UChicago Delhi Center’s new director Supratik Guha on his plans to open new avenues in science and engineering

Guha has been appointed as facility director, UChicago for a three-years term starting July 1, 2023.

Supratik Guha is the first to head the UChicago Delhi Centre from a science and engineering background.
Supratik Guha is the first to head the UChicago Delhi Centre from a science and engineering background.

The University of Chicago has announced the appointment of Supratik Guha, as faculty director of its Centre in Delhi. Guha will be the first to head the Centre from a science and engineering background. Professor at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering and senior advisor to Argonne National Laboratory’s Physical Sciences and Engineering Directorate, Guha has been appointed for a three-year term commencing July 1, 2023. In an interaction with FE Education Online, Guha talked about his plans to lead the Center’s academic agenda and the overall science and technology landscape in Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) of India. (Edited Excerpts)

What will be the point of focus for you at the Delhi Centre?

As the upcoming faculty director, with a science and engineering background, I plan to prioritise enhancing interactions in the science and engineering disciplines while maintaining a focus on social sciences and liberal arts – which has been built up by the former director Dipesh Chakrabarty. The goal is to strengthen University of Chicago’s collaborations with the Indian counterparts, especially in areas such as climate science, environmental science, sustainable materials, and information technologies, where the US and India are increasingly aligned in technology research and development. 

What do you have to say about research and development in Indian HEIs particularly in the context of low ranking of IITs in TIMES World Ranking 2023?

In my understanding, India’s research output has increased significantly in the physical science and engineering fields as compared to a few decades ago. While it is true that more funds are required to enhance the quality of research, I feel it will come with time. There’s tremendous interest today in developing research in India and an increasing number of Indian scientists are gaining global prominence. Remind you that prominent Indian scientists such as CV Raman, Meghnad Saha, Satyendra Nath Bose, among others have made lasting contributions to the world of science. I am optimistic that with sustained funding, India’s research citation too is bound to catch up sooner or later. 

As for the low ranking of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), I personally feel the quality of undergraduates at the top IITs is world class and today the global community recongises that.

How do you look at representation of women in the fields of science and technology?

If you look at science and technology, especially in certain areas of technology, women are very underrepresented. At the University of Chicago, there is a concerted goal at changing these numbers. However, I don’t think this is going to change overnight. This has to be a sustained programme. As of now the numbers are certainly not anywhere it should be. In the Engineering side of things, particularly in Material Science, the situation is a little better and Biological Sciences, probably a little better than material science.

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What research and development works are underway at the Delhi Centre and how to apply?

There’s a lot of things going on, on the economics and environmental policy side with our partner organisations that are championing data driven environmental policy. We have done some good work, in collaboration with state governments in India, and this has been going on for a while. Then there’s something called the IIC Fellows Programme, which has been very successful in getting bright students, placing them as interns in government offices across the country. Students can directly apply for the workshops and fellowships through the Delhi Centre’s official website.

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First published on: 23-05-2023 at 08:00 IST