Have you met a scientist who wanted to change the education system? Have you met a passionate educationist who dreamt of building world class universities? He studied and worked in the United States and returned to India with a child hood dream; to contribute to the cause of his motherland. The distinguished scientist worked for NASA Space Biology Programme and harboured the dream to serve India and especially bring change to Odisha. We are talking about renowned scientist and educationist Prof Baishnab Charan Tripathy, currently the Vice Chancellor at historic and prestigious Ravenshaw University.
Odishadiary editor, Rashmi r Parida interviewed Professor Tripathy to understand the person, his passion, his dreams and his vision for Ravenshaw University.
OD: After so many years of studying, researching and living outside Odisha, now you are back to Odisha as the Vice Chancellor of a great place of learning. What has been your experience so far?
BCT: I am quite happy with this assignment. Ravenshaw is the glory of Odisha, my task is take it to new heights. From day one I have started working on this. Ravenshaw as an institution has a glorious history. My dream is to develop this new University as a leading centre of learning at the national level. However the challenges are daunting and I am ready to face all of them.
OD: Recently Odisha Cabinet approved land for the new Ravenshaw University campus. How are you planning to develop the new campus?
BCT: I thank the state government for granting 141 acres of land for the new campus of Ravenshaw University. We are waiting for the formal hand over of land document to the university. Now the most important thing is how to develop the new campus. At present we have not got any budgetary allocation for the new campus. In this backdrop I am planning to approach our parliamentarians to donate funds for the building of this prestigious institution's new campus.
I will push hard for progress of work on the second campus this year. My agenda also includes construction of separate buildings for new and old departments, new hostels for girls and boys, quarters for teaching and non-teaching staff, modern gym and playground on the new campus.
OD: It is widely perceived that the quality of teaching and learning atmosphere has decreased in Odisha. Do you agree on this? If yes what have you planned for your university?
BCT: The main concern is the vacant posts of faculty members in various departments of the University. The teacher –student ratio in Ravenshaw is not upto the mark. I have approached the state Government to fill up the vacant teachers' posts. I will try to constitute a good selection committee to select new faculty members. Contractual appointment of faculty has to stop. We are planning to open 11 new schools, these are in the areas of like Life Sciences, Geophysics, Computational Science, Space and Planetary Science, Material Scinces, International Studies, Media Studies and others. Besides that I am planning to take steps for creation of a school of creative and performing arts. The school will try to revive the traditional drama and stage shows in Cuttack and Odisha.
I am very keen to develop and shape a strong academic environment in the university. To make academic environment friendlier we are taking number of participatory steps. We are developing more dynamic course curriculums. From next academic session, we are thinking to make 70 percent attention compulsory for students. The interact with the students and faculties in several occasion. Even I am planning to take classes and teach the students on their subjects.
OD: What steps you have taken to resolve the hostel issue?
BCT: The university is building a new girls’ hostel now. Two more girls hostels are in the pipeline.
OD: Are you planning to collaborate and develop academic tie ups with international institutions and Universities?
BCT: Recently our University inked a pact with Hiroshima Kokusai Gakuin (HKG) University of Japan. The agreement was to promote exchange of research scholars, students, and members of the faculty between the two universities. We are planning to tie up with Universities based in US, Italy, Germany, UK, Australia.
OD: Any planning to host national or international symposium in future?
BCT: Recently Sociology and History departments hosted national symposium. The University has 27 departments, every department has ability to host national or international symposium. Each faculty member has already been told to make projects and apply for funding from UGC and other funding agencies to host national or international symposium.
OD: Any plan to encourage foreign students to admit in Ravenshaw?
BCT: Ravenshaw University is always encouraging talented students from foreign countries to study in different courses. In 2009-10, 64 students from Afghanistan alone joined the University. Many students from Africa and Caribbean countries are studying here now.
OD: Any plan to develop new curriculum and class room atmosphere?
BCT: My first priority is strictly adhering to academic calendar. I want to revise the courses of studies as per the guidelines of University Grants Commission (UGC). I want to introduce a semester system at the undergraduate level, invite subject experts and eminent academicians for special lectures to encourage debates and discussion among students and teachers. My target also includes making students aware of social needs and their responsibilities, monitoring classroom activities, inspiring teachers to counsel students.
OD: Can you tell us a little bit about what your research?
BCT: I have administered several projects funded by DBT, DST, CSIR, NAIP and NASA, USA. Presently, I have two research projects from DBT, one project from DST on several areas of photosynthesis. The project from NAIP is a World Bank funded project that deals with transformation of C3 plants to C4. The most memorable project was Space Biology Program at NASA.
Currently I have six PhD students, and 2 research associates. They are working on primary processes of photosynthesis, photodynamic herbicides, generation of transgenic crop plants resistant to herbicides, molecular biology of chlorophyll biosynthesis, chloroplast biogenesis, signal transduction from root to shoot, protein transport into chloroplast and stress responses of plants to abiotic stress and generation of transgenic plants resistant to abiotic stress
OD: Do you feel after being the VC, you are slowly away from scientific research and innovation?
BCT: The job of a VC is this not like this, but this new assignment is very challenging. Due to this challenge my scientific endeavour has certainly been affected. Nevertheless, I am enjoying the responsibility.