Dr Shanti Bhattacharya is a part of TeNet group of IIT Madras. Her hobbies include reading,trekking and listening to music. She is also actively involved with Prakriti and Chetana (NGO started by her with her friends). She talks to Chennai36 about her time at the institute and her time here as a professor.
Memorable Experiences at the Institute-
The first thing that leaps to her mind when asked about her most memorable experiences as a student here, is the GF&KR ( Gerhard Fischer & Kokila Rajaiah ) events that were conducted on a grand scale, that had the entire institute, be they fans of the sport or not, on their toes.
“The institute was just abuzz with excitement, and the OAT was jammed to the rafters when the finals took place, not an inch of space was spared by the fans.”
The fans would have their hearts in their mouths as the ball changed hands on a timescale of milliseconds as it made its way from one end of the court to the other.
The task of points recorder and scorer was a mammoth one, since the scorer had to record names, time of scoring and the player number of the one who shot the ball home. The enormity of this was heightened by the fact that it had to be done in so short a time.
“By the time I recorded a certain scorer’s details,the ball would have already entered the net at the other end of the court, and I had to record details yet again.”
She adds that many of her best friends were those who shared a common interest in basketball with her.
“When I worked in the US, it so happened that several former basketball team members were living in the same city as well and we spent many a happy hour playing basketball in the beautiful courts available at street corners.”
When asked about what inspired her to take up a career in Physics, she feels her studies at the institute built the strong foundation and passion for the subject of which she could never tire.
“Physics was the subject that acted as my life jacket at school. I studied first in the Zambia, where I did really well in school, but I had to adapt to a sea change in curriculum when I moved to India. This led to my performing poorly in most subjects except for Physics, which was the only subject that made any sense.”
“I made really good friends at hostel and through sports, and the campus environment was stimulating and refreshing to the brain.”
She currently deals with applied optics.
“The depth of the subject of Optics, the enthralling feel it gives, and the beauty of explaining the unexplained through optics, and the intense practicality of this field, for example, the formation of the rainbow, is what spurs me to move on and make a difference to this stream.
I also worked in an area where technology and optics converged, it was in the design of a new type of CD pickup.”
A fluent speaker of German, she says she picked up the language quickly in her stay at Germany, where she did her postdoctoral research. She was a member of a German club in the US, where she met many others whom she could address in German.
“I was in college in Germany, and we had German classes every day. We had meetings in the evenings at a bar. In these meetings,there was always a simple rule. Everybody had to speak in German, whether they had started learning it that morning, or it was their mother tongue. It was attending these meetings that helped me pick up the language as fast as I did, since after two or three drinks, we had no qualms about making mistakes and our hesitation had vanished.”
She set up a German club here too, modelled on the same idea of the one in US, and she met her friends of Germany at Adyar or sometimes even at Gurunath, almost every weekend.
The German club stopped meeting about 5 years ago.
A strong supporter of the wildlife protecting initiative at the institute, Prakriti, she feels that development is necessary but there must be a balance struck between nature and development, as nature is crucial to the survival of all species.
“A solution can be found, if one is willing to look for one. Where there is a will, there is a way.”
Her message to the students:
“College is a time to have the lion’s share of fun, and to make your best friends who would help you at any time in your life, and remember you always.”
“But everything comes with a tinge of responsibility that we need to take, and although we don’t have any forced responsibility at this stage, we must slowly learn to take them. Every responsibility has its consequences which we shouldn’t try to escape from.
We must have our side of both – the delightful and carefree feeling of childishness, as well as the seriousness of adulthood.”
Dr Shanti Bhattacharya completed her B.Sc Physics from WCC, Madras in 1990.She got her M.Sc Physics 1992 and Ph.D in Physics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras in 1997. Her Ph.D work was in the area of Optical Array Illuminators. She was awarded the Alexander von Humboldt award in 1998 and spent more than two years at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany.She joined the TeNeT group as an assistant professor in February 2005.