A couple of years back, IIT Bombay celebrated its Diamond Jubilee. When the institute was founded in 1958, it had just a few engineering and science programmes. Today, this Institute of Eminence (the MHRD’s words, not ours) has expanded many-fold to accommodate 15 departments, 19 multidisciplinary centres, 1 school of excellence and 4 interdisciplinary programs. We decided to throw some perspective to this transformation of IIT Bombay, from being a mere engineering institute to becoming as diverse as a university.
The institute has recently recognized the need for new courses to meet the demands of the dynamic job market. As most of these courses have developed recently, they provide unique opportunities but also face a host of challenges. We try to explore these concerns through interviews with department general secretaries.
The Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) Department: History
The Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in the institute runs to supplement the conventional STEM disciplines with a more holistic understanding of the broader socio-cultural, economic, and ethical aspects that come along with them. Prof. Pushpa Trivedi, the head of the HSS department remarks, ‘The main idea behind the role of HSS was in shaping or acquainting the engineers to the societal needs, because a more complete picture of the society was sought to be given to them: so that technology could also interface with society, rather than only in the labs which are cut off from real life.’
When it comes to compulsory HSS courses, Prof. Trivedi states that in conventional university courses, the students are already familiar with the basics and hence the curriculum is often of a high level. Here, the students also need to be taught the basics with the end-goal of the curriculum at the same high level where it becomes a challenge for the faculty to be able to teach them and so in a large batch of undergraduates, it is considered a good sign even if a certain proportion of them develop an interest in humanities.
The HSS department is also involved in quite a few trans-academic activities, wherein its faculty act as advisors for bodies like the Women’s Cell, SC/ST cell, etc. Originally the Department of Languages in 1958 – where it used to conduct language classes for the engineering students – it was renamed the Department of Humanities, and subsequently, into the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, we now know.
It was in the mid-1970s that the department really took shape, with PhD programmes, compulsory credits in HSS for science students, etc. It was during this period that a committee was formed and convened to discuss the role and output of HSS for the undergraduate students, and placed emphasis on PG programmes and advanced research.
Dr P.K. Kelkar, one of the founding directors of IIT Kanpur and a former director of IIT Bombay, was part of this committee and was instrumental in making HSS a full-fledged department rather than a “service” department, which it used to be earlier, as Prof. Trivedi puts it. From electives to core courses, a full-fledged minor, the recent programme in B.S. Economics, and the option of branch-change to HSS, the department has transformed over the years, becoming interdisciplinary and increasingly accessible to the students.
In 2017, the HSS department started its own bachelors’ programme for the first time and it was a major step forward for the department. The B.S. Economics is a 4-year course that aims to produce well-trained professionals with inter and multidisciplinary skills for Applied Economic Analysis. The programme seeks to impart education to students to become more efficient analysts/decision-making professionals in the areas of business and public policy & development administration.
Talking especially about the economics curriculum, most courses take into account the modern development of the fields in which the curriculum is designed to provide students with the knowledge of the earliest theories developed in the field to the latest developments along with a healthy discussion on contemporary economic policies. The initial batch faced problems regarding the running of an appropriate number of economics electives. However, now the department has approved a list of courses from other departments that can be tagged as economics electives.
Currently, there are 3 professors, 4 associate professors, and 5 assistant professors among the economics faculty in the department. The department recently hired two new professors to meet the increasing needs of the department. The department also has to visit faculty to tackle the problem.
All the faculty members are very approachable while seeking help and are willing to provide projects to students who show enough sincerity. To bridge the gap between students and teachers and to promote research among students recently the department council launched its own program called RUPEE (Research Undergraduate Programme for Emerging Economists) similar to iSURP which received a good response from faculty members as well as students. The department also organizes frequent speaker sessions to encourage and promote research among students.
Internships and Placements
Jobs in analytics can be considered as somewhat core due to courses such as statistics, econometrics, and game theory, which are taught in the curriculum. While non-core opportunities like most of the other departments in the institute, constitute finance, consulting, business development, and the IT sector.
Students have a large number of opportunities in terms of Masters’ or PhD programmes which include higher study in core economics to somewhat less economics involvement such as finance. The course has been designed following the standards of the international standard for economics undergraduate courses around the world, therefore, provides opportunities for Masters’ or PhDs in leading universities around the world.
The Environmental Science and Engineering Department (ESED): History
The Environmental Science and Engineering Department (ESED) was established in 1985 as a centre for Environmental science and Engineering, and recently in February 2019, got the department status. Prior to this, an “Environmental Science and Engineering Group” composed of faculty members from various allied disciplines existed on campus since 1977.
ESED currently has a dedicated group of 15 faculty members with multi-disciplinary background and interests. Since the beginning, the Department has established and maintained strong links with leading industries, institutions and national and international funding agencies. Research projects are currently funded by renowned agencies such as CIAR (Centre for Indoor Air Research, USA), DST (Department of Science and Technology), AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) and MOEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests).
Academics in the department does not take into account modern development except for some courses. Regardless, the curriculum is compatible with the industry demands, and many software are taught which are needed in the field.
The department’s ongoing research deals with contemporary topics including, but not limited to the following:
- Clean technologies and industrial pollution prevention.
- Integrated treatment and disposal of hazardous waste.
- Biomedical waste management.
- Biodegradation of complex industrial wastewater (fertilizer, food, paper, coke oven, diary, distillery, petrochemicals) and wastewater containing halogenated aromatics, nitro-aromatics and other mixed substrates.
- Biodegradation of complex non-aqueous liquid pollutants (NAPLs e.g., oil and tar).
- Desalination and wastewater treatment by membrane technology
While many opportunities for research exist, they can not UG students could not involve themselves in research due to the lockdown. It can be introduced when the students reach back to the campus. Further, no program like iSURP is in action yet.
Internships and placements
The core opportunities are not up to the mark, only 2 to 3 students are placed every year, and the rest are placed in the coding sector as there are not enough core companies coming to the campus. Many students tend to lose interest as a result.
PhD opportunities can be pursued abroad but only a few students have gone on to pursue such programs.
The Chemistry Department
The department, inaugurated in 1958 with the assistance of the Soviet Union, is considered to be one of the leading departments in IIT Bombay. This is attributed to its large faculty strength and diverse research areas. The department started offering BSc. in Chemistry in 2014.
The curriculum is well managed as per the current course requirements. The discipline of Chemistry requires more scientific research than industry work. In most cases, professors do try to make sure that students are aware of the ongoing developments related to the topics they teach and welcome any suggestions given by students for their courses. In order to integrate these developments, a new curriculum is being vetted.
The faculty-student ratio is well balanced in the department. In a class of around 30 students of the BS program, the professors are in touch with almost every student in their class and this results in fruitful and beneficial teacher-student interactions. Talking about the department as a whole, they have around 40 professors in total and each of them is very helpful and approachable to all students.
Some of the prominent research fields being practised in the department are catalysis, Natural product synthesis, Spectrochemistry, Theoretical & Computational Chemistry, Biochemistry, Nanomaterials, etc. The department is actively recruiting faculty members to increase its research capacity. The intake of PhD students has risen exponentially as well over the years. The Chemistry department ranks among the top departments in the institute in terms of research output.
It’s not that difficult to get a project under professors. The student can contact the professor directly he/she wants to work with. Professors generally admit them, discuss the project with them and ask their PhD students to help the students.
The department conducts an event called Department Open Day where students are taken for lab visits of various professors. The PhD students working there demonstrate small experiments on instruments and big machines they have to build curiosity in students. Students can directly interact with them and understand their field and projects.
Internships and placements
People in the BS batch have mixed feelings for core and noncore. People interested in core convert to Integrated MSc or apply in foreign universities for PhDs. There are very few companies that offer core jobs in India. The craze for non-core saw an increase this year compared to last year. They had 2 PPOs and 7 placement offers this year in the batch of 26 students, all non-core including Walmart, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, American Express, etc. We had a mix of coding, finance, and analytics in terms of the profile of placed students this year. 6 to 7 students are eyeing core opportunities as of now.
There are ample opportunities for masters and PhDs in India as well as abroad. Chemistry is a vast field when it comes to research. It is certainly growing and encompasses a crucial area of research.
Faculty and Students
Our HoD, Professor Anindya Dutta, is one of the most loved professors not only in our department but in the institute. He is really cool and very friendly to all his students. He keeps himself really active in person as well as on social media :p You can approach him easily on his email and expect a reply by EoD (sometimes instantly)
The faculty advisors are helpful too and will listen to you and help you in whichever way they can. Generally, they reply to students on emails unless they are travelling somewhere or are really busy.
Around 90% of the professors value the feedback and try to incorporate the suggestions given by the students.
The Chemistry department has a well-balanced batch strength which promotes good interaction among peers, unlike other bigger departments. The faculties are very interactive and offer good advice to students. Also, pizza treats by Professors are something which they do often as well. Perks of a small department :P.
Educational Technology IITB
The Interdisciplinary Program in Education Technology, inaugurated in 2010, is a relatively new and emerging addition to the areas of research IIT Bombay has to offer. It offers both M. Tech and PhD. programmes and has admitted 18 PhD. students across all the semesters. In the last decade, the department has gone on to produce papers that were published in rank 1 and rank 2 journals/conferences.
The main objective of the department is to be a source of innovations that can improve the quality of technology-driven education.
Keeping this in mind, let us look and the three key research thrusts of this department:
- Technology Enhanced Learning of Thinking Skills (TELoTS):
This area focuses on the cognitive abilities used in engineering and science. The ongoing research involves assessing and finding technology-based enhanced learning environments for these abilities.
- Teacher Use of Education Technology (TEUT):
Along with developing Educational Technologies, it is crucial to integrate them with current methods of teaching. TEUT deals with exactly that – the development of frameworks and strategies to integrate ET technologies into the education system.
- Physiology of Teaching and Learning (PsyTeL):
It involves the use of psychophysiological sensors and ICT (Information Communication Technology) tools to understand and improve teaching-learning from a process centred perspective. Tools such as Galvanic Skin Sensors, eye trackers and electroencephalogram (EEG) are used to understand the complex interplay of physiological factors during the teaching-learning process.
The Mathematics Department
The department is divided into two different types of courses; pure math (MA) and Statistical (SI). The curriculum includes pure math courses in the 3rd and the 6th semester, and there is a mixture of statistical and pure math courses in the remaining semesters, with the content leaning to the former. There are 7 department electives and 4 institute electives to be completed for the degree.
The pure math courses have little to no industrial significance (One course from MA listed courses could be stated as industry-oriented: Introduction to Mathematical methods) as they are abstract/pure math courses, which are based on the novel and most recent developments in the field of mathematics.
The statistical courses are analytical and have a heavy industrial impact. The faculty-student ratio is great. There are just 9 students in the 2018 batch, 12 in the 2019 batch and 15 in the 2020 batch, whereas there are ~70 faculty in the department.
The prime avenues of research in the department are Algebra & Number Theory, Analysis, Combinatorics, Theoretical Computer Science, Geometry & Topology, PDEs, Numerical Analysis, Statistics, and Probability. The research output of the department is quite high, with many professors being medal winners and quite distinguished in their varied research fields.
The professors are quite approachable and they give projects to undergraduates as well quite easily. There are also projects in the statistics part of the department for the people who are inclined towards the industry.
As 2018 is the first batch pursuing a BS Maths degree, there are no placement statistics, but from 3rd-year internship stats 3 out of 9 people have bagged core industrial internships and 2 have gotten university internships. Non-core opportunities are also significantly sought after with analytics, coding and finance being the most popular profiles. Statistics courses help a lot in getting industrial opportunities as the material covered in those courses is quite relevant and applicable.
Higher studies are a great option for students interested in research in the field of Mathematics, with a wide range of opportunities to apply abroad. Some people also plan to opt for the integrated MS degree to switch to a master’s here and then go for a PhD abroad.
The Fac-ads and the HoD are highly approachable and quite understanding. As the department is quite novel, the admin is very flexible in implementing suggested changes by the students. They are not resistant to changes in anything, including the curriculum, method of instruction, etc. For example, more SI courses were added as department electives at the request of students.
BS in Maths is not very different from a B.Tech from a degree point of view as it also takes 4 years to complete, and the industry looks at it in a similar way to a B.Tech degree.
Industrial Design Centre
The Industrial Design Centre was established in 1969 to nurture a learning environment to build professionals well-equipped with the background and skills to tackle a range of technical, socio-economic and cultural complexities. This is evident from the wide range of projects IDC has finished in the recent past — from designing the Mumbai railway map and Electronic Voting Machine to the making of Swarachakra — an input text application for Indian scripts.
Its unique geographical location inside a primarily technical institute enables collaborations and technological support for its projects. The popular Instimap, for instance, was built in association with the CS department. The students here have a mixture of design and engineering courses and so interaction with other departments is actively encouraged for their coursework and projects.
For students of other departments, there is the Design minor and other popular Design electives giving them an opportunity to hone their creative skills. In fact, some have been inspired enough to pursue higher studies in design or initiate design-based startups. One interesting fact is that more than half the faculty at IDC have an engineering background — some of them having done their B.Tech in our own institute. IDC’s role isn’t limited to just the courses — different tech teams approach the faculty for design advice and to utilise the workshop facilities.
They offer a well established M.Des programme in Industrial Design, Visual Communication, Animation Design, Interaction Design & Mobility and Vehicle Design as well as a PhD programme in Design. IDC provides a conducive environment for research, academics and collaborative projects. Supported by excellent research facilities, technical expertise and academic diversity of IIT Bombay, IDC has been involved with various initiatives in all areas of design. The potential for innovation at IDC lies fundamentally in terms of solving real-world problems.
The centre also offers a B.Des programme with an option for students to opt for a Dual Degree (1-year masters) at the end of their 3rd year. The B.Des curriculum is quite different from other design institutions in India like NIDs and NIFTs, as it does not have specializations/majors, but follows a module structure with more focus on ideas than skills, which is quite unique to IDC.
IDC’s research activities fall under:
- Product-oriented research: Projects have been undertaken for designing bicycles for load carrying, communication devices for spastic individuals, cooking range for the blind, etc.
- Experimental research projects: Projects include the development of anthropometric standards for specific sections of the population like children and industrial workers. In visual communication, the research focus has been on the legibility of Indian scripts.
- Open-ended and exploratory: Materials exploration with bamboo as a material has created new possibilities. So have the explorations in type design and visual forms.
- Theoretical research and documentation: The studies and teaching of product semantics in IDC rely extensively on research in cognitive psychology. Documentation and analysis of Indian product and visual tradition has resulted in initiating new courses at IDC.
- Pedagogic research: Work in the areas of semantics, creativity, bionics, perception, visualization and ideation has resulted in the development of new assignments, elective courses and development of a different approach to teaching design courses.
IDC’s master’s program is premier in India, with excellent faculty and a variety of career opportunities in artistic fields such as Animation, Communication and Graphic design, Product design, etc. Since the Bachelor’s program is quite new and not well established, job opportunities after graduating with a B.Des are not as varied. During the placement season, almost all companies only have openings in Interaction design (UI/UX) profiles for Bachelors, which target user research and technical expertise, the reason for which could be IDC’s location inside a technical institution’s campus.
Opportunities for higher studies for bachelor students are available, especially the conversion to Dual Degree, which many students opt for in their 3rd year. There are various design schools abroad that offer quite lucrative Master’s courses for specialisation in the artistic fields of design.