Prof. Timothy A. Gonsalves, Founding Director, completes over a decade of leadership at IIT Mandi

Mandi: Founding Director of the Indian Institute of Technology Mandi, Prof. Timothy A. Gonsalves, has completed his extended tenure of over 10 years today, 30th June 2020. Completing his term at the age of 66, Prof. Gonsalves will hand over the charge to Prof. Ajit K. Chaturvedi, Director, IIT Roorkee, as the Acting Director with effect from 1st July 2020.

Talking about his journey, Prof. Timothy A. Gonsalves, Director, IIT Mandi, said, “I am leaving IIT Mandi with strong foundations, with a very committed and capable leadership team of Deans, many other faculty and staff. With them, I’m confident that IIT Mandi will not only weather the COVID storm but will emerge stronger to scale ever greater heights of academic achievement in the future!”

In these ten years, IIT Mandi has scaled new heights of innovation, entrepreneurial ecosystem, quality faculty, high-end research, global collaborations with academia and industry, unique curriculum and teaching methods, gender inclusivity on campus besides being the most scenic campus among all IITs.

Some of the key milestones and achievements during Prof. Timothy A. Gonsalves’ 10 years in leadership of the Institute include:

– Growing the student strength from 97 in 2010 to 1,655 students today, enrolled in undergraduate, postgraduate and research programmes, from 20 to over 125 faculty, and 1,141 alumni; and a fully residential campus with 1,30,000 sqm buildings completed and 86,000 sqm in progress.

– Expanding the degree programmes from the initial 3 B.Tech. programmes to 7 B.Tech. + 13 Master’s + M.S. and Ph.D. today. Notably, IIT Mandi offers M.A. (Development Studies) run by the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and a B.Tech. (Data Science & Engineering) that is a first in the IIT system.

– Prof. Gonsalves was instrumental in bringing in innovative approaches to improving gender ratio in the IITs. In the academic year of 2019-2020, the Institute admitted 20.22% female students in B.Tech. programme. This is the highest proportion of female students in a B.Tech. programme in any of the 23 IITs.

– His vision to develop IIT Mandi as a research-focused institute has enabled the Institute to be involved in over 275 Research and Development (R&D) projects worth more than Rs. 120 crore.

– In the past 10 years, the Institute has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with as many as 11 international and 12 national universities.

– Under the leadership of Prof. Gonsalves, IIT Mandi Catalyst, the first Technology Business Incubator in Himachal Pradesh, was established. It has helped over 75 startups since 2017 and is changing both the industry profile and entrepreneurial mindset in the state. So far, Catalyst has secured external funding of Rs. 24 crore from various funding agencies.

Unique B.Tech. curriculum of IIT Mandi: Emphasis on Project-Based Learning

Under the guidance of Prof. Gonsalves, IIT Mandi’s B.Tech. programmes have been designed from scratch with a vision of positively impacting society and to give students a broad base to prepare them for their careers in diverse areas in the rapidly changing future.

In first-year, ‘Reverse Engineering Project’ imparts a good understanding of common scientific and engineering principles and methods to students. In their second-year, ‘Design Practicum’ helps students in building a strong foundation in the range of engineering knowledge. The ‘Interactive Socio-Technical Practicum’, in third-year, introduces students to the breadth of knowledge in humanities. In fourth-year, ‘Major Technical Project’ imparts knowledge in social sciences and management.

An important part of Prof. Gonsalves’ strategy is to introduce new and innovative courses. In 2019, the Institute became the first IIT to introduce a full-fledged B.Tech. degree in Data Science and Engineering.

Contribution in improving the gender ratio in IITs

In 2017, Prof. Gonsalves chaired the Joint Admissions Board (JAB) sub-committee for increasing female enrollment in B.Tech. in IITs. The JAB committee suggested several measures to ensure a higher female enrolment rate including the introduction of the supernumerary seats to address the issue of the falling number of female students entering the Institutes. This approach helped IIT Mandi in successfully achieving the target for female enrolment. In the academic year of 2019-2020, the Institute admitted 20.22% female students in B.Tech programme. This is the highest proportion of female students in a B.Tech. programme in any of the 23 IITs.

Along with this, the Institute also offers a merit scholarship of a full-tuition fee waiver for women in their first year along with a stipend of Rs. 1000 per month for ten months, which becomes subject to their performance in the subsequent years.

This effort has been a national success. Female enrollment in B.Tech., in all IITs, has more than doubled, from 8% in 2016 to 18% in 2019.

FarmerZone project of IIT Mandi

Led by IIT Mandi, FarmerZone is a national initiative of the Department of Biotechnology with Indian and foreign partners. It is a collective open-source data platform for smart agriculture which will serve as a multi-purpose window for the dissemination of farm-level information to farmers; from dealing with climate change and weather prediction to matters of land, soil, water, seed and market linkages.

Led by Prof. Gonsalves, this project envisions to provide possible solutions through scientific interventions for the challenges faced in each agro-climatic region. The FarmerZone platform will connect farmers and scientists, government officials, thought leaders in agriculture, economists and representatives from global companies who work in the big-data and e-commerce space to bring about technology-based localised agri-solutions.

Currently, IIT Mandi is working with over 3,500 potato farmers in Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab under this project.

Putting IIT Mandi on the global map

To choose the best strategy for the development of IIT Mandi, Prof. Gonalves took inspiration from some of the best institutes of global recognition like University of Stuttgart, Germany; California Institute of Technology, USA; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA; Stanford University, USA, and National University of Singapore, Singapore. This approach of Prof. Gonsalves has helped IIT Mandi to lead all the younger IITs on various fronts. The Institute focuses on creating a robust innovative environment for faculty and students, by introducing unique interdisciplinary courses and designing practicum based curriculum from scratch, to cater the need of the hour in the field of science and technology.

Academic collaboration

In the past 10 years, under the leadership of Prof. Gonsalves, IIT Mandi has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with as many as 11 international and 12 national universities. These MoUs aim at the mutual benefit by conducting joint research activities and exchanging academic materials. These MoUs have paved the way for the exchange of students, faculty and administrative staff between IIT Mandi and collaborating institutions.

As a result of the successful mobility programme with the TU9 universities in Germany, IIT Mandi has been appointed as the nodal institute for collaboration with German universities for the ‘Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration’ (SPARC) by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India.

Apart from this, Prof. Gonsalves is a nature lover and has a keen interest in trekking and photography. He is often seen joining the students for a trekking trip with a camera in his hands.

With a vision to make IIT Mandi a leader in science and technology, education and innovation in India, Prof. Gonsalves has nurtured an interdisciplinary research environment at the Institute that developed innovative technologies for widespread use. Over the past 10 years, IIT Mandi has grown at all fronts, setting and crossing milestones set for each year and putting the Institute’s name on the global map.

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