dkspost parts 24-28

Let me quote Sri S Ramdorai, past CEO of TCS who took it to great heights.

“Interesting. How Health care and diagnostics is evolving. Remote monitoring, noninvasive surgery, remote testing, consulting and remote surgery plus instrumentation. What kind of disciplines come together? Similarly, Agriculture, Space exploration, Lots of examples, Autonomous vehicles “

Hope people wake up and move forward. My question why are faculties reluctant to interdisciplinary approaches?

Part 24

Questions are now turning to ” how to go for interdisciplinary emphasis in education ?”.

I will give their responses first. Then I will give my response later.

Mr Sanjay Gupta, MD of PNB housing finance limited, who took the company to great heights and modernised IT in the company has this to say

“Collaboration and partnership is looked upon as non-purist”

An important comment which hits at egos of educationist. Both collaboration and team work are emphasized in NEP along with interdisciplinary learning.

Mr. Jacob from Zebra technologies, who support us in our technology barrier reduction program both financially and with large volunteer support, says

“yes, it’s all about connecting all the relevant dots to improve human lives.

i think the discipline is irrelevant during these times, its a mindset change that is needed for all stakeholders

to take a multidisciplinary approach to solve problems

My thoughts.”

Mr Srinivasn who retired as GM in PNB and who has a keen interest in science and education, has these perceptive comments by great persons to offer

“Good morning. Peter Drucker in 1991wrote in his book Managing for the Future that when a subject becomes obsolete, American Universities design a course around that.”

Team Lease CEO says

“diploma in automobile engineering still teaches parts of the cars no longer part of the same.

I have myself seen how they design the contents of a subject in banking.”

I agree. We taught for decades 8085 microprocessors even after it became extinct. Lots of faculty loved this and it didn’t help in learning and advancement.

Mr Ramdorai, Past CEO of TCS has this to say

“Perfect. Learning has to be instilled I guess . No future without data and no future without interdisciplinary problem-Solving mindset.”

We need to accept data will govern us, digital will be the tool, AI may become a small brain. This is the reality. Post covid online will stay in education, health, retail, and communications and many sectors. We cannot get away from it. No excuses please.

Prof Ashok Kumar, TCE, Madurai has these comments.

“Dear sir

Nowadays faculty from one department is not connected with other departments. They will interact only during terminal exam duty. To promote interdisciplinary research, first interaction between interdisciplinary faculty has to be strengthened. This will break the barrier and sure promote research activities. This is my observation sir.”

My detailed response will come later. Discussions are exciting.

Part 25

Interdisciplinary approach was the need of yesterday not just now.

So, we saw a lot of good suggestions. Let us find actions for getting it going. We need first to break the barrier as Ramdorai says. How do we do it.

The most important aspect is mindset change.

Faculty members have a fear of unknown. Institutions should conduct a two- or three-days program for inhouse faculty with experts from inside and outside. The program should cover the current trends in engineering, the importance of people first and changes needed, skill sets needed for future, latest and futuristic developments like 3D printing, digital, AI, and resource materials available on the net. It should also look at some higher-level principles of different engineering disciplines and set the tone for interdisciplinary systematic approaches. It should look at materials, energy, sensors, automation and design in a holistic non departmental way. the program should have a hands-on on digital usage.

This should be followed by a series of webinars at least once a week in the beginning. Students should be encouraged to participate in the webinars. Webinars can be downloaded from web or prepared by some institutions jointly. Faculty should understand this is the minimum survival kit.

The fear needs to go. Webinars will become interaction centers for faculty of several departments. Each webinar for 45 minutes should be followed by free discussions not to be controlled by any boss

 It can be done in groups also but each group should have faculty from several departments. Discussions can go on informally also. This allows cross fertilization of ideas culminating in students’ projects, faculty projects, funded projects and leading to good interdisciplinary groups and changing curriculum. Industry experts can join the discussions and even sponsor many activities. This will create opportunities for faculties to interact – a point mentioned by prof Ashok Kumar. It will make the borders less rigid.

Will it become popular or fizzle out? This depends on faculty motivation and involvement and encouragement from the head of the institutions. From my experience at IISc, I can say we as students and faculty got immense benefits about general trends and methods. We organize a lot of lectures. We also organized weekly seminars on fluid mechanics, solid mechanics and computer applications in eighties. Professor Dhawan encouraged interdisciplinary thinking and created many new centers and departments. We started the first major interdisciplinary school called school of Automation in 1970 supported initially by Electrical, Communications, and mechanical engineering departments. I was with it till retirement. Faculty in IISc and most US universities got appointments in multiple departments

I was with four departments and centers. This approach of Dhawan was continued by professor Ramaseshan. We saw the birth of ASTRA which looked at rural technologies, center for atmospheric sciences, center for ecological sciences and many others. We started with two departments and now have more than forty. Another institution is Roorkee University which introduced water resources program in eighties and also earth quake engineering. IIT Bombay had a good design center offering a PG program on design.

Remember Gitanjali of Tagore

Where there is no fear

We need to convert institutions as much fear free as possible. That is for managements to act.

Next give more electives. Students should get choice for about 30 %of total courses. Make one project as interdisciplinary. Introduce at least 25%of courses as interdisciplinary. Include social and behavioral sciences as well as literature reading and review courses.

Otherwise interdisciplinary will mean marginal with no integration.

Part 26

Prof Vinay from PES college of engineering, Mandya has taken our discussion forward.

His comments are

Wonderful suggestions Sir.

I have a plan to have a problem statement identification contest kind of a thing which are interdisciplinary in nature for faculty members and students. I am not sure how faculty will take it. Idea is to drive it through faculty and then students to take up the execution.

What’s your suggestion on this Sir?

My responses are

Wonderful. You need any support from us. Ask.

Why not open it for faculty but exclude PhD work.

Wish you success. Please go ahead. Don’t worry about others. Sometimes we need to go through a lonely path. You lose nothing but gain a lot. Keep me informed.

I think it is a good idea to suggest a few sectors and areas. Only problem is we need to caution people. They come up with catchy titles like IOT for smart agriculture. Suggest to include some expts to get domain knowledge and insight. Otherwise you will be flooded with catchy projects with mostly electronics and sensors.

Mr S Ramdorai s comments

“Well written. Must be broadcast. IISC can start the webinars. Dr. Govindarajan Rangarajan may be requested Dks”

Prof Ashok Kumar from TCE Madurai has appreciated the need.

“Very good explanation and suggestions sir. Mindset and road map are the key factors to achieve this.”

No response from me.

Prof Vasudev Parvati has an important query. We will see it later. There are comments from others also.

Thanks to all for their comments.

Part 27

Prof Vasudev Parvati has the question:

The 25th episode raises the point about whether Engineering education needs to be oriented towards imparting fundamental knowledge in a given core area and then allowing the individual to acquire other skills based on interest and aptitude or whether to to make it broad based in the initial stage itself serving him flavors of a broad spectrum of technologies. Some guidance requested on this aspect sir!

My response

It will be detailed and will continue further. Education should give two views: eagles eye view and worms view. We need to know the whole before we get to a specific. Medical education is clear in this. Unless we get a good to strong external holistic view how will you align to your discipline. Reasons are

Discipline is not stand alone. It depends on others strongly as we have seen. Land, inventor of Polaroid camera says best research outcomes take place at intersections of disciplines

He gives primacy to social sciences. Inventions need a user base and user understanding.

We miss interconnected aspects. We miss a lot.

We will not be part of path breaking people. Discipline suffers. Mechanical stagnated. Electrical grew a lot.

So, discipline first leads to a frog in the well situation.

External view is needed for problem generation and understanding. IT internally will neither generate problems not understand implications of problems solved by IT. I have seen hundreds of fights systems analysts refused to see customers views. His attitude was: take it or leave it. Result was failure of most software in the beginning. Adjustments and adaptations are needed. This is a strong case for both holistic overall learning and for problem generation.

We need to focus on problem generation also. Spend at least 20%on problem generation in every topic. Bring in external situations and scenes. It does not exist now. We need it for innovation.

To sum up: get a holistic knowledge first. Then go for discipline level.

This is not rigid. Make it flexible. Have a mix of both and give choice to students. Some want more specialization some more general education. There is already a model available between mathematics and discipline areas. We need more connects there. So, choice matters.

Not what you teach first or later. There is nothing more important or less important. A balanced approach is desirable.

We know that whole is more than sum of parts. A forest is more than a collection of trees. We will see it next.

Hope it is clear. Any questions.

Part 28

Comments by

S Ramdorai

“Good morning. we often asked the question between strategy and implementation which is more important. An implementation without strategy and a strategy without implementation will not deliver sustainable outcomes.

Big picture to details how hand in hand. Holistic view of multiple disciplines followed by in-depth specialization may be the way. Moving across disciplines to bring a holistic perspective is also key. Regards”

Comments by Prof P Raja, Dean and HOD Mechatronics dept.


This is related to the discussions on Inter-disciplinaries. Faculty mindset is the foremost thing and I accept it.

In the recent years, newly joined faculty is ready to accept the fact and act on it. But over the years we are culturally obsessed with the present setup of Department silos operation and averted with throw the wall behavior. Hence, It is the high time that our educational administrative system should facilitate the faculty and students by revamping the existing setup with the following resources.

1. Infrastructure:

At present, students and faculty have to get permissions from the parent Department and the proposed Department to offer a course, utilize the resources for research, projects and so on. This creates an unwanted delay in executing the task and many times it will get fizzled out. With the existing products are multidisciplinary in nature, it is the high time that the Department should move ahead with Theme based rather than conventional discipline. It needs radical change of thoughts to share the physical resources for maintaining and creating it. For instance, the theme-based centers may be in the areas of Electric Vehicle, Smart Grids, Green Building and automation, Autonomous vehicles, IoT, Data Analytics, 3D Printing and so on.


The theme-based Departments/Centers need to be established to circumvent the sharing of faculty members. It requires lot of guts to reengineer the entire Governance setup to satisfy with in the regulatory compliance. The discipline wise courses are to be offered at the Institute level and the faculty members will handle the courses accordingly from the Departments/Centers. Many Government Faculty and staff are redundant in the present context. They need to upgrade or train in the modern areas to fit into the theme-based centers.


The theme-based budgets shall be allocated on Physical and Human resources. Then the collaborations will happen routinely in an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary way, which is highly desired now.

Unless we Challenge the status quo, we will be again traveling in compartments without knowing the destination.

My comments

“‘I agree. Good thinking

 Why not start with a few centers with interdisciplinary focus on say in cyber physical system for water supply and power grid and transport. Don’t make it exclusive. Open to all. Ask for proposals and get funds from DST inhouse or industries. This will not disturb departments initially. Similarly AI will touch many disciplines and many institutions have started AI centers.

We need to work from all directions, faculty, syllabus, labs, management support, projects, funding. Will be happy to help.”

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