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“Industrial boom will die if chemical engineers opt out of their field”

Special Correspondent

Expert urges students to venture into teaching and research and development

— Photo: R. Shivaji Rao

SOUNDING A WARNING: Ashok Misra, Director, IIT-Bombay (third from right), with international speakers at the inauguration of a symposium in Chennai on Wednesday.

CHENNAI: The Indian industrial and manufacturing boom cannot be sustained if core engineers, especially chemical engineers, do not enter the field they are trained for, according to Ashok Misra, Director, IIT-Bombay.

Addressing students at the technical symposium ‘Chemfluence 2008’ organised by the chemical engineering department of AC Tech in Anna University, Dr. Misra said he had been speaking to Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani and other industry leaders with large chemical units who expressed concern about the shortage of engineers. “On the one hand, here is a hall full of chemical engineering students, but if you go to the industry, which is growing right now, they say there is a shortage. I don’t know where they all go—some to IT, some to management… it is imperative that you engineers go to the industry that is hungry for you,” said Dr. Misra, the first chemical engineer to head an IIT.

He said salary trends would also work in their favour. “On behalf of IIT Bombay, I am talking to industry leaders to ensure that engineers are paid as well as software or management professionals. [The industry] is also realising that remuneration has to be on an equal level if they want to attract the best talent.”

Dr. Misra encouraged students to enter teaching and research and development. “Research is the lifeblood of industry. We need more inventions, more innovations…many Indian engineers contribute to the R&D of foreign companies. Why can’t they do the same thing here,” he asked.

Besides meeting the industrial needs, chemical engineers could play an important role in solving many of India’s problems such as providing potable drinking water for all and ensuring food safety. From food and water, to fertilizers, energy, polymers, electronics and the futuristic fields of nanomaterials, chemicals touched every part of modern life, he said.

Apart from contests and workshops spread over the next four days, “Chemfluence” included an international seminar on ‘Chemical Engineering in Emerging Technologies.’ Faculty from institutions in the U.S., the U.K. and Singapore exposed students to the applications of chemical engineering techniques in membrane technology, nanoscience and fuel cell technology.

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