Monday, December 26, 2011

India - anti-science ?

The ex-director of IISc, G. PADMANABAN, writes in "The Hindu" and asks whether India is anti-science. He asks,
Is there nothing in this country of substance beyond Bollywood, cricket and politicians? But more seriously, if young minds do not opt for science, where are the role models? .... But unbridled activism against science and scientists will only lead us to miss out on technology options. We need to give S&T a chance to deliver.

But he actually answers (though possibly unintentionally) this when he says,
Each area has become much specialised and older generations, barring some, are not in touch with the developments. But they would not hesitate to make sweeping generalisations.

When the minister asks for a report from the academies on the issue of Bt Brinjal, all he gets is an unreferenced, non-trustworthy report, which does not list the authors or potential conflicts of interest. Further, selections at any level (whether it is recruitment in universities at the assistant professor level or whether it is election to fellowship of academies) are not purely based on merit. If this is the case of Indian science, why should young minds opt for science? 

They obviously do not. When DST announced the INSPIRE fellowship for students who secure top 1% in boards or 10,000 ranks in AIEEE/JEE and pursue science, they were hoping many (10,000 was their target) will take up the fellowship. The results for 2010 indicate only around 45 have taken this fellowship through the competitive exam mode.

When scientists are unable to teach school children the joys of science, are unable to ensure career prospects for science doctorates, ensure transparency in recruitment and selection, if India becomes (or is) anti-science, the blame squarely rests on the scientists.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Journal pricing and h-index

Prof. Balaram, in his editorial on journals, prices and related issues, raises many points. I could not agree more with the comment, "This concern about unreasonable journal costs is not widely shared in India..there is very little oversight in fighting rapidly increasing prices"
He is quite correctly shocked at the recent advertisement from a governmental agency asking post doctoral applicants to provide their h-index over the past five years. h-index was originally intended to evaluate the career of a research scientist and not look at the growth over five years, especially at the start of one's career.

Normally, this blog cites research articles but a research article on open access cites this blog !

Monday, November 21, 2011

Number of Ph.Ds

IISc now generates the highest number of PhDs in computer science in the country. In 2011, 91 people enrolled for a PhD in computer science at the Computer Science and Automation (CSA) department in IISc, up from 35 five years back. Coupled with master's students, the department has more than 250 students on roll. This tremendous growth may be attributed to two reasons : (a) IT research labs in Bangalore (b) the current chairman of CSA. When some people become the administrative head of a particular department, the particular department shows remarkable growth both in terms of faculty and students. This indicates that leadership matters even when there is no direct benefit to the leader!

Update: The total number of Ph.D students enrolled in CSA is 91, not the number of students who joined this year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Quality of teaching

E. Balagurusamy, Member (Education), State Planning Commission, Tamil Nadu states

Our findings show that majority of teachers in many engineering colleges are in mediocre category. When the teachers themselves are lacking employability skills, how can we expect their students to be employable? So, the correction has to start from the level of teachers. It is time to have a serious look at the quality of teachers employed in various engineering colleges and arts and science colleges as well.

The quality is quite poor indeed. In a major NIT, half of the faculty in chemical engineering are B.E. who have graduated in the past year. There is nothing inherently wrong in this situation if these faculty came to teaching because of passion but it is mostly because they have been "pushed" into it due to lack of other options. If this is the state of NITs, there is no doubt that the quality is even poorer in other colleges. One way is to increase the number of doctorates who graduate from IIX and they go to NIT to teach.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Directors of IITs speak

on various issues.

in a panel discussion on the state and future of IITs.

on the faculty crunch in IITs.

However, there is no mention that IITs receive around 100 applications (possibly more in science) for 2-3 positions and the faculty crunch is not due to lack of candidates but the lack of "quality" candidates, wherein the quality is defined by the respective IIT.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Infosys chairman emeritus N R Narayana Murthy, "While only a couple of IITs feature in the top 50, there should be at least five IITs in the top 10 engineering schools in the world in the next 10-20 years"

Ideas without action mean nothing.

Monday, October 3, 2011

$35 tablet

The HRD minister announces the launch of $35 tablet on October 5, 2011. The specifications are 2 GB RAM, 32 GB HD, Wi-Fi and 5 inch, 7 inch and 9 inch screens. The cost of production is apparently Rs. 3000 but is subsidized by the government. The production CEO says, "it will cost as much as "a vegetarian meal for two at a five-star hotel in Delhi". This is one of the most ridiculous comparison that I have heard. While the CEO may have had several meals in five star hotels in Delhi and elsewhere, many of the students and the middle class have never even seen the inside of a five star hotel. Why? Because of this.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Pinned post for prospective faculty to IITs/IISc

This is a pinned post (i.e., this post will always appear at the top of this blog though newer posts appear below it) for prospective faculty to IITs/IISc. 

Please, please read this site and the old posts, here, here and here. There are over 800 comments and replies to these comments in these posts. Read them carefully before you post here. 

If you post a question that has already been answered several times, it will be deleted. If you require an answer to your question, post it with a name, initials, pseudonym or anything that is distinguishable.

Monday, September 26, 2011


to my friends and colleagues in IISc, U. Ramamurty and K.N. Balaji for winning the Bhatnagar award in engineering and medical sciences, respectively.

Congratulations to my good friends, Balasubramanian Sundaram and Narahari Sastry, for winning the award in chemical sciences.

Congratulations also to Sirshendu De, a fellow chemical engineer for winning the award.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Android apps

I had previously written about the usefulness of having a net book. It weighs less than a kilogram, has a battery power of nearly 11 hours and can be used extensively during travel.

However, during travelling, especially when it is only for a few hours, one does not even feel like editing any text (except for small corrections). It is a good time to read books/papers and listen to music. I use olivepad, which is the Indian version to the Ipad and costs around Rs. 15,000. The advantage of olivepad is that it is touch screen, weighs less than 400 g and switches on instantly. It is directly synchronized to Gmail, Google calendar, Google tasks and Google docs. It runs on my favorite system, Android and has a number of free applications, including a heart rate monitor. I list below the applications that I have installed and often use.

The olivepad comes loaded with the software, "Documents to Go", which can read Doc,xls,ppt and pdf but can not edit any of these documents. You need to pay for the premium version if you need to edit the documents. OliveOfficePremium can view to view and edit Microsoft Word(doc/docx), Excel(xls/xlsx) and PowerPoint(ppt/pptx) files. In addition, it can view pdf and chm files. There are several instances where you just need a good editor for simple text. One of the best software for this is the Jota Text Editor.

Considering the large number of books available in the epub and pdf format, the best epub and pdf readers are Aldiko book reader and APV PDF viewer. The former (effective version 2.0) can read PDF but the APV PDF viewer is much better.

The android system was designed to manage its own memory and the concept of closing/exiting an app does not exist because the operating systems manages the memory and apps ensuring that the apps that run in the background do not use much resources. However, one needs to know which apps are running, memory used etc. This can be done by the software called ZDBox.

The olivepad comes with a browser but it is not as good as the Opera Mini browser in terms of speed and functionality. The olivepad also comes with a music player but it can not play some formats (like flv) and the moboplayer is probably the best software for playing videos. I used to be a state chess player and I found the software Chess Free to be quite good, though it is adware.

Please let me know if you have any favorite Android apps, especially for reading, viewing/listening to media and browsing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New resolutions

The IIT council met in Delhi and

  • proposed a pan-India common entrance test for admission to engineering programmes possibly from 2013.
  • suggested a hike in the tuition fees that can be paid by the student after graduation. 
  • significantly increase the number of Ph.Ds

The third initiative specifically says that the IITs will produce 10,000 Ph.D graduates annually from around 1000 currently. This will be based on increasing the faculty strength from around 4000 currently to 16,000.

What does this mean? Currently, 4000 faculty guide 1000 Ph.D students annually (ratio of 0.25) but within this decade, 16,000 faculty will guide 10,000 Ph.D students annually. What will bring about this change of faculty willing to guide so many students? Faculty normally complain on the lack of students for not doing research. But, as pointed out by Prof. Dheeraj Singh, "One of my colleague once said that we talk about PhD program because it is in fashion to talk about research, and we need to justify not doing research. But we really don't want to admit more PhD students because we are afraid we will have to work harder. "

The IIT council seems to taken the view of lack of students for research seriously and recommended, "From 2013, students would have to pay the balance Rs 6 lakh if they take up a non-teaching job after graduation." The minister says, "The intention is to attract IIT students to teaching and research" Currently, around 1% of B.Tech students from IITs pursue Ph.D in India and I am not sure how this move will attract more students to research. Will the council exempt the fees for students who pursue research and teaching in USA rather in India? Why not introduce many schemes that will make research and teaching attractive in India? Will that not make more students to take up teaching and research rather than asking them to pay if they do not take up an academic career?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lab assistants

In the article, BU rated best, but students, the correspondent says A researcher and professor from the university told Deccan Herald: “The fact is, be it here or in IISc, money matters. Pay a few thousand rupees to the lab assistant and he will give you whatever you want for a whole month. As much as 70 per cent of the funds provided for purchasing lab equipment are pocketed by the staff. Even the remainder of the funds is used very business-like.”

Lab assistants do not manage labs in IISc and I do not think the above applies to IISc. I do agree that it happens in many universities in India but not in IISc.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

JMET cancelled

The joint management entrance test (JMET) used for admitting students into the institute’s department of management studies has been cancelled and replaced by the common admission test (CAT) conducted by the IIMs. Therefore, all IITs and IISc will use CAT instead of JMET.

For a long time, many IITs have wondered where their management departments rank vis-a-vis the IIMs. In India, the reputation of the institute is primarily governed by the cutoff in JEE/GATE/CAT and now we will know  the "real" rankings of the management schools of IITs/IISc with respect to IIMs.

Friday, August 26, 2011

GATE eligibility

There seems to a sudden change in the eligibility for GATE 2012. Apparently, prefinal students are not allowed to write the exam. I am not sure about the rationale behind the decision and it may be just to reduce the number of students taking the exam. In any case, I feel such sudden changes in the eligibility criteria should be informed to the candidates before an year or so.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

ARWU rankings

Only one institution from India has made it to the top 500 in the ACWU ARWU 2011 rankings: IISc.


After the trashing of the Indian cricket team by England in the test matches, there is a lot of discussions on the forums for the cause of this debacle. However, there are several more comments that claim that the Indian cricket team is the world champion. But this is in an ODI format and one can not compare formats. Superiority in one format may not translate to superiority in an another format.

Similarly, when talking to young faculty in IITs/IISc recruited from USA, it strikes me that success in US universities as Ph.D students and post doctorates may not necessarily translate to success as a faculty in the Indian system. Success in academic research can be defined in two distinct ways: (a) publishing in standard journals consistently (b) getting promotions, awards and fellowships. These two are not necessarily linked and the ascent to each path of success is different.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Grad school enrollment

Admissions to foreign students in US graduate schools grow. The article in Chronicle says,

Much of that growth is fueled by a 23-percent expansion in offers of admission to prospective students from China, the sixth consecutive year of double-digit gains.
Admissions offers to students from India also jumped, by 8 percent, the first uptick in prospective students from that country since fall of 2007. India trails only China as the largest source of international students to the United States.
Offers of admission to students from South Korea, however, remained flat, compared to 2010, after four years in a row of declines.
Together, those three countries account for half of all non-U.S. citizens on student visas at American graduate schools.
On the contrary, a 10% increase in graduate school enrollment was not possible in India during the period of 1980 to 2005. Suddenly, the enrolment increased by 54% as the OBC quota was implemented and the government forced IITs (and IISc) to expand ! IISc has continued to expand its graduate school enrollment with the number of registered post graduate students crossing 3000 for the first time in its history.

You can also read a comparison of academic performances of Indian, Chinese and American students in UT-Austin.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ticket pricing

The above screenshot shows how the executive fare is lower than the economy class fare ! No one can beat the pricing algorithm of Air India.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sherpas and teaching

In a recent report, the author classifies the academic community in Texas A&M (and UT, Austin) as Dodgers, Coasters, Sherpas, Pioneers, and Stars.

So, it is thus confirmed that the only metric for research is research money. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Statistics and lies

According to Wikipedia, "Lies, damned lies, and statistics" is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments.

In the case of great "achievers" of India, it apparently means that you can say whatever you want irrespective whether the statistics or data is correct.

Mr. N R Narayana Murthy says, ""In 2004, China produced 2,652 PhDs in computer science and in that year the figure was 24 in our country," " In 1967, at the electrical engineering department of IIT-Kanpur there were about 60 to 70 students registered for PhD. But today, at the same department if there are five PhD students joining in a year, that would be fantastic,"

First, the claim that there were 70 students registered for Ph.D at the electrical engineering department of IIT-K in 1967 is not very believable. According to the data that I have, IIT-K graduated only 19 Ph.Ds in 1967. Further, the claim that there are less than five PhD students joining in 2011 in that department is plainly ridiculous. According to the IIT Kanpur website, there are currently 110 doctoral students registered in electrical engineering department with nearly 25 students joining this year

Second, I do not know where he got the data that China produced 2652 Ph.Ds in computer science. In 2004, US produced around 950 doctorates in computer science. According to the S&E report by NSF, China graduated 417 doctorates in computer science and mathematics in 2000 and I really doubt that the number shot up to more than 2500 in four years.

Before saying something on a public forum, it may be a wise to check the data. Of course, to get these data, one may require to use complicated technology like google search.

Update: My colleagues, Abi and Arunn, have written about in their blog, here and there, respectively.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


In my post on interviews, I mentioned to succeed as a researcher in India, you need self motivation. I have been getting some queries on how I define self-motivation. As Martina Navratilova said - and it is something we must all know - "It is not about how good you are when you are playing well, it is how good you are when you are playing badly." If you are as enthusiastic as Leslie Knope character in Parks and Recreation, then you are likely to succeed!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New students

I have put together a small writeup for new students joining IISc this august. Usual disclaimers apply.

Update: The admission office called me and informed me that some students are requesting clarifications for some statements provided in the above link. Please do not do so. They are unaware of this information and IISc is not responsible for its accuracy. If you need anything specific, please write it in the comments. Thank you.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pinned post for prospective faculty to IITs/IISc

This is a pinned post (i.e., this post will always appear at the top of this blog though newer posts appear below it) for prospective faculty to IITs/IISc. Please, please read this site and the old post and this postThere are over 500 comments and replies to these comments in these posts. Post all your questions and comments here. 

This has crossed 200 comments and a new pinned post has been created. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011


The common question one is asked during this time is "What is the scope and prospect of UG/PG/MBA in IISc?" I promptly refer them to this blog. Sometimes, people ask me about a direct MBA program started by IIM- I. Just like IISc, IIM has now started admission for XII standard students.

Regarding the five-year integrated Post Graduate Programme in management announced by IIM Indore, it has now been clarified that they can not award degrees if the student quits after three years. At least this has been cleared early. IISERs, which started five years back and has even graduated one batch of students this year, have not yet been given permission to give degrees.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Admissions - 2011

I have been receiving several queries on both UG and PG admissions. Here is the status.

UG: (BS)

Additional offers have been made based on performance in KVPY-SA (2009) and KVPY-SX (2010) examinations. From the KVPY-SX stream, offers have been made to all general category applicants with ranks of upto 209. 
From the JEE stream, offers have been made to all general category applicants with ranks of upto 504.
Under AIEEE, offers have been made to all general category applicants with ranks of upto 248.

Emails and letters by speed post will be sent to all the selected candidates by this evening (June 15).

PG: M.Sc (Engg) and Ph.D

Many departments must have announced their provisional selection lists either on the notice board or on the web site or by both. The reason this is called provisional is because we have verify your certificates. In the case of PG admissions, no formal letters will be sent by email or speed post. Please log on to the iisc admission website and get your official offer letter printed out. The offer letters should be online by Saturday evening, if not, definitely by Monday evening (June 20).

Good luck and best wishes for your studies in IISc. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

PG admissions

I have been receiving emails enquiring about the differences between our M.Sc (Engg) program, M.E program of IISc and M.Tech programs of IIT. M.Sc (Engg) is similar to the M.S. programs offered by some IITs like IIT-M and is a research program.  The M.E. program of IISc is similar to the M.Tech programs of IITs and is largely course based.

In IISc, a candidate for M.Sc (Engg) takes 12 to 18 credits of course work while a M.E./M.Tech student takes nearly 32-40 credits of course work. The more course work enables a M.E. student to pick up more basics and understand the fundamentals better. The average time for graduation for M.Sc (Engg) and M.E. in IISc is 2 years, 5 months and 2 years, respectively.

My advice: If you get admission to M.Tech in a major IIT with a good research program, choose it over M.Sc (Engg), unless you really want to do research, in which case the latter is better.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

UG admissions

The first set of offers for the UG admissions based on JEE has been announced. For the general category, this closed at 251.  The earlier offers had been made on KVPY ranks.

Some people have been asking why IISc is admitting students based on JEE. Though IITs and IISc have no world class faculty, IITs have always had world class (defined by the honorable minister as applicants who have cleared JEE or CAT) students but IISc did not even have these students. By admitting students through JEE, IISc is filling up this void.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


I have been receiving several emails enquiring about the interviews for (a) our research programs and (b) faculty positions. I give below some common questions and guidelines.

For research students:

The research interviews are conducted differently in each department and it is difficult to generalize. Some departments have two rounds of interviews, some have a written test followed by an interview. The guidelines for computer science students is given here (It is always amazing to me how Prof. Narahari manages some many things; he serves on many committee yet does wonderful research and also manages to put up these writeups).

Many interview committees will ask you three or four subjects that you liked in your undergraduation and ask you several questions based on that subjects. The emphasis will be on testing the depth of candidate’s understanding of fundamental concepts. Never attempt to answer questions in which you do not know the correct answer. It is okay to say that you have never heard of such a principle or law. Because the emphasis is on fundamentals rather on memory, it will be always be appreciated if the student says that he can derive the equation but can not recall it from memory. For Ph.D students, expect some questions on the project done during the masters. The problems you faced executing the projects, the principles you learned in that project and how you think the project helped you overall.

For prospective faculty.

  • Why did you choose your dissertation/post-doc topic?
  • Tell us about the theoretical and experimental aspects of your research.
  • What changes would you have made to your work if you were to begin again?
  • Why didn't you finish your dissertation sooner or why did you finish your dissertation so soon?
  • What are your research plans for the next 2/10/30 years?
  • What are possible sources of funding to support your research?
  • What facilities do you need to carry out your research?
  • How does your research fit in with this department?
  • Who would you collaborate with?
  • How many Masters and PhD students would you try to have in your lab? 
  • Have you supervised any undergraduate or graduate students?
  • How would you involve undergraduates in your research?

  • What do you think is the optimal balance between teaching and research?
  • If you have to teach X course, what is the textbook you would follow?
  • If you could teach any course you wanted, what would it be? Why?
  • How will explain an concept of X to school children, undergrads, grads and colleagues?

  • Are you willing to become involved in committee work? If so, what committees?
  • What institutional issues particularly interest you?

I would advise that the faculty candidate read about the department, its current faculty and its facilities. Write to an unbiased person in the faculty and ask how much is really possible (Recently, we had a faculty candidate who wanted Rs. 10 crores to start up his laboratory. Some of my colleagues said it is not a problem. But, of course, it is. If you can do lots of research without the $2 million grant and then set up this large lab slowly, you can do it in 5 years or so. But it is very difficult to start up with a $2 million grant).

Have a clear writeup on your future research. It should NOT be a delta extension of your Ph.D or postdoctoral work. Be clear about the equipment (and its approximate cost) you need and an approximate size of the lab space required. If you say 500 sq.ft. of lab space is all you need but your equipment will occupy more than that, then the selection committee will not like it. A generic answer "I will manage with any lab space that is given to me" is worse.

Spend lots of time on making a good presentation. Most of the selection committee members come by the morning flight and leave by the night flight. Therefore, the number of hours is restricted to 10 am to 7 pm and this has to be divided by the number of candidates called for interview. Usually, the number of candidates called for interview is eight times the number of vacancies. Therefore, prepare for 10, 15, 20, 30 and 45 min presentations separately. Make the presentation interesting to an audience of your potential colleagues and answer all questions patiently. This is different in cases like IISc/NCBS etc. In these institutions, there is no formal interview of a bunch of candidates on a single day. In these institutions, the prospective faculty visit the department, spend a day or so. If the department is keen to pursue the candidate, the selection committee is specially convened on some other day and the candidate appears before the committee through skype or in person. The candidates who are called for interview in case of IISc are normally the people in which the department is interested in. The selection committee may overrule the wishes of the department.

In case of skype interviews/presentation, please keep the pdf of the presentations ready and mail it to them before the interview. The committee can follow the slides sent by you by looking at a local screen. Also, in this case, please be prepared to discuss your research without any presentation. As easy as it might sound, try practicing your presentation without any slides. Sometimes, we lose the connection during a skype interview. Quickly summarize what you have said so far and begin where you left off.

Be clear about the courses that you can teach and that you can not. Have plans of teaching in the first semester and clearly indicate which course you would like to teach. Do not give a generic answer such as "I can teach any subject in chemical engineering." If you are really that good in all subjects, you can say, "Though I feel that I can teach any subject in chemical engineering, I would like to teach thermodynamics ..." Expect a few questions in the subject you are going to teach.

Ultimately, different selection committee members look for different things in a candidate. For example, if a candidate has an excellent academic record (top 10% throughout in very good colleges, good publication record and recommendation letters that say he/she is creative and hard working), I would ignore a bad presentation. Others may not.  Some members give importance to recommendation letters from "stars". Some do not. Some members give importance to the college where the candidate has done his B.Tech/ M.Tech/M.Sc (a degree from IITs always helps).

However, almost selection committees try to look whether the candidate has self motivation. You will not be able to rely on others to get you motivated and there is enough negativity around you to stop working. My senior colleague is a very good judge of people and he is almost 100% right when he says someone will be successful in India or not. In India, to succeed as a researcher, you need to manage the inefficient finance/accounts department, poor maintenance staff etc., yet manage to do "world class" research. Therefore, the faculty have to be positive, patient, persevering, deal all this with a good temperament and have the self motivation to succeed.  If you have these qualities, you will also be put on several committees to help the administration of the institute and even if you stop doing research, you will be still useful to the institute !

I am sure that other knowledgeable readers of the blog can add to this in the comments.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Research Admissions

I have been receiving several queries on research admissions to IISc. Please note that the admission to the Ph.D and M.Sc (Engg) programs is based on a wide variety of parameters: GATE, CSIR, JEST, IISc entrance test and many more entrance tests. Qualification in one of these exams does not guarantee an interview call. Different departments follow different cutoffs in various exams.

All letters for interviews were dispatched this morning and the research admissions for Ph.D will be held from June 4-5 for the interdisciplinary programs and June 6-10 for the other departments. Please check your application status on the web or wait for the interview letter or call the admission office.

While I have tried to help as many people as I can to know about the results (i.e., whether they have received the interview call), I can not give out the cutoffs for different departments in various exams. I agree with the applicant who felt that such information should be displayed on the web but I do not agree with the other applicant who "threatened" to file a RTI against me for not providing this information!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Impact factor and journals

Two good articles in this issue of Current science.

The first article, Correlation between h-index, EigenfactorTM and Article InfluenceTMof chemical engineering journals,discusses the various parameters for ranking the journals. Irrespective of whether one uses the impact factor, eigenfactor, article influence score or the new factors like p-index, the top four journals in chemical engineering remain the same. The popularity of eigenfactor over the impact factor is that it is available for free and is quite comprehensive.

The second article,Use made of open access journals by Indian researchers to publish their findings, is quite interesting and discusses the use of open access journals and how Indian researchers publish in it. The authors rightly point out,

Both BMC and PLoS charge article processing fees as do many other open access journals. BMC journals charge between $ 1450 and $ 1640, PLoS ONE charges $ 1350, and PLoS Medicine and PLoS Biology $ 2900 and other PLoS journals $ 2250. This could be a deterrent to most Indian and other developing country researchers.

It is certainly a deterrent for researchers like me who do experimental work. We would be better off in publishing the paper in another journal for free and using the $2000 for experimental work. The best way to make the work open access in India is not necessarily by publishing it in open access journals but by depositing the article in an institutional repository.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tamilnadu elections

Most ridiculous comment heard on Makkal TV as to why DMK lost.

Girls wearing jeans got carried away by Egypt rebellion, infatuated with anti-establishment, and voted against the DMK because they felt compelled to do the same as that of the Arabs.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

UG admissions

IISc, which has started the four year BS program this year, made the first set of admission offer letters to applicants. This was based on qualification in KVPY-SA/SB/SX. Further offers in this category will be made depending on the number of applicants who decline the offer. Separate admission will be made for candidates qualifying in  JEE/AIEEE/AIPMT, after the results of these exams are announced. An announcement to this effect will be made on the official website shortly.

There has been a slight delay in announcing our M.E admission results because the same staff who handle the M.E admissions handle the UG admissions. However, please be assured that the M.E. results will be announced on the web by tomorrow or latest by Monday.

Monday, April 11, 2011

JEE question wrong?

In the JEE paper of yesterday, one of the math question reads " Let M and N be two 3 × 3 non-singular skew symmetric matrices" I had thought that all odd order skewsymmetric matrices are singular. Is the question wrong? Of course, one can solve the question assuming M and N are 4 x 4 matrices and arrive at the answer (-M^2) but my point is the question wrong?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Overseas talent

Professor Balaram writes on attracting overseas talent for faculty positions in India.

Strangely, while schemes for attracting overseas talent are enthusiastically administered in the funding agencies, initiatives that promote local talent are invariably run with limited interest and efficiency. Looking outward may be attractive and fashionable. Looking inward may be desirable and essential.

The other issue that should be discussed is why faculty recruitment takes so much time. It is not unlikely that a candidate hears from an IIT one year after the application. Unless processes are sped up, it is not easy to recruit scientists at any level.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


The Indian cricket team wins at 3Ms (Motera, Mohali and Mumbai) to lift the world cup. Congratulations to the Indian cricket team. They do it for Sachin. Dhoni proves why he is the one of the best captains in the world - wins the world cup, T20, champions league, IPL... and leads India to #1 in both ODI and test cricket.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


In the elections in Tamilnadu, If you vote for the DMK, you will get a mixer, grinder and a washing machine; If you vote for the AIADMK, you will get a mixer, grinder and a fan. Therefore, the choice is between a fan and a washing machine. I called my friend in my village and asked him what he wants. His answer was simple, "Electricity"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

No laptops

The Indian Institute of Technology - Kharagpur has decided to scrap the controversial proposal to provide laptops to its faculty under a government scheme. The Cumulative Performance Development Allowance (CPDA) scheme provides Rs 3 lakh to each faculty member for the period of September 2008 to September 2011. In IISc, I think this money can not be used to buy a computer or laptop and can be used only for travel or consumables. Most of the experimentalists like me find this money useful when they run out of project money for a short while.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Admissions in IISc

I have been receiving several queries on admissions to IISc. Unfortunately, I am unable to answer all emails individually because I simply do not have the data. For example, I have no idea on the cutoffs of GATE for various categories in different disciplines of study. All I can say that the cutoffs for the M.E. program are usually in the 99th percentile but I have no clue as to how many marks in the particular subject will result in that percentile.

The other set of emails is about admission without GATE. IISc does admit students to its doctorate program in engineering without GATE. The information brochure states,

Candidates with BE / B Tech or equivalent degree, with excellent academic record in the qualifying degree as well as in Standard X and XII examinations will be considered only for admission to a limited number of seats in the Ph D programmes.

However, I do not have any idea on the number of seats or what constitutes as an excellent academic record. Candidates without GATE are not eligible for the master's programs in IISc.

Though many of my colleagues contend that GATE is a stupid exam that should be scrapped, all I can say that the average marks scored by B.E/B.Tech candidates are not likely to be higher than the average marks that can be scored by a class XII student. Whether it is the fault of the exam or the education system in India can be a matter of contention.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

IPL auction

Will IPL affect Indian cricket? I certainly think so. Because of IPL, a larger pool of players will benefit both monetarily as well as get exposure with the top cricketers around the world. But it is also influencing it in a bad way. Players like Ishant and Irfan seem to have lost their interest in playing test cricket after their millions in IPL. Now, Robin Uthappa gets above 2 million dollars, while technically correct players like Dravid and Laxman get picked up for 25% of this amount. If this is due to the latter's age, then even young players like Vijay and Pujara get paid much lower than this because they can not score at a maniac rate. I believe that the current test series in South Africa was drawn because of two main players: Laxman and Sachin. These players came through the ranks when money in dollars was not the prime criteria for performance or working hard to perform well.

Good cricketers, like researchers, should be nurtured and are unlikely to perform if money is the only primary criteria and if the atmosphere is completely commercial. This is one of the reasons why the top private Indian universities do not attract the top Indian researchers despite the 3x salaries.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Autobiography of an unusual chemist

In an article titled, "Autobiography of an unusual chemist", K. S. Jayaraman reviews the book "Climbing the Limitless Ladder – A Life in Chemistry" by Prof. C.N.R. Rao.

CNR has nearly 1450 papers with over 40000 citations and h-index of 89. He has graduated over 100 Ph.Ds, written/edited 42 books and has 48 honorary doctorates. When ones meets him, ones gets infected by his enthusiasm and gets an overwhelming thrust to work. I first met him in 2006 and when I was introduced to him, he simply said "I have heard about you. Do not be afraid of publish."

Later during the same year, I had cited his 1958 paper on experimental growth of titania in my single author work on the theoretical mechanism of growth of a phase of titania. I then saw him when he was taking his morning walk and he was curious to know how I got hold of his old paper published 10 years before I was born, what other experimental data I had looked at and how good was the model to fit growth of other materials. I was surprised that he had actually read my paper so thoroughly when it was not even in his current area of research !

Some snippets

Among the various offers he got, CNR preferred to join the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore because of "the extraordinary academic freedom" it provided.

I have worked seven days a week all through the years eating lunch at home only on Sundays.... the modest success that I may have had in research is mainly due to hard work. 
Science is not about getting awards or writing papers; it is a way of life. It involves the climbing the limitless ladder of excellence.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

(old) Pinned post for prospective faculty to IITs/IISc

This is a pinned post (i.e., this post will always appear at the top of this blog though newer posts appear below it) for prospective faculty to IITs/IISc. Please post all your questions and comments here and please read this site and the old post before you post your queries.

This has crossed 200 comments and a new pinned post has been created. 

Year end roundup

IISc opens its portals to undergraduate education by inviting applications from XII standard students. Today is the first day to apply online for the program. Being involved in various aspects of this program administratively (not academically), I am excited about the possible success of the program but also worried at the teething problems of infrastructure.

Anyway, my personal year round up for 2010. Days include Sat/Sun. Hours and days calculated from the time reporting gadget for google calendar.

Number of days outside Bangalore on official work :32
Number of days outside Bangalore on personal work : 14
Number of days in Bangalore on personal work : 7
Number of hours spent on committee work for IISc : 920
Number of hours spent teaching in IISc: 29 class hours
Number of hours spent on research work: ~2000
Number of journal papers published: 28
Number of citations obtained: 654

Number of journal papers reviewed: 93

Blog Stats:

Number of posts: 65
Number of visits: 101,778
Number (average) of comments per post: 14
Number of posts without comments:4