Talking collaboration with Bhabha Atomic Research Council, Dr. Dayananda Siddavattam, Vice Chancellor of Gandhi Institute of Technology and Management (GITAM), Visakhapatnam, emphasizes on financial encouragement for research in India with Education Post’s Tanay Kumar. He shares his academic journey and other viewpoints.
You had received a scholarship to study in Germany. Will you please tell us about your academic journey?
I was born in a small village in Chittur district of Andhra Pradesh and completed my schooling from the same district and then I moved to Tirupathi for B.Sc. from Sri Venkateswara University. I cleared my B.Sc. in first attempt, which confirmed my seat for the M.Sc. and subsequently I completed my PhD from the department of Zoology of SV University, Tirupati. Later, I got a scholarship from DAAD to study in Germany in 1988 and BMFT visiting scientist fellowships from the Ministry of Science and Technology, Federal Republic of Germany.
Then I started as a lecturer at the SK University, Anantapur and later on I shaped the biotechnology department at the university. I moved to the University of Hyderabad in 2007 as a full professor. I held several academic and administrative positions at the University of Hyderabad. Till I superannuated at the UoH, I was the dean of the department and now I am serving my duties as the Vice Chancellor of GITAM University.
After returning to India from Germany, you established a laboratory at SK University. What are the reasons that most laboratories in Indian institutions are not at parity with Europeans or even our own IIT labs?
It is all because of the encouragement received in the Western world for the research. Their endowment amount from the GDP for research is really very high. It is definitely good that we are really transitioning towards a service oriented economy from an agrarian economy, but we really need to be a knowledge-based society as well. Plus, the financial health of a country is also important. Lesser political interference is also a very crucial when it comes to excelling in academics. Many Public universities in India have not that autonomy to recruit learned teachers or heavy equipments to train the students.
Most of the students, who study biology in class 12th, prefer either medical or pharma for their future. Why does microbiology not enjoy this level of preference and do you believe that market is a reason behind it?
Actually, there are two issues here. A majority of students want to settle down in their lives and seek a common life, better to say–“secured life” with a house, wife, two children, a four-wheeler and a normal livelihood. With India, it is true for any society in the world and it is absolutely fine.
On the other hand, in any country, some students are always different and they think unconventionally. Their main aim is to know more, to question, to research and thus such type of students pursue research in subjects like microbiology, biotechnology, etc. So, such type of students would always be in a lesser quantity. They just need encouragement for their research and it is also fine.
GITAM has partnered with 18 global universities. Please tell us about some achievements of the international collaboration of the university.
Any collaboration of ours has three main aims: first, to make them global citizens; second is to integrate the researches of GITAM with the other famous universities of the world as one must look at both ambits, i.e. outside of the country and within the country; third, to expose students for the bigger opportunities.
GITAM is interested in offering training programs on exchange basis from other universities around the world. Students study half of the coursework at the GITAM and rest half in another global university and ultimately they get the degree of both of the universities.
One thing I must assert here is that without strong research activities and research outcomes, any collaboration with any global university doesn’t sustain for a longer time. All the collaboration entails practical and experiential learning in every top university and thus research becomes really important in this aspect.
The institute has collaboration in research with 17 prestigious organizations like BARC and ICRISAT (The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics). Please share some achievements of scholars in these collaborations?
Just a couple of days back, representatives from Bhabha Atomic Research Council visited our campus as they want to install their one training centre at GITAM. They have gained around 3,500 acre of land near Atchutapuram of Andhra Pradesh and after installing all the equipments, BARC would set up their small labs at the GITAM as well.
We designate eminent researchers from different organizations as ‘Adjunct Faculty.’ They are already working at some prestigious organization, but we call them to teach our students of GITAM. Our students work in their labs and under their guidance. Many times, our students are the co-authors of research papers published by those eminent scientists.
Please tell us about the placement culture and its statistics at GITAM.
First, because of the above mentioned research and skill-driven study, our placement record is also above 95%. Further, GITAM University has a GCC–GITAM Career Guidance Centre which is headed by a director. The department visits the leading industries from all over the world and they detect industrial requirements and train the students accordingly. Also, we invite them to assess the capability of our students as well and then we guide the students on the basis of received inputs from them.
According to you, what are the three things that Indian universities (both public and private) are in desperate need of current time?
First, I would say that university means not only a big infrastructure. Many top global universities don’t have colossal and massive buildings, but they are exceptional when it comes to delivering education. Therefore, it is the human resources that matter the most and second autonomy of the public universities. Many public universities in India don’t have world-class equipments in their labs. So, recruiting learned and rational people with autonomy to bring essential equipments are some desperate needs of the Indian universities.
Plus, there is also another matter of secondary schools as well as they are the foundations of learning for all students. It is a matter of contemplation that numerous students from state board and public schools (10+2 levels) are not able to secure a seat in the higher education colleges. Some of them, of course, do secure a position, but large magnitudes of students don’t. Therefore, we need to focus on our secondary schools as well.