT-Bombay to the second position and IIT-Delhi to the third.

The parameters based on which institutions are ranked are academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty-student ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio and international students ratio. The IISc topped the citation per faculty parameter by scoring 100/100.

In an interview with indianexpress.com, IISc director Govindan Rangarajan speaks about the institution securing the 155th rank, the large-scale innovative research projects that have been launched and the impact of Covid-19 on research. Rangarajan also stressed the need for a strong focus on clinical research for social good and talked about the plans to establish a postgraduate medical school and an 832-bed not-for-profit hospital on the Bengaluru campus.

Your thoughts on IISc securing the 155th rank in the QS World University Rankings and how will this ranking help the institute?

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We are extremely delighted at being recognised as India’s top university and receiving the highest score in the world in the citations per faculty metric of the recently announced QS World University Rankings. Such recognition is the result of the hard work, dedication and commitment to high-quality basic and applied research of our faculty members and students. On the research front, we will continue building our core research strengths in all frontiers of science and engineering, fostering interdisciplinary research that cuts across boundaries and encouraging the incubation of deep technology startups. Several large-scale and futuristic initiatives have been launched, including a quantum technologies initiative, a 5G test bed and a joint technology programme with the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

The IISc over the years has worked closely with the Karnataka government and the Union government on several projects. How is it like working when the trust reposed on the institute is great?

We are privileged to receive generous support from the Ministry of Education under its institute of eminence programme, the Karnataka government, various government agencies, alumni, corporates and philanthropists. It is thanks to their encouragement and contributions that we have been able to push our boundaries and pursue cutting-edge research on par with universities from around the world.

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What is your vision for the institute and which are the major areas that require attention?

Given the ongoing pandemic, we have realised that we should have a strong focus on clinical research for social good, particularly for the “next six billion” people in India and other developing regions. Cutting-edge clinical research requires the confluence of science, engineering, and medicine. Since the IISc has a century-old tradition of excellence in science and engineering, the addition of a medical school would lead to deep science and technology-based discoveries, inventions, and innovations leading to affordable healthcare for all. With this goal in mind, we plan to establish a one-of-a-kind postgraduate medical school and an 832-bed not-for-profit hospital, named the Bagchi-Parthasarathy Hospital on our Bengaluru campus.

In what way has Covid affected research projects at the institute and has the situation improved?

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Although the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted our activities over the past few years, we are now redoubling our efforts. During the pandemic, many of our researchers also worked hard on diverse solutions such as ventilators, oxygen generators, contact-tracing apps, and a heat-tolerant vaccine.

What more can IISc do to attract the best of researchers from across the world?

We are consistently making efforts to attract and retain highly qualified researchers, by providing generous startup grants to young faculty members, implementing rigorous tenure-track evaluations, improving administrative support for faculty members and students, increasing outreach, and emphasising inclusivity in hiring. We will also continue to pursue socially impactful research and outreach, such as training schoolteachers, disseminating sustainable rural technologies and research in areas like climate change, healthcare, water management and renewable energy. Starting in August this year, we are also planning to offer a new kind of interdisciplinary BTech degree in mathematics and computing. We have also introduced interdisciplinary PhD programmes in energy, biosystems science and engineering, and cyber-physical systems; new MTech programmes in quantum technology and autonomous systems, in line with the National Education Policy 2020.

First published on: 09-06-2022 at 23:10 IST
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