Traveling Lecturer: Traveling to New and Unknown Places

Traveling Lecturer: Traveling to New and Unknown Places

By David Hagan, CREOL, The College of Optics and Photonics, USA, OSA Fellow




When I was first contacted by NISER student chapter officer, Samir Kumar, to visit as a Traveling Lecturer, I must admit I have never even heard of NISER, or the city in which it is located, Bhubaneswar, India. I was glad that we were eventually able to find a date for me to attend.

On arriving in Bhubaneswar on February 7, I was met by one of the chapter officers, Gentle Dash, who took me to the NISER (National Institute for Science Education and Research) Campus. The campus is almost brand new, with most buildings having been occupied for only about 1 year. I visited the optics research labs that afternoon, followed by tea with the students and faculty. The next morning, I visited many other physics labs, along with some very interesting tours of the undergraduate optics teaching labs. I was impressed with the facilities and that they have a great deal of new research instrumentation. Discussions with the faculty and the Physics chair were very useful in helping me to understand the Indian higher education system and will be useful to me for recruiting students into our PhD program. The student chapter took me to an excellent lunch at a local restaurant, where I was able to find out how the student chapter works and about the daily lives of the students. I was surprised to learn that the students who are in the 5 year integrated Bachelors/Masters program are required to live on campus, and are also expected to be present for 11 months per year. On the other hand, the campus facilities seem to be quite luxurious and serene compared with the bustling, chaotic life right outside the campus gates.

After lunch I presented my lecture to the student chapter, which was attended by a large number of students and faculty from several programs in NISER, as well as from the neighboring IIT Bhubaneswar campus.

After the lecture, and the customary tea, I had a meeting with the students. About 40 student attended and they asked a lot of questions. The questions were a mix of additional technical questions about my talk, and questions about graduate school in the US and the application procedure. I was impressed by the depth of the technical questions. Although I had question immediately following the talk, it seemed that the students had needed time to think about it before asking the really good questions. Or perhaps they felt less inhibited without their professors present. The questions about graduate school application indicated that we in the US could do a better job of informing students about the process. I also realize now that a few trips to good schools like NISER may be more productive than the current methods we have for marketing our graduate programs.

The following day, 7 of the student chapter members took me on a trip to visit the ancient sun temple at Konark. One of the best things for me about the trip was the drive through many farming villages on the way. The confusing interplay on the roads between cars, motorcycles, bicycles, people, cows and dogs, with constant honking of horns, was quite a contrast to the roads in Florida!

Also on the way to Konark, we had the opportunity to visit the beach on the Bay of Bengal, and the stunt rented a small boat for us to take a trip out to a sand bar. The beach itself was beautiful and also gave me an opportunity to shop for souvenirs. After the beach we visited the Konark sun temple, which is one of India’s most famous temples. We had lunch as a group there, before going on to visit the Dhauli Peace Pagoda, and finally to the Bhubaneswar airport for the return flight to New Delhi.

Visit to OSA student Chapter, IIT, Delhi. As I had to pass through New Delhi in any case, I made contact with Prof. ravi Varshney, a professor working in Nonlinear Optics at IIT Delhi, who put me in touch with the IIT Delhi OSA student chapter, and I visited IIT Delhi on Friday, February 10, where I presented a seminar to the student chapter. After my presentation, I met with the student and had a long (90 minute) discussion with them about technical aspects of my research, as well as providing advice on applications for graduate school and internships in the US. The following day, a student from NIT Delhi took me to visit the Taj Mahal.

Summary
The OSA Traveling Lecturer Program has, as before, provided me with the opportunity to visit a places I would not otherwise have visited and to meet many students who have limited opportunity to meet researchers and from other countries. I learned a lot from these students and their professors, especially about the system of higher education in India and this will prove valuable to me in my role as Associate Dean of CREOL where I am responsible for recruiting graduate students. I highly recommend the OSA Travelling Lecturer Program to other OSA members.

Posted: 27 February 2017 by David Hagan, CREOL, The College of Optics and Photonics, USA, OSA Fellow | with 0 comments