Mandi: In a major recognition of the Research and Development underway at the Indian Institute of Technology Mandi, seven of its projects have been chosen under a Central Government initiative aimed at boosting collaborations with international universities.
As many as seven research proposals from the institute have been accepted by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India, under ‘Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration’ (SPARC). These seven faculty-led, research projects are in areas such as ‘Energy and Water Sustainability’, ‘Advanced Sensors, Electronics and Communication’, ‘Infectious Diseases and Clinical Research’, ‘Humanities and Social Sciences’, ‘Nano, Biotechnology and Applications’, ‘Advanced Functional and Meta Materials’ and ‘Basic Sciences’.
The SPARC grants will help IIT Mandi to collaborate with international universities located in U.S., France, Germany, UK and Taiwan (Republic of China), world-class faculties and researchers from across the globe to undertake joint research work and to offer short term courses to the students.
Speaking about this recognition, Dr. Prem Felix Siril, Dean (Sponsored Research and Industrial Consultancy), IIT Mandi, said, “These projects will boost our efforts to establish partnerships with leading Universities across the globe. Additionally, IIT Mandi is contributing to the SPARC scheme as the nodal Institution for developing collaborations with academic Institutions in Germany.”
The seven projects at IIT Mandi chosen under MHRD’s SPARC scheme include:
1. Dr. Rajanish Giri, Assistant Professor, School of Basic Sciences, IIT Mandi (Principal Investigator) and Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Singh of Alagappa University, Tamil Nadu (Co-Investigator) have received SPARC grant for their research on ‘Biophysics of Zika virus Envelope protein, membrane fusion and inhibitor discovery’ in collaboration with Prof. Indira U. Mysorekar of Washington University, St. Louis, U.S. (Principal Investigator) and Prof. Vladimir Uversky, University of South Florida, Florida, U.S. (Co-Investigator).
This research will primarily focus on understanding the basic biology of ‘how the Zika virus membrane fuses with the host membrane.’ This collaboration will help the researchers of IIT Mandi to seek access to Zika Virus Culture Laboratory at Washington University, St. Louis, U.S. This will give fresh impetus and support to Zika researchers. The researchers from IIT Mandi and Washington University have an established collaboration and the team had recently been able to successfully identify the target of FDA approved drug, Hydroxychloroquine, against Zika virus.
2. Dr. Prem Felix Siril, Associate Professor, School of Basic Sciences, IIT Mandi (Principal Investigator) and Dr. Suman Kalyan Pal, Associate Professor, School of Basic Sciences, IIT Mandi (Co-Investigator) have received a SPARC grant of Rs. 60 lakh for their research on ‘Developing conducting polymer nanostructures and their nanocomposites as visible light photo catalysts for environmental remediation using flow chemistry’ in collaboration with Prof. Samy Remita from Université Paris-Sud, Orsay, France (Principal Investigator) and Prof. Chouki Zerrouki and Prof. Najla Fourati from Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Paris, France (Co-Investigators).
The grant will be used for research on developing conducting polymer based photocatalysts using the principles of flow chemistry. The flow chemistry based approach will be used to develop environmental remediation of industrial effluents. Various workshops, conferences will also be organised with the help of the SPARC grants. Two IIT Mandi Ph.D. students – Mr. Rituporn Gogoi and Ms. Astha Singh – will visit Université Paris-Sud for a period of six months to work on this research.
3. Dr. Ramna Thakur, Assistant Professor, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Mandi (Principal Investigator) along with Dr. Chander Singh, Medical Officer, Medical Unit, IIT Mandi and Dr. Rajeshwari Dutt, Assistant Professor, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Mandi (Co-Investigators) have received a SPARC grant of Rs. 62.5 lakh for their research on ‘Area deprivation and prevalence of non-communicable diseases: Analysis at the block level of Punjab’ in collaboration with Prof. Martin Siegel of Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany (Principal Investigator) and Dr. Werner Maier of Helmholtz-Zentrum München, Munich, Germany (Co-Investigator).
The primary focus of this research is to help policy makers of Punjab by providing them a detailed summary on various factors which can be responsible for various non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart attack and diabetes, among others.
Among other research activities, the grant will also be used for primary data collection in Punjab region to develop a deprivation index to find out which non communicable disease occur more in different parts of the targeted area. A team of researchers from Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany will visit IIT Mandi for this research.
4. Dr. Shyam K. Masakapalli, Assistant Professor, School of Basic Sciences, IIT Mandi (Principal Investigator) along with Prof. Suvendra K. Ray and Prof. Siddhartha S. Satapathy of Tezpur University, Assam (Co-Investigators) have received a grant of Rs 46.82 lakh for their research on ‘Developing novel strategies to capture Phytopathogen-Agricultural host metabolic crosstalk by cell type specific 13C metabolic phenotyping’ in collaboration with Prof. George Ratcliffe (Principal Investigator) and Prof. Nicholas Kruger (Co-Investigator) from University of Oxford in UK.
In this project, the researchers will work upon developing novel strategies that may provide comprehensive insights into the metabolic crosstalk between the selected Phytopathogen and Agricultural host (Ralstonia Solanacearum – Tomato) by employing cell type specific reporter proteins and tracer (13C) analysis. The insights into the fundamental aspects of plant-microbial metabolic interactions with relevance to Agriculture is the expected outcome of this research.
5. Dr. Gaurav Bhutani, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering, IIT Mandi (Principal Investigator) along with Dr. Atul Dhar, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering, IIT Mandi and Prof. Ajit Annachhatre, Visiting Professor, School of Engineering, IIT Mandi (Co-Investigators) have received a SPARC grant of Rs. 47 lakh for their research on ‘Computational modelling of polydisperse multiphase bioreactor systems for wastewater treatment’ in collaboration with Dr. Pablo Brito-Parada (Principal Investigator) and Prof. Stephen Neethling from Imperial College London, UK (Co-Investigator).
This grant will primarily be used for inviting foreign experts to IIT Mandi for research work and to conduct a short course on multiphase flow modelling. In the next step, the developed framework will be utilized to propose improvement in operating conditions and design improvement of existing wastewater treatment equipment.
6. Dr. Aditi Halder, Assistant Professor, School of Basic Sciences, IIT Mandi (Principal Investigator) and Dr. Viswanath Balakrishnan, Associate Professor, School of Engineering, IIT Mandi (Co- Investigator) have received a grant of Rs 49.20 lakh for their research on ‘Advancing the Fundamentals of Electrocatalysis with the use of Earth Abundant Materials for future of Energy and Transportation’ in collaboration with Prof. Sanjeev Mukerjee (Principal Investigator) and Prof. Joshua Gallaway (Co-Investigator) of Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
As a part of this project, IIT Mandi researchers will focus on the development, characterization and electrochemical testing of Single Atom Catalyst (SAC) of non-Platinum based Catalyst like iron, cobalt and nickel. In situ X-ray absorption spectroscopy and full cell testing will be undertaken by the foreign researchers at the research facility of Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
7. Dr. Ankush Bag, Assistant Professor, School of Computing and Electrical Engineering, IIT Mandi (Principal Investigator) and Dr. Kunal Ghosh, Assistant Professor, School of Computing and Electrical Engineering, IIT Mandi (Co-Investigator) along with a PhD student of IIT Mandi, Mr. Arnab Mondal, have received a SPARC grant of Rs 65.18 lakh for their research on ‘Technology development of Compound Semiconductor Devices for Optoelectronic and Electronic Applications’ in collaboration with Prof. Jen – Inn Chyi (Principal Investigator) and Dr. Kun – Yu Lai (Co-Investigator) of National Central University, Taiwan.
The research will focus on developing a low cost Gallium Nitride based transistor which can replace the conventional Silicon transistor in high voltage applications such as electric vehicles. Another aim of this research is to use Gallium Nitride based technology in making Ultra-violet LEDs which can be further used significantly in water disinfection.
Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC) aims at improving the research ecosystem of India’s Higher Educational Institutions by facilitating academic and research collaborations between Indian Institutions [overall top-100 or category-wise top-100 in NIRF (including such Private Institutions which are recognized under 12(B) of UGC Act)] and the best institutions in the world (top-500 overall and top-200 subject-wise institutions listed in QS World University Ranking), from 28 selected nations, to jointly solve problems of national and/or international relevance. A set of 5 Thrust Areas (Fundamental Research, Emergent Areas of Impact, Convergence, Action-Oriented Research and Innovation-Driven) and sub-theme areas in each thrust area has been identified for collaboration under SPARC based on emergent relevance and importance for the nation.
· Visits of top International faculty/ researchers in Indian institutes to pursue teaching and research
· Visits by Indian students for training and experimentation in premier laboratories worldwide
· Joint development of niche courses, world class books and monographs, translatable patents, demonstrable technologies or outcomes and products
· Consolidation of Bilateral cooperation through academic and research partnerships through various International workshops
· Publication, Dissemination and Visibility through a high profile annual international Conference in India
Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur is the National Coordinating Institute to implement the SPARC programme (www.sparc.iitkgp.ac.in).