By Chandan Kar, Batch of 2016
He has researched more than we can imagine, published more papers than we could ever dream of. His work speaks of excellence beyond the realms of an ordinary man and that is what he is – extraordinary. He travels by the name of Dr. Harish Parthasarathy.
Currently working on the Grand Unified Theory, he had two PhDs by the time he was 28. Dr. Parthasarathy has been teaching Electromagnetic Theory at NSIT for almost 8 years now and he is popular among the students as the man with a brilliant mind. He is a constant inspiration for the students in the class and has propelled key research in some of the most burning fields in physics. Yet, he remains humble, approachable and always willing to help students. He had started his career in science as an Electrical engineering student at IIT-K. After graduation, he moved on directly to IIT-Delhi for a PhD. Then, he went to the Indian Institute of Astrophysics to quench his insatiable thirst for knowledge on Galactic Astronomy. He became an Assistant Professor and taught at IIT-Bombay for three years and as a visiting faculty at his alma mater, IIT-Kanpur. After this, he shifted to Delhi and assumed the post of a professor at NSIT. This is what Dr Parthasarathy had to say when The Alliance found him immersed in his books-
Q1. Sir, you have taught at both IIT’s and NSIT. What makes them more interested in science and research than us? How would you rate the experiences?
No, that is not the case at all. There is more research acumen and potential in NSIT as compared to IIT’s. There are more people who want to research in NSIT unlike the IIT’s where people just want to get into companies and earn big bucks.
Q2. Do you think the educational structure has to be changed, as clearly a student has to cover a lot of subject matter outside the stipulated syllabus?
It is a problem with the system. You have to get along in the 4 years. That does not mean you will just score marks, maximum marks; it means apart from studying your academics, you will have to keep a subject which is your favourite. Also, the syllabus is outdated as compared to the other colleges. An electrical engineer from IIT-D will, per se, have a better understanding of the electrical field because of their advanced syllabus as compared to our college. Moreover, the undergraduate level is simpler than what the level in India is in foreign universities. The undergraduate level is primarily structured to hone the creativity and that is what helps them at the post graduate level, which is more demanding. In India, we have so many subjects that by the end of the four years, students are left totally confused as to which subject they would like to pursue more and the spark of innovation gets destroyed in the pursuit of more and more marks.
Q3. A lot of people feel that to be a good researcher, one needs to be exceptional in Mathematics and Physics! Is this true, sir?
It doesn’t matter. There are so many years ahead of you. I have worked on a couple of problems for a few years and have been stuck as well. What matters is the focus and dedication. If somebody feels that he is not very strong with his concepts, then he should possess a strong will and believe in himself. All that needs to be done is to get his basics strong and I can’t see why he can’t be a good researcher.
Q4.What are the things you look for in a student when you are selecting someone for research under you?
When you teach, there are about a 100 people in a class. By the end of the year, it reduces to 10. Those 10 people are the ones who are interested in research. They might not be exceptionally good, but it is their interest which matters. Even a mediocre student who scores average marks, but can tackle problems, can surely attain success.
Q5.What is the process of the selection of research projects? Do the students come up with the idea or is it stimulated by you?
I have interest in Quantum theory and General theory of Relativity. Something that I have noticed is that people make amazing presentations. So sometimes, they will come up with some idea and with a little help, can make amazing presentations. What matters is, if they will continue doing the project and the research or are they just doing it for the sake of marks. Only time will tell.
Q6. How do you feel to see some of your students pursuing research abroad as well as within the country?
Absolutely delightful. It makes me proud. It gives me a deep sense of satisfaction when my students do well and especially if they continue working in India and just stop the brain drain from the country. Someone may not have been bright but their pursuit for excellence in Physics has yielded them results.
Q7. Sir, we have many a times seen you teaching even if there are a couple of students in class. How do you continue to have that never ending passion?
I feel that communicating an idea correctly is very important. While working on a blackboard, some idea just starts formulating and someone might just point out something which will change the entire theory. Teaching is a passion and not a job and hence I love it. Moreover, there could be a saturation forming if I keep working on a piece of paper but that is sort of taken care of on the bigger blackboard.
Q8. Being in a particular branch, we are limited to a few subjects. There are other colleges where you can Major in one subject (Branch) and a Minor in another. Do we have a similar system here?
Yes, yes. It’s called Electives and you study that course along with the course you are Majoring in. I am not aware if they are taking any steps to implement that in the present system but it should be done. Otherwise, one has to follow what has always been happening- ‘Silently get through these four years, treat them as a penance and then be interested in one subject, one field.’ For me it was Probability Theory. It gave me peace as it gave me the satisfaction of learning something new and the frustration which comes with academics was diminished.
Q9. If not teaching or research, what else would you be doing or do you have any interests as such?
This (points to his flute). I had played the Veena since the age of 13 and then self learnt the flute in the latter stages. Music actually helps me think and I really like it.
Q10. Sir, what would be your message to the NSITians and all the other future aspiring engineers who will be a part of this college?
The only message I have is a request to all students that one shouldn’t blindly run to IIMs and IAS. Use the engineering expertise and experience that you have accrued over the past 4 years. Do some technical or developing work in a company and bring your engineering skills to the fore. Do an M.Tech or some research. Just don’t get into management for the sake of power or money, don’t do it if there is no joy and satisfaction in it. That’s my only request.
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