Posted on Monday, June 22, 2015
I graduated with a Master’s in chemistry from the University of Pune. After completing my Master’s, I joined the Tata Chemicals Ltd Innovation Centre’s advanced materials division in Pune, where I worked on industrial research projects aimed at developing products of commercial value. With exposure to an industrial research set-up, I was motivated to pursue a doctorate with real-world applications.
So, I joined the IIT Bombay-Monash Research Academy, offering a joint PhD which requires ones to carry out research at both partner institutes, IIT Bombay and Monash University, Australia. I work on tailoring nanomaterials for enhanced thermal energy transport, which falls in the domains of chemistry, material science and energy engineering. The outcomes are expected to impact solar thermal energy systems, waste heat recovery, enhanced efficiency in automobiles and power generation.
I came to know about the new Prime Minister's fellowship scheme for doctoral research (PMFSDR), which would allow me to work with industry. The fellowship is open to PhD students who apply for it within 14 months of enrolling for a PhD in science or engineering at a recognised institution in India. One needs to identify a research problem. Further, they need to find an industry partner interested in the problem, which must align with the domain in which the organisation operates. Next, they can apply online any time during the year. The application process requires a brief write-up describing the research problem; information on the scholar’s academic background; profiles of the academic guide and proposed industry mentor; and affidavits from the academic institution and sponsoring industry committing to support the candidate if s/he is selected.
I approached the identified industry partner through the head of my institution. After deliberations on the research problems and expected output, we jointly finalised the research plan. Subsequently, I applied for and won the award in the first batch of 2013.
The fellows receive a stipend of about Rs 6 lakh annually for up to four years. Every year, up to 100 projects are funded equally by the government and industry partners such as the Confederation of Indian Industry.
The fellowship is for those interested in applied research with an industrial focus in a collaborative environment. Thanks to the industrial perspective, my research problem was refined towards specific goals and outcomes that had commercial relevance. From an industry point of view, the project’s cost, scalability, life cycle, feasibility and environmental impact had to be considered from the proposal stage.
During my project, I had to find an alternative to expensive materials such as silver nitrate, which we managed to replace with copper chloride. This brought down the costs because silver is priced at about Rs 38,000 per kg and copper at about Rs 370 per kg. This is how industry inputs filled the gaps in academic research.
- As told to Sarah Zia
- As told to Sarah Zia
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