Dr. G. Nagarajan, Professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering in Anna University, was recently in Kuwait to participate in the India Education Exhibition 2015, which was held on 9 and 10 of January at the Ramada Hotel in Al-Riggae.
With a degree in Mechanical Engineer, a Masters specializing in Internal Combustion Engineering and a PhD in Alternative Fuels for IC Engines, Dr. Nagarajan has been a professor at Anna University for the last 24 years. He has also served as a member of several expert committees such as the Indian Society for Technical Education, Indian Society for Mechanical Engineers and Combustion Institute (USA).
Besides teaching and conducting research at Anna University, Dr. Nagarajan is also guest lecturer at various academic and professional institutions and has published more than 200 papers in national and international journals and at national and international conferences.
Addressing a seminar held on the sidelines of the India Education Exhibition 2015, Dr. Nagarajan spoke about ‘Higher Education in Engineering and Career Opportunities’. The professor took time from his busy schedule at the expo and spoke with The Times Kuwait about what made Anna University such a prestigious and sought after institute by students.
Why should students choose Anna University’s engineering courses?
Anna University is one of the oldest technical institutes in the world with a history spanning 220 years, and has good prospects, expertise and laboratory facilities. We have about 600 faculty members who are involved in both teaching and research. The University is one of the top ten in India and is also one of the largest technological universities with about 550 engineering colleges affiliated to it. I can proudly say that Anna University is the top class research institution in the entire country; we have the most number of publications in research journals compared to any other institution.
What kind of atmosphere do you foster in the university?
We are very friendly with the students, and the faculty is open to answer questions and is available all the time. We encourage students to ask questions in the class, and the faculty spends time with the students. There is a lot of cooperation among the students though there is also a competitive spirit. Anna University accepts only the best, and those with the high scores so the students are very serious about their studies and the interactions are very mutually beneficial.
How do students choose a course based on its relevance five years from now?
I always say every course is the best course, and it depends on the students on how they excel and shine in their chosen course. Anyone who does exceedingly well in any course will definitely have the chance to take advantage of placement or research opportunities. We have a number of courses that can result in good placements and there are a few other courses that can lead to research openings.
How do you prepare students for the practical aspect of engineering?
From the practical point of view, we do have theory subjects and we have practical subjects that are taught in laboratories where students learn the significance of practicing what they learn.
We teach students the practical side of engineering and guide them every step in applying theory. In addition to that, in the University, we have a design and fabrication project that is in the seventh semester wherein students will construct their own idea, build it themselves and demonstrate the working of the prototype. According to our process, students should apply the knowledge they have gained over the semesters and come out with a final model. In the final semester, we have what is known as project work which could be an analytic, simulation or experimental project. At Anna University, we train students on theory as well as practical aspects so they have hands on experience.
Do the students in the engineering course take part in many competitions?
Our students participate and organize many competitions. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) organizes an event called the Baja. It is meant for students interested in automobiles, and allows participants to design, develop and create a prototype vehicle. The final ATV vehicle is subjected to an endurance test for more than four hours. So at the competition, the student skills are tested and displayed. The design, production and manufacturing is all done from scratch by students who work in groups and in this way, we bring out the talents that will be known to the entire world. Our students participate in similar competitions like those for formula racing cars which is organized internationally in some countries and also in India. Our students work hard and excel.
How do you think the government’s ‘Make in India’ policy will impact engineering?
If you look at engineering in any country even in India, the country's growth depends on the type of products that are manufactured. Ultimately what the university is looking at is especially the indigenous products, and we would like many of our engineers to be entrepreneurs. Then, they can provide more employment opportunities and because of that we can come up with many better products than the other developed nations. This will help to improve India because every country's growth is going to depend on the GDP and the major contribution to development is going to be from the engineering industry where engineers will play a major role in this. I think our country produces more than 1.5 million engineers per year. We can do wonders for the economy with all these intelligent engineers.
What challenges have to be overcome for students to make India an engineering design center to the world?
Our students have to be more focused on communication. We find that our students are not very keen to communicate, though communication is very important and industries even look for it whether they are the Engineering or IT industry. It is one area that I think the students can mature themselves. Otherwise our students are capable of doing anything, and it is even possible for them to make India the design center of the world.