Saturday, October 04, 2008

Interview of IISc Director Prof. P. Balaram

It's a reasonably wide-ranging interview, and it's by Sugata Srinivasaraju of Outlook (there's also an accompanying article, along with a list of famous people who have had an association with our Institute). The occasion, of course, is the Centenary of the Institute. [In the excerpts below, all the bold emphasis is from me]

There cannot be a better advertisement for the Institute than this:

I spent all my adult life in IISc. You can't find a better place to work. It has a wonderful ambience. People are free to do what they want. By and large the discourse here is gentle. Many many people in IISc are involved in their work. They like what they are doing. They are completely involved in it. They are happiest when they are pursuing their research. If more number of people are happy, their happiness contributes to the ambience of the place. An academic research institution is a wonderful place. However lowdown in the academic hierarchy, there is nobody telling you what to do. You are really in many ways marching to your own tune.

And about some of the new initiatives at IISc:

... [W]e would now like the institute to modernise in a major way. We have begun the process of modernising our laboratories. We want the next generation of researchers to be doing research in laboratory surroundings that are distinctly more competitive from what we have had till now. We are also investing in new areas. We are making investments in areas of nano electronics, nano science, and areas of biology. We are constructing new buildings for the aersopace and physics departments. We are also putting into motion programmes that will bring many more international scientists to come and work here for reasonable periods. We want to increase international presence here and make it more heterogeneous. And we would like to expand in some other areas too. We are looking at the possibility of creating an inter-disciplinary research centre where we hope biologists, physicists, computer scientists, electronics and electrical engineers and people from other fields would all work together on some important problem of great practical use. One area that has been identified is energy and materials. Also synthetic chemistry. Last year, we created a centre for earth sciences and are in the process of creating a centre for neuroscience. My personal hope is that we should be able to expand the component of bio-medical research. Another programme that is still being talked about is if we should actually create an undergraduate programme as a bridge between science and engineering and try to create a unique programme that is not available elsewhere.

About the prospects for humanities and social sciences in the Institute:

Every place which is devoted predominantly to science and technology would vastly benefit by having a small section that dealt with humanities and social sciences. In fact, the setting up of the archives at the institute is itself an attempt to hope some historians of science would come and spend time here. We started a centre for contemporary studies sometime ago to bridge this gap, but these are still small efforts. I hope we will be able to do more.


  1. Anonymous said...

  2. Unknown said...

    Grear ..... I like these liens "People are free to do what they want."

  3. madraskaari said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  4. madraskaari said...


  5. Anonymous said...

    "People are free to do what they want."

    Lol, I would love to work in IISc when I return from US faculty position in old age and my kids are settled in US. I would do crappy research coz I will be free to do what I want and no one can fire me....I would most likely join at the highest pay scale and enjoy my retirement at the serene surroundings of IISc..

  6. Anonymous said...

    To the anon above.

    Would you return from US, or get kicked out?

  7. Anonymous said...

    Either way...IISc and IITs are a safe option for a retirement like life and now with packages improving got better..

  8. Rahul Siddharthan said...

    Whether by accident or design, it is very fortunate that Prof. Balaram happens to be the director at the time of the centenary. IISc has always been a mixed bag (like any large institution really), but Prof Balaram has stood out not only for his academic credentials but for his integrity and forthrightness. In addition, it appears that he has the vision to take the institute forward.

  9. gaddeswarup said...

    Madhav Gadgil's name (and probably several other names) is missing from the list of famous people.

  10. Anonymous said...

    _"I spent all my adult life in IISc. You can't find a better place to work"_

    Can anyone having spent their entire adult life in one single place be in a position to compare it with other places and draw such a conlusion? Biased thinking,I must say.

  11. Anonymous said...

    My understanding is that of late, IISc is in fact losing some of the highly competant people, rather than the other way round. A generation ago, several legendary people used to be on the faculty of IISc, such people seem to be getting lesser and lesser. As long as the govt. associates with IISc the way it is, all the tall talk of taking IISc to next level, world class research etc. - will be just wishful thinking. Prof. Balaram probably knows this too - but this is the era of political correctness. In few years down, IISc will be just another university. May be that's they want - after all, excellence is anathemical to socialism!

  12. Anonymous said...

    "People are free to do what they want."


  13. Anonymous said...

    prof Roddam Narasimha's name is missing in the list

  14. Anonymous said...

    Does India need retired and exhausted people?

    We are in late 20s and early 30s, my area is Xray and EM for example.. biophysics, trained in Germany, UK and USA... why don't you leave it to us and enjoy seeing your kids going for dates? ;)

    So much for people who just can take a piss..

  15. Anonymous said...

    Hi I can agree as IISc is a very Institute in India,but still it has to change lot interms of faculty and administration.
    ican give one example for faculty
    scientist means aacharya highly learned person ,fully metured ,kind heart,generousness who worked for socity welfare and contry because of these qualities we are giving high respect for them.
    But if you come reality what happening you know, all unqualified people accumulated
    for eg;; in MCBL dept many lady faculties are behaving very badly with students eb . Vijaya.
    In MRDG dept also all waste professors IISc should kickout them even they wont publish papers ,simply enjoing the position and getting respect as a scientist
    But they there are very gud Scientists in IISc who dedicated their life for science really hatsap to them..because of them IISc still has name and fame

    And at the same time dont hipe about IISc we are doing like frog in the well , If you come out side of India and see really IISc doesnt have that much strength, we have to make it strong

    IISc shoud recruit very highly talented faculty not recomended people, if take recomended people we have to suffer 30 years of his folishness

    And students rights are not good in IISC, some people joined as a project assistants some faculty they wont pay them also eventhough they work very hard, this kind of behavior i never see in out side of india .

    These scientist saying we are working for socity and human welfare , and if you wont treat your students properly waht hel;l your doing.

    plase forgive if any mistakes you found
    ian not very good in english
    i just tried here to explin my inner feelings with you people like me


  16. Anonymous said...

    What they publish at IISc is worth nothing and no one really cares. How many papers come out in high impact journals from IISc (particularly in natural sciences)? I hope they improve their quality (rather than quantity) and set a higher bench mark!