“I was born and brought up in a family of engineers. That and my love for Mathematics initially influenced me to pursue a BE in Electrical Engineering. During my undergraduate studies, I developed an interest in Communications and felt the need to delve more into the topic. So, instead of following the conventional route of taking up a job after engineering, I opted for an MTech at IIT Kanpur. I met some of the best scholars in my field at IITK who transformed my perspective towards research.
Therefore, in the hope of doing fundamental communication research, I joined ISRO after my MTech. But I quit after a year and enrolled myself in the PhD program at IIT Kanpur. My experiences there during my MTech had convinced me that I wouldn’t find a better research environment anywhere else to pursue a PhD.
My five years as a PhD student at IIT Kanpur were some of the best years of my life. I got the opportunity to interact and learn not just from renowned scholars but also from outstanding peers. The frequent interactions with my supervisor, Professor P.R.K. Rao enriched my day. In addition to profound scientific advice, he also inspired me to learn things outside my research area. Although my journey was relatively smooth, doing a PhD in the pre-internet era posed some significant challenges for all of us. Publishing papers in high impact international journals was difficult. Telephones and letters were the only modes of communication. In addition, there was an obvious bias at the time as India wasn’t recognized at the international level for cutting-edge research. Fortunately, things have changed for the better in the last fifteen years. The IITs and other institutes have now started emphasizing research and technology development while increasing the intake of post-graduate and PhD students. We now have an ecosystem where students can nurture their scientific acumen and produce good quality work, capable of competing at the global level.
After my PhD, when I eventually joined IIT Bombay as a faculty member, I wanted to focus on developing technologies indigenously and making India technologically self-reliant. The motivation to do so traces back to my early research days, where I had observed that some of the challenges we faced were unique to our country. And when I was in the process of building my research group, I met some incredible academicians who shared my vision. Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala was one of them. His mission was to develop beneficial indigenous technologies and make…