Awaaz, IIT Kharagpur got the opportunity to interact with one of the most renowned, beloved and friendly professors of IIT Kharagpur, Prof. Manoj Kumar Tiwari. He has been recently appointed as the Director of NITIE, Mumbai. He was also the Dean, Planning and Coordination of IIT Kharagpur.
Extremely passionate about research, he has often been claimed as one of the best professors of the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department. Here’s what he wants to share with the KGP Community:
1. You are leaving the KGP campus in a few days. How was your experience in IIT Kharagpur?
Compared to the other systems where I worked, I found that the students in IIT Kharagpur are very good at understanding the fundamentals of a topic. Students from various branches solve complex problems and have excelled in their careers. What I have seen is that undergraduate students lack patience, whereas Ph.D. students have that quality. So if we can combine both, a great combination is born. During my industrial work, I have seen such combinations working very well, and this is an outstanding part of the IIT culture.
2. What were the hardships that you faced during the journey of becoming a professor?
I have started my journey from the North-East. The facilities available there were not very well. Later during my career, I have contributed to the development of all laboratories, workshops, equipment with my other colleagues in various institutions. During the earlier times, there was no internet, email, news of journal publications, etc. unlike now. So there were indeed multiple problems that have been solved by modern technology now. In my professional life, I have also seen a lot of students from not-so-well recognized institutions securing a job in giant companies like Apple, Google, American Express, etc. I feel happy for them because I can relate their hardships with mine.
3. What made you pursue the field of research? What is your source of motivation for research in the field of production engineering, supply chain analysis, etc.?
During my student life, it was extremely difficult to get details about the industry and market. But, I researched around them somehow and found out that automation, autonomous systems can be implemented in business houses.
Various tools like operations research, random search algorithms, soft computing tools and even machine learning are used in different content, different problems which we encountered in the supply chain manufacturing industry. So the idea is to promote students to take up industrial problems and then build up the confidence to solve those. This way, we can motivate a student to pursue research.
4. According to you, what are the differences between students at your time and the current time concerning their goals and passion for engineering, the education system, etc.?
The Internet has made things simple nowadays. During our times, we could not compare what kind of research is trending here and in foreign institutions. Today, we can easily compare where we stand with respect to our international counterparts. Now, it is easier to get guidance if a student wants to go into research or join some foreign institute, unlike our times.
However, many students do not follow their passion and just want to get an internship or job. A lot of students get placed in excellent companies, but in the long run, they feel that if they had followed their passion, things could have been better.
5. How was your tenure as the Dean of Planning and Coordination?
I enjoyed the work because of multiple reasons. Being the Dean of Planning and Coordination, I had many responsibilities; the main one was improving the rank of our institute.
There are different types of rankings like QS ranking, THE ranking, employability ranking, NIRF, etc. and all these have different parameters. However, there are certain things common to all of them like having communications, more citations, proper research funding, and better industry connect. I used to study their details thoroughly and plan how they can be improved. We also focused on how to increase internationalization and foreign exchange. Also, the teacher-student ratio came down from 18.5 to 15.
I enjoyed my journey of being the Dean of Planning and Coordination. Monitoring our performance and linking all the data with rankings was an exciting task. I feel that the ranking of IIT Kharagpur will further improve.
6. You were a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin — Madison, USA. How was your experience there? How were the students and their lifestyle there?
I went there in 2006 when I was working in Ranchi. But I had a very brief job there, which was to build-up proposals supported by concerned teams for funding. I used to teach algorithms and their applications in current problems to a few Ph.D. students. The students there have better exposure, which makes them more confident and develop better communication skills. This, in turn, makes them more mature in handling any situation in a better way.
I found a difference in the teaching methodologies of international and Indian institutions. Here, we study 5–6 subjects, which increases the width. But there, students study 2–3 subjects only and are groomed adequately in those subjects. They are also involved in different career-building exercises. From an academic point of view, they are more well-equipped with the topics.
7. How do you feel upon being appointed as the Director of NITIE, Mumbai? Would you like to throw some light on your plans for the same?
I was nominated by my peers in the Industrial System area for this position. I had thought that if I get selected, I would go there and make it a renowned, better institute in this field. I’ll improve the institute’s relationship with different universities and make better international connect. Though I don’t know much about their level at present, I know that they have prominent faculty members and they would help to take the institute’s reputation high.
8. What message would you like to give to the students of IIT Kharagpur?
IIT Kharagpur’s students are already blessed with knowledge and exposure. I want them to be more oriented towards problem-solving and try to take up some real-life issues. I like their overall approach to tackle things. They are passionate about learning, which is one of their key abilities.