Monday, January 28, 2013

Pessimistic Links

Just in case you are feeling good about things in general (or about the state of higher ed in the West), these links will cure you...

  1. Paula Stephan in Chemistry World: Too many scientists? She uses "pyramid scheme" to describe the current way of training PhDs.

    [Update: The Science Careers essay announcing Prof. Stehpan as the Person of the Year is very good too. I thank Swarup for the link, via a comment on this post].

  2. Beryl Lieff Benderly in Miller McClune: The Real Science Gap: "Business leaders have cried "scientist shortage," but scores of thousands of young Ph.D.s are laboring in U.S. university labs as low-paid, temporary workers, ostensibly training for permanent faculty positions that will never exist."

  3. Livre d'Or: Dear Brilliant Students: Please Consider not Doing a PhD. Long rant -- overly pessimistic, UK-centric, and perhaps humanities centric, as well. Has some brutally frank commentary about academic culture -- especially about student-adviser relationship. [Thanks to Appaiah for the e-mail alert]

Are Joint PhD Programs Worth It?

The Economic Times reports that IIT-M is considering such programs with US universities.

IIT Madras, like many top institutions, had a number of collaborations between the faculty in many universities. But [IIT-M Director Prof. Bhaskar] Ramamurthy wanted to take the collaboration to a deeper level culminating in a joint PhD programme in the near future.

This is not really a new idea. Jaideep Srivastava and Pankaj Jalote mooted something similar five years ago [I didn't like it.] IIT-B has already implemented a version of this idea an arrangement with Monash University in Australia (I'm not sure if a joint PhD degree is a part of this deal, though). Heck, IIT-M itself has tried it with NUS, Singapore -- and has very little to show for it. ET doesn't go into the why this arrangement didn't pan out, or how it'll be different in its new avatar.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


All of them are about Aaron Swartz, his suicide, and its aftermath.

  1. First, a video of the speech by Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman at the Aaron Swartz Memorial in New York.

  2. Lawrence Lessig in The Atlantic blog: Aaron's Law: Violating a Site's Terms of Service Should Not Land You in Jail.

  3. Following strong criticism of MIT's role in the prosecution of Aaron Swartz (especially from Aaron's family), MIT President Rafael Reif has asked Prof. Hal Abelson to review "MIT's involvement" in "events arising from actions taken by Aaron Swartz to access JSTOR through the MIT computer network." Abelson has set the ball rolling with an open letter to the MIT community, and with a website where "you [the MIT community] can suggest questions and issues to guide this review and you can comment on the questions of others." [The website is open to public to view.]

Update: CNET reports that Aaron might not have faced the threat of decades of jail term if the Federal Prosecutor had not taken the case over.

Republic Day Awards

Happy Republic Day, folks!

It's great to see some familiar names in this year's list of Republic Day Awards, aka the Padma Awards -- Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Shri.

Hearty congratulations to Prof. Roddam Narasimha (JNC, Bangalore), Prof. Ajay Sood (a senior colleague at IISc) and Prof. K. Vijay Raghavan (Director of NCBS, Bangalore, and occasional commenter (!) here ;-)!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rationalist at IIT-M

In an antidote of sorts to this fiasco from December, IIT-M invited Mr. Narendra Nayak (President, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations) to present a lecture on the topic of "The Need for Rational Thinking." The video of the lecture has also been posted [Caution: over 2 hours].

As an event, it's not particularly worth blogging about (for an outsider like me, especially). But, as IIT-M's student magazine has reported, something interesting happened near the end [if you feel like watching it, it appears a little after the 2-hour mark in the video]:

The lecture itself was quite captivating, and had the audience of around 300 very captivated and involved. However, it took an even more interesting turn towards the end, when the Dean of Students, Prof. L.S.Ganesh was called upon stage to hand over a memento to the speaker. Prof. Ganesh had objections to the Mr. Nayak’s claims about Satya Sai Baba and said that he (and another professor) had visited the late guru once and witnessed firsthand the creation of a ring within his palm, from thin air. In reaction to this, the speaker himself recreated the same trick on stage in an attempt to demonstrate its falsity, amidst some laughter from the crowd. Prof. Ganesh also claimed to believe in the power of homeopathic medicine and recalled examples wherein two german shepherds and a 2-month-old baby had been cured by it. “Absence of evidence is not the evidence of abscence,” said Prof. Ganesh. “Just because there is no evidence of the existence of something, you cannot debunk it. It is human arrogance to think that we know everything,” he went on. At this point, the stipulated time for the lecture was over, and the whole affair was called off, with Prof. Ganesh, the speaker, and a few students still discussing the issue.

* * *

Javali Carvaka, a member of the audience, has an extended post on the event. [I thank Carvaka for the comment-alert.]

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


  1. An eternity of infinities: the power and beauty of mathematics by Ashutosh Jogalekar in the Scientific American blog Curious Wavefunction.

  2. Science blogging, anonymity, and “being yourself” by Rahul Siddharthan at E's flat, ah's flat too.

  3. Male Scientists More Prone to Misconduct, Study Concludes by Jennifer Couzin-Frankel in Science Insider.

Apollo Robbins, the Pickpocket

And he is willing to reveal (some of) his techniques. Pretty awesome!

Direct link.

I4I on India's Missing Women

Over at Ideas for India, Debraj Ray (NYU) and Siwan Anderson (University of British Columbia) have a post on India's missing women by age and state:

What our research makes clear is that Indian women face the risk of excess mortality at every stage of their lives and that excess female mortality in adulthood is as serious a problem in India as missing girls who are never born or die prematurely in childhood.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chemistry in India

Prof. E. Arunan and Prof. G.R. Desiraju of IISc, Bangalore, along with their colleagues Dr. R. Brakaspathy (DST, New Delhi), and Dr. Sivaram (NCL, Pune) have published an article entitled Chemistry in India: Unlocking the Potential in Angewandte Chemie, a leading journal in the field. There is much in there for chemists to discuss and debate.

I want to excerpt one paragraph that invokes two causes of a general nature for the sorry state of higher education in India. Specifically, I am highlighting two things in it, the first for a possible factual error, and the second for its problematic framing.

A sound system of undergraduate education is a sine qua non of research excellence. Most Indian universities have had to contend with increasingly large numbers of aspiring students. Consequently, they ceded undergraduate education to smaller affiliated colleges and restricted themselves to postgraduate instruction and research. These affiliated institutions lacked funds, quality teaching staff, and research focus. They were also particularly vulnerable to political interference. It is no surprise that the quality of undergraduate training deteriorated rapidly. One of the casualties of the declining financials of affiliated colleges was the virtual elimination of laboratory instruction at the bachelor s and master s levels. This has had a telling effect on the preparedness of the students for research. There has been an attempt to bring back some undergraduate teaching into the ambit of a research university campus in some of the newly created institutions; however the numbers are still too small to make any noticeable impact. Most Indian universities have also had to battle with the competing demands of quantity and quality, in other words, the trade-off between equity and elitism in education. This battle is not likely to see any resolution soon, given the enormous diversity of the Indian population in terms of religion, ethnicity, language, class, and caste and income levels. [Bold emphasis added]

The first one is not quite correct: our universities never really were into UG teaching; with notable exceptions such as BHU, they have always been "just" examination-conducting bodies at the UG level. That they outsourced UG teaching to affiliated colleges because they "have had to contend with increasingly large numbers of aspiring students" doesn't ring true.

The second one is worth highlighting for the problematic framing that says our universities confront a "trade-off between equity and elitism". Even if this is not a comment about the reservation policy (I think it is), arguments based on a perceived dichotomy are not convincing. Especially since the notion that our universities are in the business of pursuing elitism would come as a shock to many. Or, more likely, the authors were talking about attracting elite students; in which case, I think the shock will be augmented by awe.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inner Life of Stuff

The Up-Goer Five tool challenges you:

Can you explain a hard idea using only the ten hundred most used words? It's not very easy. Type in the box to try it out.

More about the tool here from its creator, Theo Sanderson. I saw it in action first at Suvrat Kher's post describing his research. Here's my attempt, a possible abstract for an upcoming talk on "computational modeling of microstructures and their evolution."

Inner Life of Stuff

We study pieces of matter. Each such piece, called stuff, could be water-like or rock-like, and we are especially interested in what goes on inside rock-like stuff. From the outside, such stuff may look as if it is the same at every place inside, but it is not! It turns out that, much as a house is made up of rooms, stuff is made up of lots and lots of small things, called parts. But, while rooms in a house can't grow bigger or smaller, parts inside stuff can! Some parts may grow bigger while others grow smaller. All this happens, quite easily even, when stuff gets hot.

So, here is the Big Idea: though stuff has no life to speak of, it enjoys some seriously beautiful inner life!

Why is this inner life of stuff important? Because it decides how well stuff works -- some kinds of packing are better than the others. So we need to understand how the parts come to be packed the way they are, and to figure out other ways of packing that make stuff work better. With this understanding, we can do some pretty cool things. We can take soft stuff and make it hard (or go the other way). Or, we can decide what, and how much, can move through it. Many things we use in our lives today -- lights, cars, flying air buses, computers -- are possible because we know how to control and change the inner life of stuff.

So, how do we get to understand the inner life of stuff? By building ideas about how parts change their form. Actually, we take a slightly different line: instead of focusing on parts, we focus on the walls between the parts. When a wall moves, the part on one side grows bigger, while that on the other side grows smaller. By watching walls move, we figure out how parts change their form.

While this is all easy to say, it is actually very, very hard to pull off. Instead of trying to crack the problem by writing on paper (and feeling let down!), we build make-believe stuff inside a computer. Just like real stuff has real parts and walls, the make-believe stuff has its own parts and walls. We then ask the computer to let its not-so-real walls move around just like real walls do. By watching changes in the make-believe stuff brought about by its moving walls, we get a good idea about changes in real stuff.

This talk is about how we study the inner life of stuff, and about what we get out of our studies. We start with walls, and why and how they move. We then show how we build make-believe stuff in a computer to watch moving walls and form-changing parts. We then talk about two very different kinds of stuff to show how our ideas work. Near the end of the talk, we have some things to say about looking at and studying stuff using computers, and about how it is not very different from studying stuff using things (such as focusing glasses) other than computers or paper.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sukhadeo Thorat on Social Science in India

Q. Ho far ICSSR has been successful in promoting social sciences research in India, according to you?

Sukhdeo Thorat: Since I joined ICSSR, I realised that it was hugely underfunded; the total allocation to ICSSR was only Rs. 36 crores, in 2010-11. It was during the time I joined, MHRD has set up committee to review the functioning of ICSSR and they made some positive recommendations. One of their recommendations was that social sciences research was hugely underfunded, and they recommended for 21 times increase in the allocation of fund. The academic quality suffers because of lack of funding for research, Ministry has taken a positive initiative and budget was increased to 400 crores which was later reduced to 100 crores.

I believe that neglecting social sciences research is problematic, because research helps us to understand the reality of society and once you understand the problem you can develop policies. Since, we are underfunding the research; it is focused on certain areas only.

That's from this interview with Prof. Thorat, who served as Chairman of University Grants Commission until two years ago. He's currently the Chairman of ICSSR [pdf].

Update: After Thorat, UGC had only an acting chairman in Prof. Ved Prakash all these months; he has just been appointed formally as UGC Chairman.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Tamil Book Fair

For those unaware of it, the 36th Chennai annual book fair is on during this and next week (until 23rd Jan, 2013). Location: YMCA Physical Education College grounds (humongous and bang in the center of the city) in Nandhanam | Timings: Holidays 11 AM to 9:30 PM; other days: 2 PM to 9: 30 PM.

Primarily a Tamil books fair (few stalls with English language books), with more than 500 stalls, the visit is worth more than the token five rupees entry fee and even daunting for book readers. Here is a list of Tamil books (written in Tamil) that I recommend and bought (the two are different) at the fair.

The facilities (parking, food stalls and toilets) certainly don't discourage your visit. That I should be visiting it during this weekend could influence your plan for the weekend visit either way.

(Yes, the 'drawing' is a weak attempt at putting my computer to a different use from computing and writing)

Friday, January 18, 2013


  1. Cathy Davidson at HASTAC: If We Profs Don't Reform Higher Ed, We'll Be Re-Formed (and we won't like it).

    If we profs can be replaced by a computer screen, we should be.

  2. Joseph Grcar in The American Scientist: Comments and Corrigenda in Scientific Literature -- How self-correcting is the written record of scientific and engineering endeavors?

  3. Eduardo Porter in NYTimes: When Public Outperforms Private in Services. A feature story on a recent book The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office by Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan:

    "The more we reward those things that we can measure, and not reward the things we care about but don’t measure, the more we will distort behavior,” observed Burton Weisbrod, a professor of economics at Northwestern University ... As Professor Fisman and Mr. Sullivan put it: “If what gets measured is what gets managed, then what gets managed is what gets done.”

    Here's an NPR interview of the authors.

Aaron Swartz Memorial Hacknight

In Bangalore. From 2 p.m. tomorrow to 8:00 a.m. Sunday. At the Centre for Internet and Society. Details here.

Thanks to Prof. S. Arunachalam for the e-mail alert. [Though I won't be able to go, it was heartening to see so many participants who have already registered.]

Vision of Dr. V

Tina Rosenberg has a longish post in NYTimes' Opinionator blog about the late Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy's brainchild, the Aravind Eye Care System -- a network of eye hospitals and small storefront 'vision centers' in many parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala:

At Aravind’s hospitals, free patients lodge on a mat on the floor in a 30-person dormitory. Paying patients can choose various levels of luxury, including private, air-conditioned rooms. All patients get best-practice cataract surgeries, but paying patients can choose more sophisticated surgeries with faster recoveries (but not higher success rates). The doctors are identical, rotating between the free and paid wings. [...]

Doctors are hard to find and expensive, so the surgical system is set up to get the most out of them. Patients are prepared before surgery and bandaged afterwards by Aravind-trained nurses. The operating room has two tables. The doctor performs a surgery — perhaps 5 minutes — on Table 1, sterilizes her hands and turns to Table 2. Meanwhile, a new patient is prepped on Table 1. Aravind doctors do more than 2,000 surgeries a year; the average at other Indian hospitals is around 300. As for quality, Aravind’s rate of surgical complications is half that of eye hospitals in Britain.

This volume is key to Aravind’s ability to offer free care. The building and staff costs are the same no matter how many surgeries each doctor performs. High volume means that these fixed costs are spread among vastly more people.

* * *

A previous post (written the day after the great man passed away in 2006) has many more links about Dr. V.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Leave it to Psmith

imageThe Humorist, P. G. Wodehouse has written over a hundred books, most of which have remained popular crossing three generations, even today. It is surprising that one of the verbose Tamil critics I read found PGW less appealing, after 'going through' two of his books. Wrong books coupled with a lack of appreciation for excellent English, I should say in my kinder moods, instead of wondering in prose on the misfortune of creators having to cast pearls among pigs. If one wonders where to begin to bask in the sunlit prose of those cataloged hundreds and laugh oneself to tears, Leave it to Psmith is a recommended place. You may then move on to The Code of the Woosters or Right Ho Jeeves, available for download at the gutenberg.

Indignant and harmless, effacing and enlightening, light-hearted and lilting, complex sentences of creative elegance, careening the plot into chaos, only to be unraveled like a sheath of spaghetti en route from plate to the designated mouth, with no loose ends, the story revolves around a happy-go-lucky chap Psmith (p silent), endeavoring to purloin the necklace of Lady Constance Keeble, at the behest of her nephew Freddie, only to redouble his efforts for benefiting his friend Mike and his wife Phyllis, who is the step daughter of the Lady with the necklace. And re-triple his efforts in the guise of Ralston McTodd -- the poet who originally got invited to Blandings Castle by the Lady's brother the Lord Emsworth, but absconded -- having realized that Eve Halliday, a friend of Phyllis and on whom he got love-struck the first sight, is also going to Blandings Castle as a cataloger. The plot is more complex than I have described, but the eliciting prose is of supreme clarity I wish I could write a few sentences that way in English, in my lifetime.

Here are two samples to get you going:
Are you really broke?
As broke as the Ten Commandments.
and the next
Planting his foot firmly on a golf-ball which the Hon. Freddie Threepwood, who had been practicing putting in the corridor before retiring to bed, had left in his casual fashion just where the steps began, he took the entire staircase in one majestic, volplaning sweep. There were eleven starirs in all separating his landing from the landing below, and the only ones he hit were the third and tenth. He came to rest with a squattering thud on the lower landing, and for a moment or two the fever of the chase left him.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Annals of Unusual Careers

One more data point:

MTech from IIT is mutt head:

Seer Nirmalanandanatha, an MTech from IIT-Madras, heading the Chikkaballapur branch of Adichunchanagiri mutt, was anointed the 72nd head of the mutt and successor of seer Balagangadharanatha, on Monday.

Actually, this story was worth a link just for the "mutt head" in the title.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Aaron Swartz

The news about Aaron Swarz's suicide comes as such a terrible shock. I have been following his career for several years now -- primarily through his blog posts, and articles about him at other places. His activism in the cause of free information and the open web has been as admirable as his technical wizardry and accomplishments were legendary.

There have been very moving tributes from his family and partner, and ex-lover. His friends -- Cory Doctorow, Lawrence Lessig (1, 2), and Peter Eckersley (at EFF) -- talk about his generosity and intensity.

The federal lawsuit following Aaron's JSTOR hack at MIT has been mentioned by many. His family and partner are quite blunt:

Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.

And so is Lawrence Lessig:

... if the government proved its case, some punishment was appropriate. So what was that appropriate punishment? Was Aaron a terrorist? Or a cracker trying to profit from stolen goods? Or was this something completely different?

Early on, and to its great credit, JSTOR figured “appropriate” out: They declined to pursue their own action against Aaron, and they asked the government to drop its. MIT, to its great shame, was not as clear, and so the prosecutor had the excuse he needed to continue his war against the “criminal” who we who loved him knew as Aaron.

Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor’s behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The “property” Aaron had “stolen,” we were told, was worth “millions of dollars” — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.


[Aaron] is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.

* * *

See also: Henry Farrell, Boing Boing for more links.

* * *

Update: MIT's new president, Prof. Rafael Reif has asked for a thorough review of MIT's actions in the prosecution of Aaron:

I... t pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.

... I have asked Professor Hal Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of MIT's involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present. I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took.

See also the reminiscences by danah boyd, Caleb Crain.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


  1. Jeffrey Mervis in Science Insider: Ten Years In, an Innovative College for Undergraduate Engineers Snags Prestigious Award. The innovative college in the title is the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, and Mervis's report has an interview of its president, Richard Miller. Here's a bit about the selection process:

    Most of [the mandatory weekend of interviews] is done in a team, groups of five from all over the world. In the first exercise, we give them a box and tell them they have 3 hours to design a particular widget. So it's a bit of a contest. We actually don't care how the project turns out, but we are looking to see how they interact with one another. …

    The next exercise is to see how they deal with controversy. They have 30 minutes to develop a presentation, and every member of the group has to speak. And we sit in the back of the room and watch them. …

    The last piece is a one-on-one interview, in which we ask them what it means to lead a good life. … This is all part of defining what we call multiple intelligences, which is a direct outgrowth of Howard Gardner's work at Harvard [University].

    And Miller makes this point again in a comparison with other tech colleges:

    ... Say, for example, during that last part of the application process, where it's one-on-one, you're sitting in the room with the kid and he or she is talking and looking down at their shoes and rocking back and forth and not making eye contact. And you ask, "So what do you do when you're not solving equations?" And the student says: "Well, I play video games."

    Now at Olin, that would probably not get you admitted. Despite the fact he might have perfect test scores, and he may be the next prodigy in computer science, I'm not sure that he or she would fit in well at Olin and grow, and the other students might not get much from the interaction. So we might put that fish back in the pond, and he or she would show up at another university. And he may go on to win a Nobel Prize. But it wouldn't be an Olin kid.

  2. In Cleaning Up Science, Gary Marcus, an NYU professor, offers six suggestions based on recent articles in a special issue of Perspectives in Psychological Science devoted Replicability in Psychological Science: A Crisis of Confidence?. Here's the first:

    Restructure the incentives in science. For many reasons, science has become a race for the swift, but not necessarily the careful. Grants, tenure, and publishing all depend on flashy, surprising results. It is difficult to publish a study that merely replicates a predecessor, and it’s difficult to get tenure (or grants, or a first faculty jobs) without publications in elite journals. From the time a young scientist starts a Ph. D. to the time they’re up for tenure is typically thirteen years (or more), at the end of which the no-longer young apprentice might find him or herself out of a job. It is perhaps, in hindsight, no small wonder that some wind up cutting corners. Instead of, for example, rewarding scientists largely for the number of papers they publish—which credits quick, sloppy results that might not be reliable—we might reward scientists to a greater degree for producing solid, trustworthy research that other people are able to successfully replicate and then extend.

  3. Ivan Oransky at Retraction Watch: Paul Muchowski, sanctioned last month by the ORI for falsely reporting results, offers an apology.

  4. Daniel Cressey in Nature: ‘Rehab’ helps errant researchers return to the lab [via Retraction Watch].

  5. Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg in The Atlantic: Technology Porn for Book Lovers: A 1940s Guide to Printing [features a video on How Books Are Made].

Sunday, January 06, 2013


  1. Nick Rowe: The Depressing Job of Grading Exams.

  2. Thomas Anderson: Conference Reviewing Considered Harmful [pdf]:

    ... We present data to show that the variability between reviewers is often the dominant factor as to whether a paper is accepted. We argue that paper merit is likely to be zipf distributed, making it inherently difficult for program committees to distinguish between most papers. We use game theory to show that with noisy reviews and zipf merit, authors have an incentive to submit papers too early and too often. These factors make conference reviewing, and systems research as a whole, less efficient and less effective ...

  3. The Triumph of the Nerds: "The internet has unleashed a burst of cartooning creativity." Both SMBC and XKCD make an appearance, and so do Oatmeal and Dinosaur comics.

  4. SMBC Cartoons on a mathematician's fantasy fight with a physicist and Assburger's Syndrome.

Music time: "How English sounds to non-English speaker"

The NPR story on this song describes it this way:

The song, called "Prisencolinensinainciusol," was written to mimic the way English sounds to non-English speakers.

YouTube link.

Just in case you didn't know ...

The 2013 list of least stressful jobs includes -- ta-da, drum-roll and all that -- University Professor -- right at #1, ahead of seamstress/tailor, audiologist and dietician. [An addendum offers some qualifications, but still ...]

That's from the 2013 list. I wonder who all figured in the previous years' lists.

* * *

[Update: Okay, I found the lists for 2012, 2011 and 2010.

It turns out that university professors didn't even make the top 10 list in 2012 and 2011; the 2010 list includes philosophers at #7 and mathematicians at #8.

The Hindustan Times on IISc's UG program

Happy new year, folks!

* * *

As some of you might know, our Institute launched a 4-year BS program in 2011. The students of the first batch have just entered the fourth semester, in which they begin classes in their major subjects (after taking a common set core courses in the sciences, humanities and engineering). As expected, the most popular major, with over a third of the batch opting for it.

* * *

Today's HT carries a news report about the program. Let me just say that it's largely -- and gratifyingly! -- positive.

* * *

This semester, I teach a course on thermodynamics (with a focus on applications in materials science) for the UG students in the materials major (+ a few others). Exciting times!