Extract from the interview with Prof. B.V.R. Chowdari, Executive Director, NUS-India Research Initiatives Office of the Deputy President (Research & Technology) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has set up “NUS-India Research…
Office of the Deputy President (Research & Technology) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has set up “NUS-India Research Initiatives” to promote research collaboration between NUS and Indian Universities and Institutes of higher learning. This office with Prof. B.V.R. Chowdari as the Executive Director encourages student research intern program, short-term staff visits, joint symposia and joint Ph.D degree program.
Taking up a short research project is a norm for students worldwide, when they are in their pre-final year of the undergraduate program. Students from India normally chose a university either in India or Overseas. Singapore attracts a number of Indian students for various reasons. Indian parents in Singapore also encourages their children studying in India to come over to NUS by availing the support of “NUS – India Research Initiatives”.
NUS is currently ranked number one in Asia and one of the top 25 in the world, whereas none of the Indian Universities are currently within the ranking order of 100. The ranking is based on a number of factors like teaching, research publications, citation as how others refer these papers, internationalisation and entrepreneurship.
Research and citations are related ones and hence one may confidently say that research plays a major role in the ranking of any university. Hence from the ranking of the NUS, it is evident that Research is one of the highly focused areas. NUS try to bring in eligible students for research attachment when they are in their third year of the undergraduate program or first year of the Master’s program in all disciplines; in particular in engineering, science and computing.
Approximately fifty students each year from Indian Institutes of Technologies (IITs), National Institutes of Technologies (NITs), Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) and various universities including University of Hyderabad, University of Madras, University of Delhi, etc do come to NUS to do their summer-internship.
Those selected, spend two months or more at NUS and explore the facilities, work with the professors and familiarise themselves with the modern research trends. It eventually becomes a win-win situation for both students and faculty, as they can decide on with whom and on what area to work with. The opportunities extend beyond this, as some junior faculties from India come to NUS to do research collaboration and also participate in conferences.
Joint Degree programs
There are joint Ph.D degree programs between NUS and IIT Kanpur, Chennai and Mumbai. In this program, a joint PhD degree is offered by NUS and one of the three IITs. When students coming from India are doing a joint PhD program at NUS, they are considered as NUS students. They are allowed to spend up to eighteen months at NUS. Similar opportunities exist for NUS students to go to any of the three IITs to carryout research under the joint PhD program.
It is generally the common research interest between the professors from both sides and their willingness to work together leads to joint research project. Eventually they will find a right student who will be willing to work on that project.
Those students do have a lot of benefit as they are allowed to go to partner University/Institute for eighteen months within their four years of PhD program. The stay of IIT students in Singapore is fully sponsored with S$2,000 to $2500 stipend which is tax free and with all the other facilities, it becomes very attractive.
But nevertheless to say, it is really competitive. To really spot the potential, the seats are limited. NUS resources being limited, joint PhD program is extended to only 3 IITs although many other universities wish to have one. As the IITs have their own brand with top students, the outcome is always productive.
Although the program of “NUS – India Research Initiatives” has started 10 years ago, it took some time to initiate the joint degree program and slowly it is becoming attractive. To attest to this further, 80% of the summer-intern students do apply for their PhD at NUS, but only 10 to 20% are admitted for various reasons.
Joint symposia are also organized by NUS and Indian faculty. These symposia are held mostly in India due to its vast size but they are held in Singapore also once a while. In this, about 15 professors each from both sides meet and share their research results. A large number of graduate students make research presentations. This also serves as an avenue for the professors to kick start some new projects.
How do students get to know about the research opportunities at NUS?
Usually when a student wants to do some research, these days websites become very handy. All the faculty members also do have their own webpage. The students do write to that professor. When the professor find that the student is suitable, then he will write to “NUS – India Research Initiatives” for financial assistance, if needed.