Professor Sameer Khandekar
Professor Sameer Khandekar is a faculty in Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Kanpur. He pursued his BE from Government Engineering College Rani Durgavati Vishwavidyalaya Jabalpur (1989-1993). After being employed as a Marine Engineer (sailing on merchant vessels as a power plant engineer) for four years, he resumed his research interests by pursuing M.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering (1998-2000, Specialization in Thermal and Fluid Sciences) from IIT Kanpur and PhD from University of Stuttgart, Germany (2000-2004). Professor Khandekar has not only got a brilliant academic record, but is also endowed with a charismatic personality and a very realistic and ‘down-to-earth’ approach towards life. We had a long discussion with him in his laboratory on various topics, only parts of which can be recounted here.
GC: Sir, you have interacted with so many students. As per your experience, how is the general response of students towards higher studies?
GC: Why do students come for M.Tech.?
Thus, in the ideal condition, if one shows interest in an M.Tech. degree program, he/she must have some inherent urge for systematic knowledge-generation activity. In India today, there is a serious ‘conflict of mandate’. On one hand, the ideal mandate of a post-graduate institute ought to be what I have discussed above, the mandate of most of the incoming students (I do not want to generalize this statement as we always have a bunch of highly motivated students too) is to ‘use’ the M.Tech. degree as a tool to obtain better jobs (or to obtain jobs), which they could not get after their under-graduate studies (for various reasons which I will not go into at this stage). This is what I call a ‘conflict of mandate’.
GC: In your view, what qualities should a student bear for being a good researcher?
GC: What is better- M.Tech/PhD directly after B.Tech or after some job experience?
For me, I would say industry experience served well. Sitting on a desk we can think of many ideas but not all of them are feasible in practical real life; this is what we learn by solving real time problems in the industry. We understand that technology per se is not sufficient; we need an economic, societal and policy and regulatory eco-system for the technology to generate wealth and make a difference in the society. Also, many of my doubts in theoretical understanding got clarified while working on real-life engineering problems. When I started teaching too, I found myself quite comfortable and confident because I could explain certain concepts very easily and clearly since I had actually worked on them. From the social and family perspective also, it has been quite a smooth journey for me. I got married while I was in job and earning well, and continued higher studies thereafter. My son was born when I was doing M.Tech. at IITK!
I would say that everyone has to take his or her decision looking into many things. Family, socio-economic conditions, planning of marriage, education of siblings and other dependents, health and age related issues, level of enthusiasm, overall aim and milestones under planning, etc., are some of the factors which one must consider. Try to make a balance between academic interests and your circumstances.
GC: What percentage of students in your department is inclined towards further research, leading to PhD?
GC: Do the students that take admission here satisfy the academic and conceptual level that is expected of them?
Having said that, we still manage to get a small portion of highly motivated and dedicated students. But this number has to go up substantially for sustainable development of high quality human resource so as to provide vital support to our growing economy.
At this stage I would also like to remind that every financial transaction made in a professional system has a mandate and purpose associate with it. When a post-graduate student accepts the institute assistantship, he/she essentially has a professional commitment that he/she will contribute towards the knowledge generation activities of the institute. Therefore, your scholarship should not be taken as free lunch. At least, till the time you are associated with the institute, you must work professionally to deliver what is expected from you as a post-graduate student.
GC: Message for the students?