KGPian Dr. Soumyajit Mandal wears many hats – scientist, educator and even author for children's books. He spoke to KGP Chronicle on his recent visit to IIT Kharagpur
Dr. Soumyajit Mandal, T. and A. Schroeder Assistant Professor from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science of Case Western Reserve University, was at IIT Kharagpur recently. He took a week-long course on “Instrumentation and algorithms for biomedical imaging: MRI and Ultrasound” under the SGRIP program. During his stay, he also participated as a mentor in the induction program for 1st year UG students, sharing his experiences in college.
Dr. Mandal himself was an outstanding student at IIT Kharagpur, graduating in 2002 in Electronics and Electrical Communication Engineering with top honours. He won the President’s Gold Medal, the Departmental Silver Medal, and the departmental award for Best Undergraduate Thesis. At MIT, where he pursued in MS and PhD, his doctoral thesis received the MIT MTL Doctoral Dissertation Award. A researcher in integrated circuits, scientific instrumentation, magnetic resonance (MR) sensors, and biomedical imaging, his technology is increasingly, finding their way into industry.
Dr. Mandal has also written popular science books for children, including Scholastic Quiz Biology (2008), World In My Pocket (2009), and 103 Everyday Inventions, Discoveries, Creations and Stuff (with Avinanda Mukherjee, 2013).
I caught up with him during a break between classes. Here’s what he had to say:
On coming back:
It feels good. I am so familiar with the Institute from being a student. Besides, every time I am here, there are some changes, which are interesting to see. The Institute seems to be really growing. There are a lot of new buildings, not just residential buildings but a lot of research buildings as well. For example, the upcoming hospital, the facilities of the School of Nano Science and Technology.
The response to the course he took:
The response has been good. It took a couple of days for the class to settle down though. The students who came were mostly PhD students from the School of Medical Science and Technology, for whom the course was relevant. There were also a couple of students from the engineering schools though not as many as I would have liked.
Changes in the EEC deparment:
It has grown. There are more professors and more students. We had 38 students, now there are more than 140. There may be less personalized attention that we had, but on the plus side, there are more professors and thus there is diversity of research.
His association with his alma mater:
We already do some collaborative work with Prof. Sudip Nag of the EEC Department. We have been working on capacitive power and data transfer for biomedical implants. One of his UG students who has graduated is now in Cleveland and will be working in my lab for six months. In fact, for the past four years, there has been one IIT KGP, usually a UG or Dual Degree, student working in my lab during summer.
On industrial use of his technology:
Right now some of my NMR work is being actively used by a company called Qteq (based in Australia), which is deploying them in Australia, South Africa, and several other countries. We also have ongoing collaborations with Weinberg Medical Physics (a small company based in the US) on low-cost portable MRI-guided therapeutic systems and Prixarc LLC (another US startup) on wearable ultrasound devices for neural modulation and therapy.
On receiving the 2018 Young Alumni Achiever Award from IIT Kharagpur:
It is a great honour to receive the YAAA. What was especially nice is that I got to meet the other recipients of YAAA 2018. They came from a variety of backgrounds and are doing a variety of things. Most of them turned up for the ceremony and it was great to talk to them.
On writing science books for children:
I like writing for children mostly as a relief from doing serious “academic” writing. Plus it gives me an excuse to carry out research on various kinds of trivia, which is something I enjoy learning about. Right now, unfortunately I have no time two write any more children’s books. I am waiting for a bunch of my PhD students to graduate next year, after which, hopefully, I will have more time to write another book.
Graphics : Suman Sutradhar