Chennai: Indian Institute of Technology Madras has launched the ‘IITM Young Research Fellow’ (YRF) program to motivate students towards a career path in Research and application of deeper learning in other career tracks. Inspired by the highly successful ‘Super-UROP’ program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the YRF program is open to Third Year Undergraduate and Dual Degree Students of IIT Madras.
The program provides one-on-one interaction with the high calibre IIT faculty members, to participate in cutting edge research. The students will also benefit personally, through a ‘career and life coaching’ (CLIC) program concurrently being delivered by the 1979 alumni, closely curated by expert professional coaches.
The Project is being funded by the Alumni Class of 1979. The MoU was signed on 10thJuly 2020 by Prof. Mahesh Panchagnula, Dean (Alumni and Corporate Relations), IIT Madras, and twenty-four alumni of the 1979 batch across the world, on behalf of the entire Alumni Class of 1979.
Underscoring the importance of impactful undergraduate research for the institute, Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, said, “IIT Madras has long been known for producing world-class undergraduate students. Today, IITM is very much a research-intensive university where world-class research is a daily pursuit. This program blends these two strengths by giving select undergraduate students an opportunity to discover the excitement of research early.”
This is a year-long program and up to twenty fellowships are being planned to be awarded in the first year. This is a highly selective program and applications will be examined by a senior faculty committee. The program will encourage multi-disciplinary projects.
Speaking about this initiative, Prof. Anantha Chandrakasan, Dean of Engineering, MIT, who founded the ‘Super-UROP’ program at MIT, and advised on the creation of YRF program, said, “I wish you all success for the YRF program. Involving undergraduates in research will foster an appreciation for deeper learning and innovation, enabling their success in a wide array of career paths, including graduate studies.”
The IITM YRF program has already received a lot of encouragement and shows of support, with industry and academic partners expressing keen interest.
The year-long unique program is designed to provide immersive and intense scientific exploration opportunities to the students, with the participants executing research projects in any academic department or across departments for inter-disciplinary projects.
Thanking the Alumni Class of 1979 for supporting the current batch of students through this program, Prof. Mahesh Panchagnula, Dean (Alumni and Corporate Relations), IIT Madras, said, “The class of ’79 has championed a unique program that is both timely and innovative. At a time when India is talking of self-reliance, this program aims to create an interest in deep tech research among some of the best and brightest students in India.”
The IITM YRF was conceptualised by the Alumni Batch of 1979. The 79ers, with a team spanning nearly 30 members spread across 10 teams, have handled various elements including program structure, fund-raising, financial strategy planning, and marketing for the program. Their contribution as founders and mentors has been invaluable and their continued personal involvement will be the lynchpin of the program’s success.
Mr. Subrahmanyam Dravida from the Class of 1979, who is Vice President, Technology at Qualcomm based in Boston MA, said, “We wanted to give back to IIT Madras by designing a program that will deepen the undergraduate experience through immersion in research. We hope this program also enhances the overall research environment at IIT. YRF will also allow students from other colleges to participate. We are grateful to Professor Anantha Chandrakasan, Dean of Engineering at MIT who guided us on the framework for YRF. We thank the class of 1979 for their time, ideas and generosity. In time we hope YRF becomes a model worthy of emulation in all Indian colleges.”
Mr. Naru Sarath also from the Class of 1979 who is a leading venture capitalist and head of Venture East said: “This program goes to the core of how an individual becomes ‘competitive’ and excels, in whatever career track one chooses, not only in research – being a deep tech entrepreneur, or being one of the best minds in engineering, consulting or investment banking, or product management, etc. We are fortunate to have some of the best faculty in the world available at IITM, that are motivated to shape these young minds.”
Highlighting the benefits of this program to IIT Madras Students, Prof. Preeti Aghalayam, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Madras, and Coordinator of the program, said, “We want students to truly immerse themselves in research and share in the joy of discovery.”
The students selected into the program will be paid a monthly honorarium, provided research guidance by IITM faculty, and will participate in an interactive lecture series on research skills. They can also avail of mentorship by the alumni batch of 1979. The Young Research Fellows will be strongly encouraged to publish their findings in reputed peer-reviewed international journals and to present their work at high quality international conferences for which they will receive travel support.