Monthly Archives: June 2010

Announcement : Rajat Jayanti Vigyan Sancharak Fellowship

The announcement

Click here for the full pdf and the application forms.

(The e-mail addresses at the end of Page 1 that are not clearly visible are and


Perspective: SC Elections 2010

From left: Suman, Rishi, Deepak and Srinidhi

This year, the campaigning was more visible and more e-savvy, the former perhaps due to the latter. The candidates used Google Groups and Blogspot to showcase manifestos. This was a welcome move — to embrace technology, but it soon resulted in what technology often does — encroaching on privacy. The candidates and their supporters used departmental email aliases of students for spamming their manifestos. The candidates were careful enough to get themselves clarified that emailing is not violating the code of conduct for the elections. Whosoever gave the clarification — the former students’ council or the electoral officer — should note that departmental aliases like students@dept are not meant for publicizing the candidates or the elections. Sending emails to individuals may not be objected, but a mass email campaign should be included in the election bylaws as violating the code of conduct.

Soapbox: The outgoing office bearers with the candidates

The counting of votes was almost four times the task compared to the last year. There were four ballet boxes, and as the segregation of votes for the Chairman and the General Secretary for only the first box was going on, one of the faculty members in charge declared, “We will not worry about one or two votes here and there if the difference in votes is in hundreds.”. The declaration was perhaps okay. It must have actually been the most practical decision taken by a faculty member in the history of IISc, but starting the ballot paper counting with such a casual approach is dangerous and must be avoided. Indeed, as the final counting showed, the total number of votes polled was 1114, whereas the total number of votes for the post of Chairman was 1109 and that for the General Secretary was 1106. Although this discrepancy does not alter the results, it does show loose ends in the election process. Now, shall we expect that there were a few voters who instead of putting into the ballot box, took away the ballot papers with them?

Faculty team on election duty

This brings us to the mentality of voters. The numbers of invalid votes cast for the Chairman and the General Secretary were 60 and 52, almost five percent of the total votes polled. Some of them were deliberately made invalid by marking for both the candidates or for none of them. I suggest such innovative thinkers to stand for elections next time and experience how it feels as each vote is counted. If one wishes to oppose Students’ Council or its election process, there must be better ways than making a mockery by hiding yourself. On the other hand, there were enough ballot papers suggesting illiteracy and indecision of IISc students. There is a difference between a box and a line, and one cannot expect the stamp on a line between the candidates. Similarly, one is expected to come decided whom to vote for and not change the decision after stamping on one candidate. Fortunately, unlike last year, there was no voter who asked a candidate, “Hey, I came here to vote for you, but I could not see your name on the ballot box”, when the candidate was already elected unopposed.

Brijesh, the out going SC Chairman, casting his vote

Is there any reason why we celebrate Diwali on the Gymkhana grounds? Why don’t we burst crackers near hostels instead of walking all the way up to the Gymkhana? The supporters, who are registered students of the institute, should keep in mind that their enthusiasm need not be shared by all the institute community. Moreover, the enthusiasm must not affect the daily routines of other students. Bursting crackers in the hostel premises must be prohibited. The candidates must take over the lead and make the supporters control their enthusiasm. The elected council, whose supporters burst crackers in the hostel premises, should themselves propose for modifying the SC election bylaws to amend the code of conduct for the winning celebrations. Otherwise, we will continue to have supporters throwing coins on the defeated candidates.

Rupesh Nasre (CSA)
Photo Credits:Students’ Council 2009

Greetings to the new office bearers

What stood out in the recently concluded Students’ Council elections were the contrasting campaigning strategies adopted by both the contesting panels. Unimaginative rules always used to deny IISc-ians the excitement of an eventful election week. Team Srinidhi (Chairman candidate along with Deepak as the General Secretary candidate) needs special pat on the back for making election campaigning as colourful as possible. The poster designed by Basavaraj Talwar deserves special mention. On the other hand, Team Rishikesh (who was eventually elected the Chairman along with Suman as General Secretary) reached out to almost the entire campus asking for votes. They also made good use of the web space through their blog.

With the elections over and the new office bearers assumed charge, an introspection of the election revealed some interesting trends. If the voter turnout was impressive, the number of invalid votes was a disgrace.

As the new SC team start implementing their manifesto, it would be worthwhile to recollect a remembrance by P. Sainath on the former president K.R. Narayanan which appeared in the Hindu on November 12, 2005. In the mid 80s, when the late K.R. Narayanan was the Vice-Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, P. Sainath was a student there, active in student politics. Sainath and his colleagues subjected the former President to “dharnas, protests, marches, and other annoyances”. Years later Sainath gifted his book to the late President with the following inscription – “For my old Vice Chancellor: in the admittedly faint hope of persuading him my days on campus were not entirely wasted”. The great man replied that he never considered those days as wasted.

With the confidence that the SC and the administration will rise to the occasion dealing with both the academic and non academic problems faced by students, Voices congratulates Rishikesh Pandey and Suman Devadula for being elected as the office bearers of the Students’ Council.

Shyam (Mgmt)

Download the June 2010 issue.

Ten reasons why one should have water crisis in hostels

1. You get to tune your body clock according to water availability timings – you can probably publish a Nature paper titled “Rewiring the circadian rhythm – a study on effects of water availability on the human wake-sleep cycle” .

2. You can kick bad habits like getting up at 6 AM, as you don’t get water till 9 in the morn.

3. The long walk from your room to the only bathroom in the hostel that has water, on the floor below yours, can prove to be the morning walk you always wanted to take, but were too lazy to actually go on.

4. You can experience emotions which you never thought you were capable of – like the murderous rage that hits you when you see the unkempt lawns in front of the main building being watered incessantly, when you don’t have water for basic needs.

5. Your mind gets sharpened and inhibitions lowered; and you come up with crazy ideas like taking a face wash and tooth brush to the main building, and freshening up in the morn, using the water which is available in plenty there.

6. You get to check out all the loos on campus – on other wings in your hostel, the ones in other hostels, the ones in your dept etc.

7. You can publish a book titled – “A comprehensive survey of bathrooms on the campus of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and classification of the same based on water availability and hygiene”

8. You get to play your role in the water conservation movement by not taking the daily bath.

9. You can opt to be a subject in trials for perfume and deodorant companies.

10. You appreciate the administration’s successful efforts in making you empathise with the under-privileged, who have to struggle for the water on a regular basis.

Chetana Baliga (MBU)
Sketching: Rupesh Nasre (CSA)

Smiles!!! :)

“Smile a lot as it costs nothing” is one the quotes I have come across many a time. I often wonder, what makes me remember these particular words! Smiles are always around and it’s I, who just needs to smile back. Every smile has a story to tell whatsoever be the circumstance. In life, I’ve seldom felt that there is any disappointment when I sit back to think about it and a joyous aura surrounds me. There are myriad things that bring a smile and happiness… like

The rain on the silvery white petals of a flower,
The euphony in the sound of the bell each hour,
The beauty of nature during a walk,
The innocence in every child’s talk,
The pleasant memories of the good old college days,
The warmth on a cold day from the gentle Sun’s rays,
The footprints in snow that seem to remain forever,
The belief to undertake many a endeavour.

…the list will go on as there are so many things that are very small in nature but they surely bring on a smile.
Now where might all these words lead… The answer is unknown to me too! But one thing is certainly true that even the thought of a few things is so beautiful that it brings on the smiles instantly! It’s the memories, incidents, beauty of things around, a new adventure, a new beginning and few such things that remain close to the heart. Now may be a time for reconciliation, a time to sit back, relax and recollect all those priceless moments which bring back the twinkle to the eye. Smiles go hand in hand with an optimistic attitude to never have any regrets and a determination to always be pragmatic. “Frown and you frown alone, but smile and the whole world smiles with you.”

Bhavana (ECE)

The 13th Mecheng in-house research symposium : A report

As a Ph.D. student who in four years has only had a glimpse of the research life, it is probably not my place to say this but it is my belief that effective communication is an integral part of all research. Communication in all its forms – between student and advisor, between author and paper-reviewer, between author and paper-reader and so on. Amid all the specialization and super-specialization that cutting-edge research is about today, the importance of communicating one’s ideas to a community of scientists outside the immediate purview of one’s chosen field of research is often missed. Newton’s incredibly humble words on the subject were, “If I have seen further, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.”; to present one’s work and field questions from scientists from outside the community, unaware of the conventions and practices, dogmas even, of a different branch of science, sends new giants onto the field, breaking set patterns and structures of thought that may have crept in unnoticed. And that role, on a departmental scale, has been played admirably by the Mecheng In-house Research Symposium.

The idea of the Mecheng In-house Research Symposium was set rolling in 1995 when the first edition of the Symposium took place. Some of the current faculty-members in the department were research students then and today they sit on the other side of the speaker’s dais, undoubtedly richer for the experience. 15 years hence, the symposium has become a regular feature with only 2 editions having been missed in between. The symposium is typically spread over a span of 2 days in which senior Ph.D. and M.Sc. students make short presentations, similar to a conference, with a question-answer session at the end. Students were also required to present posters on the topic in a dedicated poster session. This year, the poster presentation was made optional for students also making oral presentations and the move was met with wide approval from the students in question! M.E. students were encouraged to present their work too but participation was limited to a few enthusiastic ones.

In general, this year’s event was the largest one so far and was ably managed by the team of students – Santosh D B Bhargav, Vikram, Sivaprakasam, Sudarshan Hegde, T J Ramnath Babu, P Chaitanya Choudary and Naresh, with Ramnath and Meenaxi Sundaram responsible for the extremely well-designed website and information booklet, respectively.

A highlight of this year’s symposium was the presence of the department’s summer interns among the audience and the large number of invited talks. At the risk of limiting the definition of each speaker to his/ her profession, the speakers represented a diverse set of career options available to a student looking for a future in research, ranging from a school teacher to a space scientist,. The first talk was by Mr. Prakash Vaithyanathan who, armed with a Bachelor’s degree from IIT-Madras, chose the path less-travelled and joined St. Hilda’s school, Ooty with the aim of spreading the science bug among a younger audience. His talk entitled ‘Ideas from an ordinary mind’ was on the role of innovation in problem solving, listing various offbeat projects conceptualized and implemented by him. The talk came in for some criticism, however, for not being very practical and for attempting to oversimplify solutions to problems such as energy conservation that have persisted over time.

The second presentation of the day was by Mr. R.R. Akarte, Consultant Advisor, Engineering Research Centre (ERC), Tata Motors, Pune. The speaker was introduced by Prof. M.L. Munjal, a long-time friend and collaborator. The talk was a frank and impressive summary of the progress of Tata Motors from being a truck-maker to a provider of a wide range of transportation solutions, from passenger hatchbacks and sedans and light commercial vehicles to special-purpose defence vehicles. Along the way, Mr. Akarte highlighted a very relevant point, that of the importance of designing home-grown solutions starting from scratch and the ensuing learning. He illustrated through examples the financial consequences of relying on foreign companies for tie-ups or even consulting. He also acknowledged the help that TML has received from IISc in setting up laboratories and facilities towards this end. The talk ended with students posing questions and given last year’s publicity blitzkrieg, a large number of questions were based on the development of the Tata Nano.

The second day saw more presentations and invited talks. The first invited talk was by Dr. Ranganath from ISRO who spoke on ‘Deployment Mechanisms in Spacecrafts’. The talk was aimed at presenting the students with a feel for working in a government research lab. The impact of the talk, though informative, was considerably lessened by the talk extending beyond the prescribed limit, upsetting the schedule for the rest of the talks of the day as well.

The last two invited talks were by alumni of the institute. Dr. Sandipan Bandhopadhyay (PhD, Dept. of Mech. Engg., IISc) who spent some time in the industry after graduating before returning to academia as an Assistant Professor at IIT-Madras, chose to speak of his experiences in both. The talk, while being very entertaining and balanced, failed to present students with a concrete set of criteria to choose one over the other, in the opinion of this writer, choosing instead to focus on the more commonly discussed questions of remuneration and freedom and the idiosyncracies of industry.

The last talk was by Dr. Vidyashankar Buravalla (PhD, Dept. of Aerospace Engg., IISc), researcher at General Motors, India Science Labs and visiting faculty at IIT-Kanpur and some universities in the USA on the experience of working at GM-ISL in general, before focusing on the work of his research group in the area of Smart Materials. The talk served to highlight the relative similarities of work at GM-ISL to research in an academic environment and the differences from some other organizations. The talk ended with “rumbles and grumbles” as he described them, in which he spoke of some of the shortcomings in research students, namely a lack of feel for the numbers in an engineering problem and an abstraction from real-world situations in general. The criticism, however, was well-received and spoke of the maturity of the department as Prof. G.K. Ananthasuresh observed in his closing address.

The proceedings ended with the organizing committee being felicitated for their efforts and with the audience being encouraged to give their feedback. This marked the end of two days of a ‘family affair’ as it was aimed to be, following which the students went back to their everyday lives of grades, progress reports, intractable experimental setups and infuriating reviewers and editors!

Click here for photographs from the symposium! (Photographs courtesy the organizing committee)

Maneesh Kunte (MechEng)

Molecular Ghosts

Ghosts of molecules –
May they rise and shine;
May they haunt scientists
Whose conclusions are wrongly fine

May they come in dreams
And hint in nightmares;
May they drive home truths
That he can’t elsewise snare

When he rigidly stands ground
Quaking though it be
When his mounting ego than his ‘results’,
Be a greater mystery

When no mortal can move
His claim to fame,
May the ghosts gnaw and chew
Until he ponders his name

May they nudge, drag, push
Him towards light
May he accede to higher powers,
Stumble onto and stand by what’s right.

Smrithi (MRDG)

The Magic of Dance

I tried my best to cast a spell, a magic for all to dance;
And the Gods tried to stop me saying they would never give me such a chance.
They hovered around and questioned me though as to what dancing could bring to all
What it would mean to the suffering people, how it would answer their crying call?

I took a step right, I took a step left, I bent and turned a whole circle round;
Thinking hard as to make them believe this whole thing simple and sound.
And as I thought, I thought of all the dances and their enchanting spell;
And all the ways I could show the Gods where the emotions in these dances dwell.

While Kathak potrays the love of Radha for Krishna,
Waltz unveils the romance of the couples swaying together;
While Garba brings out the festive mood of people worshiping Gods during Navratri;
Samba flashes the celebrating moods of hearts beaming with joy and ecstasy.
While Shiva’s vigorous Tandava depicts the cosmic cycle of creation and destruction;
Pasodoble energetically models the drama of the Spanish bullfight and its tradition.

With dance as a medium to express our emotions, we’ll remember God day by day;
While dancing around to show our feelings, the music will seep within us every way.
The crying calls will hum in their ears like music of the dance;
They’ll take the challenge and not weep like a daily ringing false alarm.

The happier ones will be overflowing with joy with their newer mode of expression;
They’ll learn to feel glad and show it to all without their heart’s suppression.
The unhappier ones will feel an urge to destroy the overwhelming force of sadness;
They’ll learn to face the depressing time without any grudging complaints.
The handful ones left out will be the few on whom dance could not spell the magic;
They will surely need your help, my Lord, not to envision life as a tragic.

Sanchari (MBU)

One among us

The cartoon appeared in the August 2007 issue of Voices
Illustration: Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti (Alumnus, CSA)

IISc news

IISc scientists find one more cause of global warming

Dr. Govindasamy Bala of the (CAOS) and Ramakrishna Nemani (Divecha Centre for Climate Change), in association with Carnegie Institution for Science, and NASA Ames Research Center, California have found that carbon dioxide, known for its “heat-trapping” property, also lowers the cooling effect that plants produce through transpiration. This could account for 15% of global warming.

IISc makes robotic puppets

Dr. N. S. Dinesh (Centre for Electronic Design and Technology), has developed puppets controlled by robotic arms, that were displayed at the national puppetry festival held in Bangalore in May.

DRDO rewards IISc scientists

Prof N. Balakrishnan and Prof M. L. Munjal received the Academy Excellence Award – 2009 at the DRDO Technology Day Awards function held last month, for their significant contributions to defence.

IISc scientist develops technology to prevent mid-air collisions

Dr Radhakant Padhi, (Aerospace Engineering) has developed a technology that can prevent mid-air collisions of both manned and unmanned UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). He has received funding from the Air Force Research Lab, US, to develop collision avoidance algorithms for UAVs.

Music and meaning of prime numbers

Why did Beckham choose the number-23 shirt? How is 17 the key to the evolutionary survival of a strange species of cicada? The answers could be found in the world of prime numbers, “the atoms of arithmetic”, believes Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.

But while prime numbers (indivisible numbers such as Beckham’s 23) may be the fundamental building blocks of arithmetic, they remain the “most tantalizing enigmas in the pursuit of human knowledge” and seem scattered randomly through the universe of numbers in no apparent pattern, he explained in his lecture “The Music of the Primes” on Monday, 10th May, 2010.