Friday, May 30, 2008

Career in Physics

An enthusiastic reporter,V. Kumara Swamy from "The Telegraph", Calcutta took my interview through emails. Here is the article he published.
My detailed interview is quoted below, as per his questions and my answers:-

1) Please mention a bit about your ambition as a child, your interest in
astrophysics and about your achievements so far.
As a child I was always a curious observer of everything around me. I read the book by Resnik and Halliday and quickly realised that Physics is the subject that brings me closer to my understanding of the nature around me. I was also blessed to have good teachers who could answer my queries based on the reading of Berkeley Physics course and Feynman's Lectures. With this foundation, there has been an undying zest for Physics and I pursue Astrophysics as an Application of Physics to stars and space - an aspect of nature that draws attention of one and all.

2) What are some of the qualities are needed to be a successful researcher in physics?
Its important to have sound background in Mathematics. Mathematics is the language of Physics. Its absolutely necessary to have a good problem solving practise, Physics is a science where you isolate a particular situation in Nature, and study it in detail. Though Mathematics is a great tool, one also needs to remember to constantly relate the formulae and equations to what is happening in reality, in the physical phenomena you are studying. For this reason, students should never neglect any experimental work, and should take every opportunity to do more experiments.
Research in Science needs an attitude to find many different ways and also a zeel not to give up at any stage whatsoever. I also feel that young students should give more preference to learning the methods of science, rather than some particular topic, in selection of area of research. Once these methods are learnt, they could be applied to any topic.

3a) How has the role of physicists evolved over the years.
This question can be answered only by Senior Physicists.

3b)They dabble in various fields depending on their interest, what do think of your own field?
Astrophysics brings to you closer to the vastness of Nature. Here thousands of years are a very small time, and one realizes that one's own body, the houses, cities and such things which we give so much importance, are in reality very minuscule compared to the universe. When you are looking in sky, you are looking in past, because that ray of light has left that star several years ago. So what you see is a collage of past locations and phenomena in different directions.
Over the last century, the advances in Satellite Technology, have given a boon to study of Astrophysics. We are able to probe in farther parts of universe, by collecting more feeble light from the space based telescopes. We are also able to achieve excellent resolution thanks to the CCD Cameras. And only because of fast computers and huge memory spaces, we are able to store and process gigantic data of astronomical images. Most of the data is freely available even to a graduate student, thanks to internet.
I am studying properties of Interstellar Dust, the dust between us and the stars. Its of micron size and is sparsely spaced, however, because of large distances in space, its cumulative effects significantly changed our view of stars and their surroundings.
4) Can you please say a few words about the career progression in anorganisation like the one where you doing your research now. Do you think astrophysics is one field that opens up more doors for research at a international level than any other? In other words, world can be your playground?
I joined the Joint Astronomy Program at IISc, after my MSc Physics in IITB. After 1 year of Research Training Program in special topics of Astrophysics I chose to work in IIA. I had a number of attempts till I started off on my current research topic, and I was awarded senior research scholarship after completion of my comprehensive exam. I visited Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, for a one week Summer School related to my research area, and two week mini-project for developing collaborations. I am very glad that my Institute as well as the German Institute gave adequate financial support for the visit.
I feel that in all branches of science, there are excellent opportunities, and they await the explorer.

5) Can you also please list some of the leading institutes in the country that you think give great opportunities for youngsters?
There are atleast 25 independent Institutes in the country. All have their own speciality. All IIT Physics Departments welcome PhD research. Many University Physics departments are also doing good research, subject to availibility of funds.
With the recent hike in scholarships for research scholars, I see research as a very much valid and bright career option. It is stable, exciting, innovative and fulfilling. It is not so much important as to Where you work, but that how you work, and how much you work.

6) Please mention a bit about your own background

I did BSc Physics from Fergusson college Pune, MSc Physics from IITB and I am currently Senior Research Scholar in IIA, as a part of Joint Astronomy Program of IISc.


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