Sunday, October 4, 2009

UG program in IISc

At last, it is through. IISc will offer an UG program that will combine science and engineering but will primarily involve science. As one of the authors of the document that was discussed, I am happy that the council of IISc cleared the program. Though the structure of the program has not been approved and will be discussed extensively in the next few months, here is a brief structure of what the program envisages. The program is of four year duration and will be housed in the current IISc campus.

The need of it arose because a good science program that includes engineering and biology components. No institution in India including IITs/IISERs offers such a program. While engineering students have exposure to science in their first year of engineering degree, the students pursuing a science degree have limited exposure to engineering. This program will provide a unique mix of science and engineering thus enabling the integration of these subjects either in research or industry. The frontiers of research are essentially interdisciplinary. The changing environment of industry also requires that a mix of science and engineering. The UG program will be started in many streams e.g. Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and a few interdisciplinary engineering streams but NOT in conventional branches like electrical, civil, electronics etc. Students will have the flexibility to choose the majors and minors after three semesters.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Prof. Giridhar,

Can you please suggest what are those "interdisciplinary engineering" streams?

Thanks

T

Varun said...

I am sorry but I donot know why IISC does not have undergraduate programs.
I always think that in order to become a great researcher one should be a great teacher first.
If you cannot explain the concept to a class of young, bright 40 people than I am sure that the material is not clear to you.

Anonymous said...

Will there be separate entrance test for this program or JEE?

Anonymous said...

Varun,

Can you define the term 'teacher'? Is it mandatory for a 'researcher' to offer a course to be a 'teacher'. If the teaching has to be always in a classroom? Then a thesis supervisor is NEVER a teacher to his research student as during the research course he is never offering any formal course to his/her own research student. Also evaluation/grading etc is a mandatory part of teaching where an instructor has to spent a lot of time and mainly because of this several faculties do not wish to teach.
It is also a foolish statement often used "If you cannot explain the concept to a class of young, bright 40 people than I am sure that the material is not clear to you." There are many fields, where it is difficult for an expert of that field to explain what exactly he is doing to an expert of another field.
Being located in a democratic country it is rather a shameful day for the institute that the decision of starting UG program was taken non-democratically. What the outsiders do not know, even the newspapers didn't cover, that total engg faculties are against it and several science faculties are worried if they can handle this new program. It is again some handful of 'senior' professors took the decision like dictators without any open 'voting'.

When we cannot convert even 50% of our master student to PhD how we can dream that the UG students will join PhDs.

Anonymous said...

"'? Is it mandatory for a 'researcher' to offer a course to be a 'teacher'. "
>>> Yes, I think so. In India we donot emphasize a lot on presentation skills. If you cannot make yourself clear to your students, you cannot make your point clear in front of a large gathering of people from different disciplines.
"Also evaluation/grading etc is a mandatory part of teaching where an instructor has to spent a lot of time and mainly because of this several faculties do not wish to teach."
>>> In US the grading is done solely by TA's. Professors donot spend time on this.
"It is also a foolish statement often used "If you cannot explain the concept to a class of young, bright 40 people than I am sure that the material is not clear to you." There are many fields, where it is difficult for an expert of that field to explain what exactly he is doing to an expert of another field."
>>> You are living in self denial. UG teaching comprises of topics which should be clear to the faculty members. If they are not, then they cannot use the excuse that it is too difficult for them.
"When we cannot convert even 50% of our master student to PhD how we can dream that the UG students will join PhDs."
>>> This is a very serious problem.

Anonymous said...

The program should be of 3 years duration.

Anonymous said...

From what I have understood, this will be mostly a science degree with some engg. courses thrown in. And they wont be the usual engg. fields either.

I doubt the plan that has been accepted involves the traditional engg. departments.

Anon@October 5, 2009 7:55 AM: Do you really think that we should be in a situation where 50% of masters students convert to phd. Do you have any idea how many that would make ? Are there are enough profs available for this ? Enough jobs for these phds after they go out ?

Ashwin Rao said...

This is excellent. An even better news would be an opening of another branch of IISc (and managed by IISc Bangalore) in another corner of India.

Anonymous said...

Prof. Giri,

Few months ago, one news came that there would be a campus at Chitradurga. What happened to that plan?

http://www.thehindu.com/2009/02/21/stories/2009022158460700.htm

Anonymous said...

Full link to my previous comment.

http://www.thehindu.com/edu/2009/07/27/stories/2009072750840100.htm

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the UG program would destroy IISc, eventually. IISc's academic architecture is unique: a national lab with tertiary degree granting school. The very mandate with which IISc was created has been diluted in recent years. This mandate was to deliver tangible leadership level scientific work in both basic and applied fields. The original and sustained mandate through the last century has been to deliver deep and innovative work in two spatio-temporal scales: (a) in the Indian context, especially and (b) in the absolute global context of where science of the day stands. The above two spatial contexts have two temporal components: 1) innovative application for immediate/mid-term benefit 2) in the long term or time independent scale.
In the recent years IISc has diluted the above mandate by starting to appreciate measures of mediocre and then institutionalizing mediocrity as way of scientific life. Now, the s
spatio-temporal mandate obviously calls for sustained work - simultaneously smart and hard -
that leads to "excellence" and "leadership" naturally and not by putting a label or by an announcement to the Press. When such kind of work is done one has to allow for and even appreciate honest failure and bibliometrics cannot do this.
As IISc has diluted its mandate, the institution has become de-focussed and in a way has lost its identity. Today's IISc is more full of science politicians and science bureaucrats grooming minnows rather than young scientists. Trickery and deceit under every possible number game, ill-spent tax-payers' money as grant or bibliometric indices, are the ways to success, a sharp departure from the philosophy of one of IISc's inspirational figures, Swami Vivekananda.
To get back to the point, IISc now needs to deflect public attention from the rot and mess it really is - best way is to do something that'd make people a little bit puzzled: start a UG program on a campus that already cannot properly accommodate the doctoral students. A viral infection or a tumor is never cured by putting on a curious looking dress or by acting weird.

Chak said...

IISc has offered an undergraduate program since the 1940’s when it was called DIISc. The program was renamed BE in the 1960’s and continued until 1990. It is interesting to note that the world ranking of IISc was higher in the 70’s and 80’s – a period when the UG program existed! With reduced teaching load, shouldn’t the ranking (which is largely determined by research publications) have gone up since then?

As to the question, “Should researchers teach?”, there will always be proponents and detractors. Here is a related excerpt from "'Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman!' Adventures of a Curious Character" by Richard Feynman.

“…… In any thinking process there are moments when everything is going good and you've got wonderful ideas. Teaching is an interruption, and so it's the greatest pain in the neck in the world. And then there is the longer period of time when not much is coming to you. You're not getting any ideas, and if you're doing nothing at all, it drives you nuts! You can't even say "I'm teaching my class."
If you're teaching a class, you can think about the elementary things that you know very well. These things are kind of fun and delightful. It doesn't do any harm to think them over again. Is there a better way to present them? The elementary things are easy to think about; if you can't think of a new thought, no harm done; what you thought about it before is good enough for the class. If you do think of something new, you're rather pleased that you have a new way of looking at it.

The questions of the students are often the source of new research. They often ask profound questions that I've thought about at times and then given up on, so to speak, for a while. It wouldn't do me any harm to think about them again and see if I can go any further now. The students may not be able to see the thing I want to answer, or the subtleties I want to think about, but they remind me of a problem by asking questions in the neighbourhood of that problem. It's not so easy to remind yourself of these things…..”

Prahlad D N said...

I am only an undergraduate from IISc, (not masters, not Ph.D). Thus, at an emotional level I probably empathise with an untouchable when that is being discussed. Let me allow my non-emotional faculties to take over.

Young, bright people are the lifeblood of any university. IISc in a young person's words was described as "Does not even look like a university", young person being my son. Thus, young people are required at IISc. That is unless IISc says that it is not one but a club for academics. Whatever happened to our founder's vision and charter???

I am yet to hear of a successful university that does not have a vibrant undergraduate program that inspires people to study further. Best universities in the world, i.e. those that produce high quality research have a 1:1 correlation with strong undergradutae schools. Dismissing this as co-incidence is like saying financial crisis never happened.


Personal experience in my young and humble teaching career conclusively has proved that
"If you cannot explain the concept to a class of young....", then chances are very high that you do not know what you are talking about. Furthermore, my own experience is that when I read things in students' eyes, new questions open up. This has lead to considerable research ideas for me.

My fellow alumni at Bangalore chapter and I have lobbied to the best of our ability in the last two years to bring this up to the council at every opportunity and I am happy that people have presented a structured approach that has been approved.

Personally, I believe that IISc folks should accept that it probably made an error of judgement in shutting down the UG program and go back to it without much ado and tackle the problem wholeheartedly and all the problems like entrance exams, courses to offer etc. will be crystal clear.

TheQuark said...

One questions that I want to be addressed is What is science and what is engineering? The fundamentalist, text bookers would try to come out with a clear cut definition like science is purely about principles and engineering is about its application etc but this looks at the end product of a creative process.

A more specific question would be where is the line between science and engineering drawn in IISc?

Anonymous said...

I agree with one of the above commenters..the new UG program should have been started of in Chitradurga. That would have given a chance to a develop a second insti like IISc (only one IISc for the entire country seems out of balance). Or atleast the new campus facilities should start construction/ in parallel with the new UG program starting in the present campus. After a few years maybe the new UG program can move to new campus.

Anonymous said...

In fact the current campus's engineering depts. (including IITs) can get an opportunity to develop interdiscplinary enggr. programs in the new campus while on some kind of inter-insti sabbatical.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof.Giridhar,

After IISc B.S. programme, will there be any importance for IISER's programmes in sciences. Is this a plan of govt to weaken the very basic concept of IISERs?

Anonymous said...

Professor Giridhar,

This four-year programme is for a Bachelor of Science degree. Does one have to do a two-year Master's degree to qualify for registering for a Ph.D. degree in an Indian university?