By Ganesh Bhatt
New Delhi, Jan 25 (IANS) Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, counted among the best educational institutions, is soon going to dedicate several new innovations to the nation. IIT-Delhi Director V Ramgopal Rao tells in an exclusive interview to IANS how the institute has endeavoured to fight coronavirus pandemic and what the situation vis-a-vis job placements and new courses in the IIT is. Excerpts:
Q: Which new innovations is IIT-D coming up with in the near future?
A: We are developing a new kit to quickly test coronavirus infection. This modern kit’s reliability is more than the antijet kit available in the market. The great thing about this new kit is that its price is quite low. It will be available in the next few days. The IIT-D has also come up with an indigenous N95 mask. It will be made available across the country for just Rs 40 a piece.
Q: Is the IIT-D in a position to start new courses this year?
A: Yes, many new courses are going to start soon, related to Data Science, Artificial Intelligence and Management. We are also going to start 10 online courses this month. Students completing these programmes will be awarded certificates.
Q: Coronavirus pandemic affected the whole world. It has been the biggest pandemic reported in the last 100 years. What was its impact on the IIT?
A: We had to close our institution in March 2020 but kept the laboratories open for students who wanted to work in areas related to coronavirus pandemic — be its treatment, diagnostics or research work related to prevention of the disease. We also got necessary fundings to work in these areas during this pandemic.
Q: What major academic research and practical research did the IIT undertake during this period?
A: Our Textile Department came up with a new technology. Here, during the coronavirus crisis, we made masks under the brand name ‘KAWACH’. We achieved tremendous success. So far, IIT-D has produced 5 million masks, 40 per cent of which have been exported.
We also prepared the world’s most affordable Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) kit for Rs 399. Earlier, RT-PCR tests for Covid-19 were done at various places in the country for Rs 4,500 each. Today, due to the invention by IIT- Delhi, the RT-PCR test is available for Rs 600 to Rs 800.
Q: How much funds did the IIT-D spend on academic research and practical research work during this pandemic?
A: Nearly Rs 10 crore was spent by IIT-D on research related to Covid-19. We built an RT-PCR centre at the institution. We received a funding of Rs 7 to Rs 8 crore from different industries in making equipment to protect people against coronavirus.
Not only did we make a cheap RT-PCR test kit but also came up with traditional Indian and allopathic drugs to fight coronavirus. IIT-D research found how ‘Ashwagandha’ is beneficial in fighting coronavirus. This is our biggest and most important find to fight the disease.
Q: How was the IIT research work and studies impacted in 2020?
A: As many as 1,500 different courses are taught online at IIT-D. It was very cumbersome task to do all this. We had to immediately switch the entire teaching process to the online mode in a hurry. In the first semester, nearly 20 per cent students did not have equipment like laptops and computers. We gave students the option to stay where they were.
We would provide them Internet connection and laptops at the same place. Students who lived in places where Internet connectivity was not possible were asked to return to the campus and today nearly 1,200 students are staying in hostels.
Q: Will it be possible to hold exams at the IIT?
A: This time, no examinations are being held physically. All exams will be online. Despite online studies, we believe it is still a big challenge to conduct online exams.
Q: What are you doing to help IIT-D get better international rankings?
A: We have to become more comprehensive to make our overall ranking better. Take Stanford University, for example. There is a giant medical school there. If you compare Stanford University with IIT-D, there is a huge network of faculty there. There are courses ranging from medical studies to humanities.
At the same time, IIT-D is doing well in engineering and technology. Despite this, it can’t be compared with such international educational institutions. We are among 50 best educational institutions in the world in engineering and technology. We are ranked 47th in the QS World Rankings.
Now, we have a School of Public Policy. We have also started the Department of Design. We are also starting a joint degree programme in collaboration with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences here.
Q: What was the status of campus placements at IIT-D in 2021?
A: Campus placements in IIT-D are good. The IIT did not face any problem in this area. All students have got campus placements. In fact, last year, IIT-D made a quantum jump in campus placements. Compared with previous years, campus placement was the most spectacular last year, although there is no further increase.