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Recruiting, encouraging and retaining talent becomes imperative for the success of an educational institution of the stature of IIT Kharagpur, recognized already as an Institution of Eminence. Chair Professorships are critical to this exercise. Institute Chairs, Faculty Excellence awards and alumni-funded Chairs all contribute to creating an ecosystem that nurtures creativity, rewards excellence and provides an incentive for hard work.

It is a privilege for IIT Kharagpur that its alumni understand this connection. Over the years, several Chairs have been created by the alumni to encourage excellence. Alumni-endowed Chairs are, in fact, increasingly driving research in critical and challenging areas of research. In the year 2018-19, several Chairs were instituted by the alumni. Among them is the Lord Kumar Bhattacharya Chair Professor of Manufacturing set up by alumnus Prof. Tapan Bagchi (DSc/2012/IM).

The Lord Kumar Bhattacharya Chair Professor of Manufacturing intends to identify sectors that hinge on excellence in manufacturing and to promote vigorous partnership with industry with matching aspiration while making maximum use of the technological capabilities of IIT Kharagpur. It could lead to product-innovations that will make a mark in markets abroad.

The appointee of this Chair for 2019-22 is Prof. Surjya K. Pal, Mechanical Engineering, who also heads IIT Kharagpur’s DHI Centre of Excellence in Advanced Manufacturing Technology. The Centre was set up in November 2017 by the Department of Heavy Industries (DHI) under the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Govt. of India, to strengthen the country’s capital goods sector through a constant upgradation of manufacturing technology and technology transfer to industry, particularly to MSMEs. Working with a consortium of some of the country’s premier private and public sector companies, the Centre is handling nine projects that are destined to change the face of the manufacturing industry in India.

Not surprisingly, Prof. Pal is honoured to be appointed the Chair. He says, “Lord Bhattacharyya was a pioneer in bringing academic research to the industries in order to create an impact in the industrial world. The DHI Centre of Excellence for Advanced Manufacturing was set up with the same motto… Receiving the award in the name of Lord Bhattacharyya is thus a real honour to me.”

Prof. Pallab Dasgupta of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, who has been at the forefront of AI research at IIT Kharagpur since the 1990s, was recently appointed the A.K. Singh Distinguished Chair Professorship for Artifical Intelligence research. Prof. Dasgupta talks of the honour, “The Chair, named after A.K. Singh a dedicated police officer, bestows a responsibility beyond academic distinction. My present goal is to develop an interdisciplinary research group on verifiable AI technology which will focus on enabling the integration of AI in embedded systems with provable safety guarantees.”

Each of the Alumni-endowed Chairs lays special emphasis on areas or teaching excellence. Take the Aditya Choubey Chair that promotes Re-water research, or the Excellent Young Teacher Award instituted by the IIT Foundation of India seeks to attract top talent as faculty and recognize their contributions made to students through their commitment to teaching, involvement in student related sports, social, cultural, technology, innovation or entrepreneurship. The latest recipient of the award is Prof. Swanand R. Khare of the Mathematics department.

Endowed Chairs are not only an honour for the named holder of the appointment but also an enduring tribute to the donor who establishes it. Take the A.S. Davis Chair Professorship instituted by Mr. Vinod Gupta (BTech/AG/1967) who set up the Chair recently in memory of his teacher, Prof. A.S. Davis, who taught him Thermodynamics. (The recipient of the Chair, announced recently, is Prof. Prasanta K. Das, Dean, Faculty, and Professor, Mechanical Engineering).

Or take the Amitabh Agrawal Chair Professorship instituted in 2018 by Amitabh Agrawal, an Electrical Engineering graduate from the Batch of 1967. This particular chair lays special emphasis on the study of power system, control and automation. The recipient of the honour is Prof. Ashok Pradhan of the Electrical Engineering Department.

Sometimes, the alumni-endowed Chairs try to add a novel dimension to research. Take the Avinash Gupta Chair awarded to faculty of the Department of Architecture and Regional Planning. Instituted in the honour Avinash Gupta, a graduate from this particular department, honours his deep interest in the medical domain. Prof. Subrata Chattopadhyay, recipient of the honour, says, “I feel proud to take forward his legacy that brings together two high relevant aspects of modern life – the aesthetics of architecture and the criticality of proper healthcare.” A recent symposium organized by Prof. Chattopadhyay brought together experts from the diverse fields of medicine and academics to explore issues affecting modern healthcare from theh perspective of lifestyle, affordability, prevention habits and infrastructure.

The Shyamal Ghosh and Sunanda Ghosh Chair, awarded to faculty of the Mechanical Engineering Department, lays special emphasis on design and manufacturing of mechanical structures and mechanism. Prof. Amiya Ranjan Mohanty, appointed the Chair, says, “This recognition has given me visibility among KGPian groups across the world and I will continue to do my research and teaching with passion and vigour in the areas of machinery condition monitoring and industrial acoustics and noise control.” Likewise, the M.A. Ramulu & Mrs. Saroja Ramulu Chair, awarded to Prof. Jayanta Bhattacharya, from the Mining Engineering Department, is expected to promote further research into mining engineering and safety.

Graphics : Suman Sutradhar

By Chirosree Basu

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