Young faculty members, healthcare research, freedom… why IISc leads academia in India

The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bengaluru has once again proven to be the most sought after university destination for scholars in the country. The QS World University Rankings 2023, released on Thursday, saw the The IISc rose 31 places in one year to 155th place and become India’s highest-ranked institution, pushing Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay to second position and IIT-Delhi to third.

The head teachers of the institute believe that the institute has introduced dramatic changes in its operations and the maturing of the infrastructure has complemented the growth of the institution over the years. According to Arindam Ghosh, professor of physics, 2021-22 has seen a significant increase in high-impact research papers, including those related to Covid-19. “I believe the IISc has become ambitious over the past five years. The building of solid research infrastructures over the years is now paying off. The number of young faculty members producing high-impact research papers has increased dramatically, which is an encouraging sign,” Ghosh said. “Research around Covid-19 vaccination, oxygen cylinders and ventilators, among others, has helped healthcare startups. Although the research labs were closed due to the lockdown, the institution then managed to open them in a phased manner, allowing research work to resume first, followed by classes,” Ghosh said.

The parameters based on which the institutes have been ranked include academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty-student ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio, and international student ratio. According to QS spokesperson William Barbieri, the IISc has made gains in the 4/6 metrics and, most notably, it has significantly increased the number of its international faculty. Significant improvements in academic and employer reputation metrics and teaching ability have combined to propel the IISc to the top of India’s educational hierarchy.

According to TV Ramachandra, a wetlands specialist at the IISc Center for Ecological Sciences, “The main reason to excel is the environment which prevails with academic freedom. The freedom to think, design and execute (with a cooperative bureaucracy) naturally helps to do better science. This has contributed to the creation of new knowledge with innovations for the benefit of society. The IISc has been actively involved in research relevant to society that emerges from innovations – the response from scientific fraternity to the recent pandemic.

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A professor in the biochemistry department, who did not wish to be named, believes that the institution has room for improvement to attract international students. “The institution has not made any significant inroads in attracting international students. Although the numbers are small, the kind of intellect and ideas that international students have brought over the years is remarkable. However, the department has made some interesting breakthroughs in the field of infectious diseases. There has been a sudden surge in research activities in the areas of virology, plant biology, influenza virus research, Covid virus research and rabies diseases…” said the professor, adding that the department produces at least 50 to 70 research papers each year. .

Yash, a B Tech student interning in the electronics and communications engineering department, said, “I’ve been interning for a medical imaging project for a month now. There are a lot of takeaways from the last month. I’ve read at least seven research papers and written lots of code, applying machine learning. The best part of being at IISc is the cultural vibe, the inclusiveness, the infrastructure, the greenery around the campus, and the innovative research work that one can freely explore.

Vaishnav, a student in the robotics department, said: “The program is designed in such a way that 70% of it is research-based while the rest is coursework. It makes you naturally research-minded and helps you explore many innovations. Post-pandemic digital infrastructure has improved significantly, allowing students to work on research projects.

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