Academy Events in August 2019

3 Minute Thesis Talk and Poster Presentation

Every year leading up to the IITB Convocation where our graduates receive their dually-badged degrees (second Saturday of August), the IITB-Monash Research Academy conducts the Three-Minute Thesis Talk (3MTT) and Poster Competition. This year, we will conduct the event on Thursday, 8 August 2019.

The 3MTT is an event at which students present their research work in a three-minute talk. They also present their work through posters that are put up at the same venue. A panel judges the talks and the posters to identify the best talk and best poster. The best presenters are given awards at the Oskar Night (our annual awards ceremony) that will be held on Sunday, 11 August 2019.

This year, Reliance Industries Ltd is our sponsor for this fascinating, thought-provoking event.


Date: 8 August 2019, Thursday
Time: 9.00 am to 2.00 pm
Venue: Lecture Hall 21, Second Floor,
Victor Menezes Convention Centre (VMCC), IIT Bombay, Powai

Oskar Night- Annual Awards Ceremony

Oskar Night 2019, the IITB-Monash Research Academy awards ceremony will be held on 11 August, Sunday in Mumbai. It is an annual event of the Academy, to recognise and showcase the accomplishments of research scholars, staff and supervisors of the Academy throughout the year, and in the 3 Minute Thesis Talk (3MTT) and poster presentation.

During the ceremony, awards for academic achievements are presented to students in the following categories:

  • Best Three Minute Thesis Talk award for junior researchers (less than two years in the Academy), sponsored by Reliance Industries Ltd.
  • Best Three Minute Thesis Talk award for senior researchers (more than two years in the Academy), sponsored by Reliance Industries Ltd.
  • Best Poster award for junior researchers, sponsored by Reliance Industries Ltd.
  • Best Poster award for senior researchers, sponsored by Reliance Industries Ltd.
  • Best CPI (Cumulative Performance Index) award, sponsored by Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • Best Collaboration award, sponsored by Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • Best Journal paper award, sponsored by Tata Chemicals
  • Best Conference paper award, sponsored by Tata Chemicals
  • Best Thesis award, sponsored by String Bio
  • Employee of the year award

The night is graced by distinguished personalities from both India and Australia consisting of academic, industry and government professionals. The awards, consisting of statuettes and certificates, are presented by the distinguished luminaries. The evening comprises of reflections and speeches by the dignitaries, a cultural program followed by a banquet. The venue for the event is Hotel Meluha The Fern in Hiranandani Gardens, Powai


Date: 11 August 2019
Time: 6.45 pm
Venue: Paragon Hall, Meluha The Fern, Hiranandani Gardens, Powai

Academy welcomes BASF as industry partner

The IITB-Monash Research Academy is delighted to announce that it has recently partnered with international chemicals major BASF to further research collaborations, specifically in projects related to clean energy, water, nanotechnology, and chemistry.

Preliminary talks were initiated a few months ago, and once common objectives and areas of interest were identified, an umbrella agreement was inked spelling out the scope of the collaboration and the roadmap ahead. Things picked up pace during the June 2019 intake of students at the Academy, when BASF offered to support two research projects undertaken by the Academy’s scholars. It is likely that many more projects will be supported in the future as well.

Prof Murali Sastry (IITB-Monash Research Academy) and Dr Dietmar Hueglin (BASF) celebrating the launch of the partnership

When asked why BASF chose the Academy for a partnership of this nature, Dr Dietmar Hueglin, Director Innovation Campus Mumbai at BASF Chemicals India Pvt Ltd, said, “Cooperating with the IITB-Monash Academy is a unique opportunity for BASF to partner with two word-class academia in India and Australia at once. We specifically appreciate the possibility for long-term partnership in highly relevant research fields, including global grand challenges. The Academy provides easy access to talented PhD students from IITB, and, last but not least, comfortable ease of doing business.”

Prof Murali Sastry, CEO, IITB-Monash Research Academy, is confident that this partnership will lead to exciting outcomes. “The Academy has a strong industry focus and firmly believes in the mantra: From Lab to Land. It was conceived as a unique model for how two leading, globally focused academic organizations can come together in the spirit of collaboration to deliver solutions and outcomes to grand challenge research questions facing industry and society,” he said. “As the reputation of the Academy grows and as more organizations start collaborating with us, we anticipate that we will contribute significantly to maintaining India’s reputation as a leading-edge global research hub. Our partnership with BASF has got off to an exciting start and we hope it will get stronger in the days to come.”

4-member DBT delegation visits the Academy

The Academy was delighted to welcome a four-member delegation from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt of India for a review meeting on 14 June 2019. The delegates were Dr. Meenakshi Munshi, Dr. Suraksha S. Diwan, Dr. Sabhyata Bhatia and Dr. Asif Mohammed.

The day commenced with introductions and setting-of-context by the Academy’s CEO Prof. Sastry and Dr. Munshi. Prof. Sastry presented an overview of the DBT-supported PhD program in the Academy. This was followed by a series of presentations by the students and supervisors being supported by the DBT. The student-and-supervisor-teams spoke about their research work, the progress and the direction in which they aim to proceed.

In the second half of the day, the Academy’s COO Dr. Nagabhushana showed the delegates around the Academy building, including a visit to the state-of-the-art laboratories housed within. They also had interactions with some of the start-up companies and Industry partners based in the Academy.

Demo by Dr. Nagabhushana

Academy-DBT partnership: an overview

In order to strengthen links with the government in the area of biotechnology, basic biology and devices, the Academy had submitted a proposal to the Department of Biotechnology, Govt of India in May 2016 to support joint PhD students. After reviewing the proposal, the DBT sanctioned an amount towards support of costs for 65 PhDs in the dual-badged joint PhD program of the IITB-Monash Research Academy over a period of 10 years beginning January 2017. A list of the Academy’s students supported by the DBT as of June 2019 is appended below in Table 1.

Table 1: IITB-Monash Research Academy Students supported by the Department of Biotechnology

No Student Name IITB Department Research Topic Supervisors
1 Manasi Prashant Kane MEMS Wearable Electrophysiological Sensors for Health Monitoring Prof. Dipti Gupta, Prof. Wenlong Cheng
2 Prasanna Ravindran Kamal Prakash Nair Bio Exploring the adhesive property of sickle cell of improved diagnosis Prof. Debjani Paul, Prof. Tuncay Alan
3 Sourabh Mehta Bio Smart Nanoparticles for Detection of Vulnerable Atherosclerotic Plaques and their Therapeutic Stabilisation Prof. Rinti Banerjee, Prof. Karlheinz Peter, Prof. Alex Bobik
4 Subramoni Hariharan CTARA High Quality Protein Extraction From Plant Based Sources Prof. Amit Arora, Prof. Antonio Patti
5 Vibha Kumari Bio Identification of human host factors required for human influenza virus assembly and budding Prof. Kiran Kondabagil, Prof. Rommel Mathias, Prof. Sunil K Lal
6 Aman Pandey Chemistry Design, Synthesis and Application of biocatalysts for Continuous Flow Synthesis Prof. Anil Kumar, Prof. Neil Cameron
7 Balu Raveendran MEMS Nanomaterials enabled Palpation device for cancer detection Prof. Dipti Gupta, Prof. Sunita Chauhan, Prof. Gita Pendharkar
8 Ami Lalit Mehta Bio Blood brain barrier (BBB) on chip Prof. Prasanna Gandhi, Prof. Nicolas Voelcker
9 Shachi Saluja Chemical Ophthalmic drug delivery with porous silicon Prof. Jayesh Bellare, Prof. Nicolas Voelcker
10 Kusumika Sinha Roy CTARA Bioactives and Natural Dyes From Food and Agricultural Waste Sources Prof. Amit Arora, Prof. Antonio Patti, Prof. Kellie Tuck
11 Poornima V B CTARA Cellulose nanofibers recovery from fruits waste Prof. Amit Arora, Prof. Warren Batchelor
12 Sujata Walunj Bio The novel nuclear transport molecule importing from Plasmodium falciparum; potential drug target Prof. Swati Patankar, Prof. David A. Jans
13 Parvathy Nair Electrical Novel health monitoring system with analysis for patients with mental disorders Prof. Maryam Shojaei Baghini, Prof. Faezeh Marzbanrad, Prof. Gita Pendharkar
14 Anjana P Menon Chemistry Role of bacterial sugar-based lipids in mediating membrane-induced cell death. Prof. Shobhna Kapoor, Prof. Mibel Aguilar
15 Mallikarjuna Korrapati MEMS Tactile sensor array for biomedical applications Prof. Dipti Gupta,Prof. Sunita Chauhan, Prof. Gita Pendharkar
16 Monica Upadhyay BIO Finding cues for metabolism inside giant virus particles – Are giant viruses ‘alive’? Prof. Kiran Kondabagil, Prof. Gregory Moseley
17 Arkasubhro Chatterjee CTARA Pectin Based films/gels for antibiotic/antifungal applications Prof. Amit Arora,Prof. Antonio Patti, Prof. Phil Andrews
18 Rafath Abdul Nassar Chemical Modeling and simulations of propulsion and swimming in microorganisms Prof. Sameer Jadhav, Prof. Prabhakar Ranganathan
19 Anup kumar Prasad MEMS Amyloid formation in frog peptides: Exploring peptide-lipid interactions Prof. Ajay Singh Panwar, Prof. Lisandra Martin
20 Kajal Sharma Chemical Microfluidic route to generation of core-shell fibers for drug delivery Prof. Venkat Gundabala, Prof. Tuncay Alan
21 Crecha Gracy Nadar CTARA Development of green biorefinery technologies from food processing waste Prof. Amit Arora, Prof. Y. Shastri, Prof. Tony Patti and Prof. V. Haritos

Ami Mehta-Swiss Science Slam

Congratulations to our PhD Scholar, Ami Mehta. She is the second runner up of the Swiss Science Slam. She explained her research work on fabrication of nature-inspired patterns for biomimicry through dance and a poem.

Here is the poem:

Fractals are SMART (Science, Math and Art)

I came across a design,
Self-similar and narcissist,
Neither half, nor whole – just fractional.
Repeats and repeats beyond our imagination
Seems like a favourite of nature too.

I came across a design,
Confusing yet interesting complex
Mendelbrot developed an equation – that iterates and re-iterates to the same pattern,
Seems like a favourite of mathematicians too.

I came across a design,
Beautiful and bizzare.
Simple pattern repeating endlessly until the canvas runs out of space,
Seems like a favourite of artists too.

I came across a design,
Random and everywhere in this universe.
Remarkable are the ways of nature,
Spirals, branches, rivers, hexagons, snowflakes, blood vessels, neurons
And the list is endless.

P.S. If you read carefully, the poem is also a fractal. The last line loops back to the first line.

Research scholar: Ami Mehta

Supervisors: Prof. Prasanna Gandhi, Prof. Prakriti Tayalia & Nicolas Voelcker

Contact details:

Watch her presentation on ‘Fabrication of nature-inspired patterns for biomimicry’ which won her the award:

The 100th Ph.D. Graduate

We are delighted to announce that the IITB-Monash Research Academy now has 100 graduates, thus marking a significant milestone in the Academy’s 10-year journey.

Our Joint Ph.D. student, Vamshi Krishna Kammadanam, presented his defense seminar today (April 25, 2019), becoming the 100th research scholar from the Academy to do so. Present on the occasion were Prof. Subhasis Chaudhuri (Director, IIT Bombay), Prof. A.K.Suresh (Deputy Director, Academic & Infrastructural Affairs), Prof. Virendra Sule (Professor, IIT Bombay), Prof. Neela Nataraj (Academy Professor In-charge), Prof. Rushikesh Joshi (Professor, IIT Bombay), Prof. Bimal Roy (Professor, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata), Prof. Vikram Vishal (The Academy’s first graduate and now Professor, IIT Bombay).

Here is what they said.

Prof. Murali Sastry: 10 years, nearly 300 students through the Academy, close to 300 supervisors associated with us, 15 industry and government partners, two startups and now 100 graduates- how cool is this! We are extremely proud of our well-placed graduates who continue to build the IITB-Monash Research Academy brand globally.

Prof. Subhasis Chaudhuri: We have achieved the feat of 100 graduates. It is a great achievement not only for the Academy but also for both the partner institutes, IIT Bombay and Monash University. 10 years ago, when all this started, I don’t think we imagined that this joint Ph.D. program will take up the speed that it has today.

Prof. Neela Nataraj: The IITB-Monash Research Academy has reached a major milestone with 100 Ph.D. graduates and this special occasion marks 10 years of successful collaboration between IIT Bombay and Monash University, Melbourne. We hope that the graduates continue to do path-breaking research, build further on the training they received from IIT Bombay and Monash University and contribute both to the academia and the industry

Vamshi Krishna Kammadanam: Looking back at my decision to join PhD at IITB-Monash Academy, I can surely say that it has been a rewarding experience. I was a little dubious at the beginning of my PhD as I was coming back to academics after a break of four years during the course of which I was working as a senior engineer. But the support that I ended up receiving from people here at the Academy really made my journey as a research scholar quite smooth as well as enriching. Both the teaching faculty as well as the administrative staff at the Academy was very supportive and helpful. Regarding my research work, I am grateful that I got the opportunity to work under the guidance of two very experienced professors. I learnt a lot from them and had the good luck of receiving their expertise. Moreover, the Academy offers an intellectually stimulating learning atmosphere that was quite beneficial to me and led to my growth as a research scholar.

Vamshi Krishna Kammadanam’s Ph.D. Research:

He was jointly guided by Prof. Virendra Sule (IIT Bombay) and Prof. Yi Hong (Monash University)

Thesis Title: Symmetric and Asymmetric Schemes with Ideal Secrecy and Secure Transaction over Physical Channel

Abstract: Communication using networks has changed rapidly in the last half century. From telegraphic poles to satellite communications and personal communications, there have been breakthroughs in the technology and logistics of communication. In the present-day world, networking of communication is indispensable for transaction of information such as in online conferences, ATMs, mobile apps for services, etc. However all previous advancements in communication technology largely ignored the problem of security against intrusion disrupting network services and confidentiality of communication. Hence in modern day communication it is of utmost importance to address and solve the challenges arising from problems of communication with security and confidentiality.

The thesis considers problems of constructing schemes for symmetric key encryption, asymmetric key encryption as well as the problem of simultaneous encryption and encoding for communication of information over an insecure channel. The following schemes have been developed in the thesis. First, symmetric key encryption for bulk data and communication over public channels. Second, asymmetric (Public) key scheme for exchange of session keys. Third, a symmetric key block cipher algorithm which simultaneously encrypts and corrects channel errors. Fourth, conditions for feedback shift registers to generate permutations.


Microscopic Gardening Wins Image of the Year 2018

Microscopic Gardening: Tiny Blossoms of Silicon by Vivek Garg has been voted the Australian National Fabrication Facility- Victoria Node (ANFF-VIC) Image of the Year 2018 by Melbourne Centre for Nano-fabrication (MCN).

The image shows a scanning electron micrograph (false-color) of Silicon (Si) nanoflowers, created using MCN’s Focused Ion Beam (FIB) in conjunction with wet chemical etching.

Vivek and his colleagues are investigating fabrication of 3D freeform structures of Si, such as these nanoflowers, due to their unique optical properties. Such structures can be engineered for multicolor generation through selective absorption of light and have tremendous potential for future optics offering unique opportunities for optical security, polarimetry, spectral imaging applications etc.

“The bulk structuration of Si substrate, based on the ion implantation design and area, allows fabrication of exotic functional and 3D micro/nanostructures on Si substrate exhibiting unique optical properties for applications in nanophotonics and physical sciences,” Vivek explained.

Vivek is a PhD candidate with the IITB-Monash Research Academy, a collaboration between IIT Bombay, India and Monash University, Australia and recipient of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Research Scholarship. He is working with Dr. Rakesh Mote, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Bombay, India and Dr. Jing Fu, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Monash University, Australia on fabrication and controlled manipulation of freeform 3D micro/nanostructures with ion beams. This work is a part of his thesis project FIB nanofabrication and its application in creating novel nanostructures for diverse applications such as anti-reflection, color filters, sensors etc. to name a few.

Read more about Vivek’s work here

As winner of the competition, Vivek will take home a $200 prize.

MCN Newsletter:

Missing Not Dead: The Horrifying Story of Man-made Flood Disasters

We are proud to announce that Antara Dasgupta, our PhD scholar’s popular science story has been selected in the “Top 100” in the DST AWSAR science communication competition.

Read the story below.

Missing Not Dead: The Horrifying Story of Man-made Flood Disasters

Sapna had to choose. Her father was a priest at the popular shrine Kedarnath. The family never saw him after June 15th, 2013. The fateful day when nature decided to raze all signs of human presence from the flood plains of the mighty Mandakini. Over 8,000 cubic meters of water gushed across the valley in about 3 seconds, erasing all signs of an anthropogenic past. His body was never found. Donations from patrons kept the family afloat for a while. The laughable government compensation did little to help their predicament. Especially as her father was missing not dead, compensation was provided accordingly.

When her grief-stricken mother started showing symptoms of a full mental breakdown, Sapna moved closer to her relatives in the valley. The younger siblings, a boy of 17 and an 8 year old girl, could no longer be entrusted to her mother’s care. Soon, the relatives’ empathy and finances dried up. Sapna, now had to find a way to support her family. It was at the precipice of this new endeavour that our paths crossed. We had just started studying for a postgraduate degree in remote sensing, geared towards natural hazard mitigation. As we sat in class for our first day at university in the flood battered state of Uttarkhand, each lecturer described the catastrophic disaster, as a means to stress the significance of our chosen specialization. At the end of the day, I expressed my admiration for Sapna’s apparent insouciance on what was obviously an emotional subject and my heartfelt condolences for losing her father. She looked at me with quiet determination and said, “He’s missing, not dead.”

Scientists agree that the impacts of the “Himalayan Tsunami” of 2013, were intensified by unbridled and unplanned development in the river flood plains. The scale of the tragedy was apparently exacerbated by a monumental failure of inter-agency communication. Warnings were left unheeded, rising water levels in the glacial lake upstream went unreported. State officials delayed taking any action as the “pilgrim season” was underway and closing the gates to the shrine would cost them the precious spoils of tourism. I for one, have never been able come to terms with the fact that most of the deaths from this catastrophe were preventable. It was then that I decided to specialise in hydrometeorological disasters like flooding, determined to work towards more reliable early warning systems.

In pursuit of this arduous but rewarding goal, I was recently able to develop a new semi-automatic flood-mapping algorithm with others from the IITB‑Monash Research Academy, which promises significant improvements in accuracy over existing techniques. The algorithm explicitly utilises patterns of the radar backscatter, which are observed in the image, in addition to the recorded backscatter itself. Specific arrangements of backscatter values in the image are first identified and then optimised by using advanced mathematical techniques to amplify the information content that is used in flood identification. Finally, a fuzzy machine learning algorithm is used to classify the image into flooded and non-flooded areas, which also expresses the level of confidence in the flood mapping at each pixel. Validating flood maps that are generated by using this technique against aerial photographs demonstrated an improvement of almost 54 % in some areas over traditional methods. These results are encouraging as the validation zone also included a notable portion of urban and agricultural land-use.

Urban landforms are, perhaps, the most challenging in radar-based flood detection and, arguably, the most crucial from a flood management perspective. While radar images are widely accepted as the most reliable resource for flood monitoring given their ability to penetrate cloud cover; they are notoriously difficult to interpret and are affected by a variety of uncertainties. Urban and vegetated landscapes, which present an inherently large number of potential scatterers to the radar beam, often result in complex images. Therefore, to arrive at any practicable intelligence, radar-based flood maps generated using automated methods often require post-processing by experts, trained in the physical principles of radar backscattering mechanisms. Automatic image processing chains have recommended the use of supporting datasets such as distance or height above the closest river channels, and land-use and cover information to enhance the accuracy of flood mapping. However, in developing countries where such ancillary information is seldom available with reasonable accuracy, this approach could potentially revolutionize rescue and response operations.

While disaster preparedness has evidently improved, given that the number of fatalities caused by floods of similar magnitudes has declined over the years, what has been accomplished is not nearly enough to cope with the increasing intensity and frequency of weather-related disasters under a rapidly changing climate. This is evident especially in cascading disasters such as flooding, when the rainfall event often leads to landslides, cutting off transport access and communication in the affected areas. If the downstream consequences such as waterborne diseases and the mental trauma suffered by flood-affected communities are also considered, floods can be viewed as the single most devastating natural disaster worldwide.

During the initial rescue and response operations, localised information on the whereabouts of flooding is critical in the ensuring of effective regional prioritisation and efficient resource allocation. However, one can intuitively imagine that travelling into flood-affected areas to gather such information during the event is far from safe. Satellite imagery is an attractive and cost-effective alternative to observing the inundated area synoptically. This can facilitate the planning of evacuation strategies and optimise the often limited resources that are available. For example, during the 2013 Himalayan floods, a rescue chopper with 12 Indian Air Force officials crashed, killing all on-board, delaying operations and compounding the magnitude of the disaster. The Himalayas, as well as other flood affected regions, are not easy to navigate without accurate localized information. We hope that by improving the accuracy of single-image flood mapping, we can contribute at least slightly to the safety of rescue workers.

This research constitutes the first part of my PhD project titled, ‘Towards a Comprehensive Data Assimilation Framework for Operational Hydrodynamic Flood Forecasting’. My research strives to integrate all the seemingly disparate sources of flood information presently available, such as satellite and crowd-sourced data, to arrive at more accurate and timely flood forecasts. I am undertaking this research at the IITB‑Monash Research Academy, which is a collaboration of IIT Bombay, India and Monash University, Australia, established to strengthen their bilateral scientific relationship. My research team includes A/Prof. RAAJ Ramsankaran from IIT Bombay; and Prof. Jeffrey Walker, Dr Stefania Grimaldi, and A/Prof. Valentijn Pauwels from Monash University. I hope that the model-data integration proposed in this study leads to the development of more reliable flood early warning systems which can allow timely evacuation. Never again should someone like Sapna, have to deal with the disappearance of family members due to a flood and abruptly be thrown into dire straits with only false hopes to look forward to.

This article is based on a paper that was published earlier this year: ‘Towards operational SAR-based flood mapping using neuro-fuzzy texture-based approaches. It was published in Remote Sensing of Environment, which is a highly reputed journal in the field of remote sensing.

Research scholar: Antara Dasgupta, IITB‑Monash Research Academy

Project title: Towards a Comprehensive Data Assimilation Framework for Operational Hydrodynamic Flood Forecasting

Supervisors: Dr RAAJ Ramsankaran and Prof. Jeffrey P. Walker

Contact details:

Published paper: Dasgupta, A., Grimaldi, S., Ramsankaran, R. A. A. J., Pauwels, V. R. N., & Walker, J. P. (2018). Towards operational SAR-based flood mapping using neuro-fuzzy texture-based approaches. Remote Sensing of Environment, 215(15 September 2018), 313–329.

This story was written by Antara Dasgupta, and it comprises original, unpublished content.

CEO of the Academy wins 50 Education Innovative Leaders Award


We are delighted to announce that, Prof. Murali Sastry, our CEO, is the recipient of the 50 Education Innovative Leaders award, as a thought leader in Healthcare Industry and a contributor of value. This award has been declared by the Worl Innovation Congress. The World Innovation Congress is a not for profit body that attempts to organise the annual meet with the objective of Learning & Development, Networking & Recognizing Leaders who have contributed value to the profession or their organization and make a difference. Such value contributors are influencers who have influenced positively.

Some of the Jury Members are:

  • Professor Indira Parikh, Ex Dean of IIM Ahmedabad & President – Antardisha (Directions from Within)
  • Dr. Harish Mehta, Chairman & MD – Onward Technologies Ltd.; Emeritus Chairman – World HRD Congress & Founder Member – NASSCOM
  • Dr. Arun Arora, Ex President and CEO, the Economic Times; Chairman, Edvance Pre-schools Pvt. Ltd. & Emeritus Chairman, World HRD Congress
  • Dr. Prasad Medury, Partner , Amrop India Consultants Private Limited
  • Nina E. Woodard, President & Chief “N” Sights Officer , Nina E. Woodard & Associates, a division of NDPendence, Inc.
  • Dr. R L Bhatia, Founder of World CSR & World Sustainability Congress

The Juries & Research cell have carefully worked towards architecting the program in recognition of the talent that rightly deserves to be recognized, our approach is towards thought leadership. The “50 Education Innovative Leaders ” is a reflection of the winner’s professional achievement & a belief that they are thought leaders in Healthcare Industry & a contributor of value.

The award ceremony is scheduled on 12th Feb. 2019 at 9.00 am & the venue is The Taj Lands End, Mumbai, an iconic venue that is overlooking the Arabian Sea,

‘Expert Speak’ Series- Prof. Pankaj Sekhsaria

Title of Talk: The A&N Islands – At the tri-junction of fragility and vulnerability

Date: 4th February 2019

Time: 16:15 p.m.
Venue: IITB-Monash Research Academy Seminar Room 1 and 2

Duration: 60 minutes plus Discussion
Description: Speaker will share his journey as a trained researcher. Topic will be of general importance, all branches of student most welcome to attend.

Objective: To provide students with a concise report on his recent book on A&N.
Resource person: Prof Pankaj Sekhsaria, Member, Kalpavriksh Environmental Action Group

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands constitute an unique system in the Indian context that is also one of the least understood. The islands have no parallels on multiple grounds – geological, ecological and socio-cultural – and put together these form a unit that is complex and needs special attention and care.

The islands are extremely rich from an ecological point of view – rich tropical forests, a diverse coastline comprising beaches, rocky coasts and mangroves and oceans that are thriving with coral reefs and marine life. The islands are home at the same time to a number of indigenous communities who have been here for thousands of years but are today among the most marginalised and vulnerable. And very importantly, the islands are located in Seismic Zone V, the most seismically active zone on the planet. Earthquakes here are a regular occurrence and the 9.3 richter scale earthquake that caused the giant tsunami of December 2004 had its epicenter not very far from the Nicobar islands.

The presentation will dwell on these three distinctly different but complexly inter-related aspects of these islands to argue for a larger and a more holistic understanding of the place. It will present a range of examples of how recent developmental interventions in the islands – for infrastructure development, defence installations and tourism promotion – are wilfully ignoring the dynamic and sensitive social, ecological and geological realities of this remote island chain and increasing manifold the vulnerability of the islands and its human and non-human residents.
Pankaj Sekhsaria’s research interests lie at the intersection of environment, science, technology and society. He has worked extensively in the A&N islands and is the author/editor of four books on various issues of the islands. These include ‘Islands in Flux – the Andaman and Nicobar Story’ (Harper Litmus 2017) and ‘The Last Wave’ (HarperCollins India 2014) his debut novel that is a deeply ecological story based in the Andamans.

He is currently Associate Professor, Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (C-TARA), IIT Bombay, and also a long time member of the environmental action group, Kalpavriksh. He has a PhD in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from the Maastricht University, Netherlands and his latest book based on his doctoral research is ‘Instrumental Lives – an intimate biography of an Indian laboratory (Routledge, 2019).


Student Achievements

  • Team PHABio wins the Platinum Innovator Award:

Team PHABiO (by our two PhD students, Nikhil Jain and Sukanya Dikshit) won the Platinum Innovator Award & Rs 1 lakh cash prize as they stood at 1st Position in The Big Idea Summit 2018, among Top 64 innovations selected from 265+ innovations submitted from all over the nation, for the Summit  On 22nd and 23rd December 2018, The Big Idea Summit( was held by Bhanushali Chamber of Commerce (partnered with many Govt and Academic Institutions like Tata Centre & Corporations) where more than 265 Innovations were submitted nationally. PHABiO (PHA as a healthy plastic) was selected in top 64 Innovations for the summit. From top 64 selected innovations, only 6 Innovations reached into finals for pitching to investors and corporates. From the 6 finalists- PHABiO was awarded as Platinum Innovator (1st Prize) with Cash Prize of INR 1Lakh, a Memento & a certificate along with talks with Investors for seed investment and guidance on Patents, Company Registration, Business Formation etc.

  • Talk in “Open Data Science” workshop at TechFest, IIT Bombay:

Diptesh Kanojia gave a talk in the “Open Data Science” Workshop at Techfest, IIT Bombay on 15th December. He spoke about Natural Language Processing, Data Science and how they are related to each other. While presenting the different facets of the NLP research done at his lab, he connected it to how a data scientist can use the research to solve a relatable real-world issue.
He discussed the NLP research areas of Machine Translation, Sentiment Analysis, Sarcasm Detection, Speech Processing, Cognitive NLP and then went into details of Computational Phylogenetics and Cognate Detection, the latter two being a part of his Ph.D. Thesis. He also presented some excerpts of his work from a recent publication at CODS-COMAD 2019 and explained how Cognate detection is an important problem in the area of Historical and Cultural Linguistics.The talk was well received as the feedback from the students and some entrepreneurs were positive. Later, it transcended more into an interactive session on what tools can an amateur use to start NLP and what online courses can one pursue to deal with these NLP problems.
  • Winner of Young Rapid Research Presentation Award:

Pranali Deore won a first prize in Young Rapid Research (YRP) presentation award at an International conference, Biotechnological Research and Innovation for Sustainable Development (BioSD 2018), held in Hyderabad on 23-25th Nov 2018. The nature of the prize is a certificate and 200 euro coupon from SringerNature to avail educational books.