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They quit jobs abroad to return to teach at IIT

30 of the 45-member faculty at IIT-Ropar are 30-somethings with foreign degrees....

Written by Dinker Vashisht | Ropar |
June 6, 2010 2:58:07 am

* Himanshu Tyagi,32,an IIT-Delhi graduate who earlier worked for Intel in the US,is an assistant professor at IIT-Ropar.

* Ashish Ahuja,31,also from IIT-Delhi,who was earlier working in Paris,is a visiting faculty at IIT-Ropar.

* Sanjiv Gupta,35,a Yale University alumnus,teaches Mathematics at IIT-Ropar.

These are just a few of the many young professionals who have quit successful corporate jobs and research careers abroad to return to India and teach at the Indian Institute of Technology-Ropar,the first of the eight new IITs to start classes on its own campus.

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“We have a faculty strength of 45. Of these,over 30 are in their early and mid-thirties who did their masters from abroad and were pursuing their careers in foreign countries. In fact,every single faculty member in our computer engineering department has a PhD from a foreign university,” says Professor M K Surappa,director of IIT-Ropar.

The trend has been noticed in IIT-Mandi too,which will be starting classes in its campus from this session. While its direcor,Professor Timothy Gonsalves,is busy conducting interviews for faculty recruitment,the institute’s Registrar,A K Srivastava,says: “Majority of the applicants are in their early thirties who are working in well-known firms.”

Many feel that the new improved teaching pool will allay fears that the increase in the number of IITs would affect the quality. Besides Ropar and Mandi,the other new IITs are at Gandhinagar,Jodhpur,Patna,Bhubaneshwar,Hyderabad and Indore.

“The new IITs may end up doing better than the existing ones simply because the young talent and opportunities available now weren’t there in the 1960s,” says Dr Prem Kalra,director of IIT-Jodhpur.

The sentiment is echoed by Ashish Ahuja,a visiting scientist at the Department of Computer Science in IIT-Ropar. “Intellectually,this is one of the most stimulating environments I have ever come across in my career. It is heartening to see the new IITs come up,” he says.

Ahuja,31,who studied computer engineering from IIT-Delhi,took up a job in Paris before pursuing his MS from the University of Texas. 

Another IIT-Delhi graduate,Himanshu Tyagi,32,is now an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at IIT-Ropar. Tyagi worked for Siemens in Germany and Intel in the US before pursuing his PhD from Arizona.

“There are many things I can do here. It is a thrill to see the institute grow from its incipient stage. There is no dearth of facilities. I can work independently. Shortly after joining I was given the seed money to pursue research. I also head the sports department in this campus. For someone with a passion for sports,this is the best possible recreation. All these responsibilities wouldn’t have come my way if I was teaching at an already well-established institution,” says Tyagi. His wife,a software engineer in Bangalore,is now planning to join him soon.

It is not just a longing to return to India that is behind these decisions. Sanjiv Gupta,35,who graduated from Yale University before working as a research sceintist at Los Alamos Laboratory,says the offer to teach Mathematics at IIT-Ropar was exciting because it gave him an opportunity to set up a high-performance computer laboratory,which,when completed,“would be something like the CERN lab in Europe and would be a part of India-based Neutrino Observatory.”

Another example is Ravi Kanth Devarapalli,30,who,after pursuing his doctorate from the University of New Mexico,chose to return to India to teach Electromagnetics at IIT-Ropar primarily because it gave him an opportunity to pursue teaching and research. “I have been associated with the project of setting up an advanced computer laboratory here and it is very exciting,” he says.

“They work with us for monthly salaries of around Rs 60,000. They were making much more in their earlier careers. Even if they wanted to pursue teaching in India,they would have got far better remuneration in the private colleges here. But they choose to come to IIT,because of the assurance of standards,” says Professor B D Gupta,formerly head of department of Chemistry at IIT-Kanpur who is now teaching at IIT-Ropar.

Others say the infusion of young talent with international perspectives could provide the push that the IITs need to pursue further innovation. “Young talent and opportunities allow us to explore new areas. For example,at Jodhpur we teach mechanical,electrical and computers but we are now working in the field of solar energy since geographically,Jodhpur is ideally suited for this,” says Kalra. 

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