Friday, December 8, 2023

Students, faculty find science congress rewarding

By Fakir Balaji
Mysuru (Karnataka), Jan 9 (IANS)
Hundreds of students who flocked to the 103rd Indian Science Congress here from across the country this week found the five-day event worth their effort and money, as they had useful exposure to the subject and could explore research and job opportunities.

“I am happy to participate this major science fair, held annually at the national level, as top scientists, researchers, experts and fellow students from across the country came to meet, interact, exchange and share knowledge and experiences with us,” Vinay Kumar, a post-graduate physics student from Bangalore University, told IANS.

Contrary to adverse remarks against the event from top scientists like Indian-born Nobel laureate Vekataraman Ramakrishnan, who recently termed it a acircus’, many students and faculty endorsed it than discarding it due to ‘unfair’ criticism.

“The science fair, being held since 1912, has evolved and expanded over the last 100 years old, contributing to its growth and development, as it is an ideal platform for academia, research, industry, state-run firms and government agencies to interact and exchange latest trends in basic, applied and research-oriented science,” claimed Harish Chandra, an astro-physicst at Pune in Maharashta.

The annual jamboree, held from January 3-7 in the sprawling 700-acre Mansagangotri campus of the University of Mysore after 34 years for the second time to mark its centenary year, attracted a whopping 12,500 delegates, including 150 from abroad, comprising five Nobel laureates, Indian-born and foreign professors, research scholars and experts in diverse fields.

Mysuru, the cultural capital of the state and a city of palaces, is about 140 km from Bengaluru.

Though Ramakrishnan, who shared the prestigious Nobel prize for chemistry in 2009 with two others, was invited to participate in the science congress, when he was in Bengaluru last month on his annual sabbatical to India, he declined and instead opted to address students and faculty of Panjab University at Chandigarh.

Echoing Ramakrishnan’s view, Hyderabad-based Birla Science Centre’s B.G. Sidharth termed the mega event a ‘kumbh mela’ of science, as it is held over five days across the country in first week of every new year, with neither any original any invention is demonstrated or discovery shared with others.

Princeton mathematician and Fields medalist Manjul Bhargava, who delivered a public lecture on ‘Gems of Ramanajum and their lasting impact on mathematics’, however, defended the event, saying “a lot of positives come out of the congress.

“Such events are not meant for research findings or brain-storming sessions to prove or disprove what is science and what is not. The purpose of this science congress is to meet scientists, build a network and find common areas of interest among the scientific community,” Bharagava told reporters here during the event.

Indian Science Congress Association president A.K. Saxena and general secretary Anup Kumar, however, declined to comment on the adverse criticism of the event, especially after the 102nd edition in 2015 at Mumbai sparked off a controversy over the inclusion of Vedic science in the plenary sessions.

“In a democracy, everyone is entitled to his or her view. But majority’s view prevails. A bit of criticism is healthy and welcome so we can improve. It is not for nothing so many delegates (over 12,000), have come by air, train and bus from across the country to participate in the event, which sets the agenda for the year and helps policy makers, think tanks and governments to make their budgets and allot funds for advancement of science, including research and innovation,” an association official, who is also a botany professor, said on anonymity.

Yom Nigam, a fifth semester chemical engineering student from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, who came with a batch of 60 students to the event by train via Bhopal, said he found it rewarding as it made him realize that without science, technology would not be able to disruptive as discoveries and inventions happen in science.

“Though we all are engineering students, our faculty has encouraged us to attend this event to explore applied science for our area of specialisation and learn about the inter-disciplinary nature of the subject,” Nigam told IANS here on Friday.

(Fakir Balaji can be contacted at [email protected])

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