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Director's message -- 6th May 2011

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Director's message -- 6th May 2011
May 10, 2011 10:22PM

IIT Mandi has reached the end of the first academic year in our transit campus at Mandi (and the second academic year since our founding). The first few months in Mandi were nerve-wracking as the (largely) fresh young faculty and handful of non-teaching staff strove to cope with many challenges: learning how to teach, preparing course material for new subjects, meeting the aspirations of students expecting all the amenities of an established residential campus to name a few.
Now, IIT Mandi has overcome these teething problems and young faculty are already beginning to make their mark in academic arenas. The end-semester exams are over and the Academic Block wears a deserted look as the 215 B.Tech. students head home. The 23 MS and PhD research scholars and 31 faculty will mostly be here during the summer catching up on research and getting a head start on next semester's course preparation.
Despite the travails of starting a new IIT, the faculty have made a beginning in research. Over 20 papers have been accepted/published with IIT Mandi affiliation (see [www.iitmandi.ac.in]). While many of these are the culmination of earlier research, about 6 papers report on research done entirely in IIT Mandi. The faculty have submitted proposals for sponsored research and 3 are already active (see [www.iitmandi.ac.in]):

                             No.              Amount (Rs. lakhs)               Sponsors
Submitted                5                              149                    DST
Sanctioned               4                               90                    DST
Operational              3                               30                    NICSI, NIXI, RTBI

True to its reputation as the only IIT in the Himalayas, we have already seen a modest stream of visitors, including several foreigners from Europe and North America.
1. Prof. Yvonne Dittrich, IT University, Copenhagen: October 2010, 1 week
2. Prof. V. Radojevic, Institute of Physics, Belgrade, Serbia: January-April 2011, 3 months
3. Prof. S.T. Manson, Department of Physics, Georgia State University, US: March 2011, 1 week
4. Prof. Paul Milgram, Department of Engineering Design, University of Toronto, Canada: April 2011, 1 week
5. Team of 5 UG students in business informatics, IT University: March 2011, 1 week

Faculty Recruitment
In the 2011-12 academic year, we will need to teach additional courses as the 1st B.Tech. batch moves into the 3rd year. We are in the midst of recruitment of new faculty to fill this need and to build up R&D in a few thrust areas. Our strategy is to encourage collaborative research in inter-disciplinary areas, targeting important needs of society. To this end, the faculty advertisement asked for candidates to highlight their interest and experience in one of the thrust areas below:
    [*] Energy-efficient and environmentally sound infrastructure for the Himalayan region (renewable energy systems, buildings, transport networks, waste management, water resources management, etc.)
    [*] Technologies, including IT and communications, for sustainable development (including disaster management and increasing the viability of fruit and vegetable growing through mechanisation/biotech and post-harvest value addition)
    [*] Materials for electronics and electrical engineering, including meta-materials and nano-materials
    [*] Other research areas of interest include: Structures, processes, manufacturing and emerging materials for these; engineering design; controls; IT and network security; networks and communications; computer vision; theoretical computer science; VLSI; large software systems; technical communication; economics; sociology; organizational psychology; entrepreneurship; finance; policy studies; mathematics; statistics; computational biology.
We also indicated that industry experience is a plus point. In 3 weeks, we received our 1,500 applications through an online portal [www.iitmandi.ac.in]. Incidentally, this portal was developed by a team of 2nd B.Tech. students. It was operated by them, even to the extent of providing online help to candidates from around the world!

The Incoming Batch
We are currently accepting applications for M.S. (by research) and Ph.D. We expect that about 20 new scholars will join in July, to almost double the existing number. Our plan is to have 2 scholars per faculty member by January 2012.
On 29th July, the 3rd batch of B. Tech students will join. The class size is 40 in each of the 3 branches, CSE, EE and ME.
To accommodate these 140 new entrants, we are leasing a private building and are getting a hostel from the HP Govt. Both are about 3 km from the Academic Block, in different directions, unfortunately.
The Academic Block is nearing its capacity with offices for 50 faculty, 380 class room seats, a library, teaching and research labs, indoor badminton and table-tennis, study areas, etc. For the next academic year, we are constructing 3,500 sq.ft. of space for 3 classrooms and one research scholars room/lab. This is being built in just 2 months using prefabricated bamboo panels for walls and roof. Besides being eco-friendly, these buildings are cheaper (about 2/3rd the cost of concrete buildings) and can be dismantled and shifted. The life of this bamboo prefab is rated at 25 years.
Collaboration with industry and academic in India and abroad is a key part of IIT Mandi's strategy to make an impact. At the individual level and at the Institute level, we have made beginnings.
With academia:
1. NIT, Hamirpur – MoU signed (collaboration in research and teaching, exchange of faculty and students)
2. IIT, Madras – MoU signed (collaboration in research and teaching, exchange of faculty and students)
3. Blekinge Institute of Technology, Sweden – MoU signed (collaboration in research and teaching, exchange of faculty and students)
4. IT University, Copenhagen – visits by a professor and by a team of students. Joint offering of a course on software engineering is planned for July-Nov 2011
5. University of Stuttgart/TU9,Germany – discussions on-going for a strategic partnership
6. Dublin City University, Ireland – discussions on research collaboration in physics, joint proposal submitted
7. University of Western Ontario, Canada – discussions on research collaborations
With industry/R&D labs:
1. DRDO labs – discussions on research collaboration
2. Xerox Research, US – ongoing project on document management (with IIT - Madras RTBI).

The Kamand Campus
Due to the space constraints in Mandi, the rapid development of the Kamand campus is essential. However, following due process for selection of architects and construction agencies, obtaining necessary permissions and delays due to the remote, hilly terrain, the earliest we can expect permanent concrete/steel buildings to be ready is in early 2013.
We are adopting a 3-prong strategy for development of the campus.
1. The Animal Husbandry Department, from whom we inherited the large tracts of flat land, had a number of barns, sheds and quarters. These are being renovated to serve as a workshop, labs and residences. The 400 sqm workshop will be complete in May and will be used by students in July 2011. The remaining renovations will be complete within 6 months.
2. By May, the architect and design consultant will be appointed. By July, the campus master plan will be ready and construction will start by Sept-Oct 2011. To relieve the space crunch in the Mandi transit campus, we will construct about 10,000 sqm of prefab buildings in the south part of the Kamand campus (closest to Mandi town). These will include hostels, labs and classrooms for about 150 students. Tentatively, the 2009 B.Tech. batch (97 students) plus some research scholars would be accommodated in Kamand from July 2012.
3. Meanwhile, permanent buildings will come up in the north part of campus (on the Kamand-Kataula road). These will be ready for occupation from late 2012 onwards. We plan that the complete Institute will shift to Kamand by July 2013.

This is a brief report on the status of IIT Mandi. I will give you updates periodically. Your comments and questions are welcome.

Prof. T.A.Gonsalves
6th May 2011
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