Interview with Swarna Jayanti Award winner Arun Chattopadhyay, Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati (Iitg)
An interview with Swarna Jayanti Award winner Arun Chattopadhyay; a professor, chemist, social worker and scientist of Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati.
Swarna Jayanti Award winner Arun Chattopadhyay - An interview
Interviewer: We have heard that you have Swarna Jayanti award to your credit, on what basis were you awarded?
Arun Chattopadhyay: I was awarded the award in the year 2003-2004 by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. The award is for scientists below the age of 40, who have done extraordinary work in international level in any field of science and technology. There are committees, judges and recommended nominations. Based on very highly competitive recommendations, reviews and presentations, it was awarded.
Interviewer: Would you like to share some special moments from your childhood days?
Arun Chattopadhyay: As a child, I wanted to pursue science. After I had completed my 12th, I had the option of becoming a medical doctor, an electronics engineer, a computer engineer or a scientist. I chose to become a scientist; partly because I was interested in science from my childhood days and also because, through science, the society can be served at a greater level.
Interviewer: Why did you select chemistry as the subject for higher education?
Arun Chattopadhyay: As I was from West Bengal, I wanted to go to the most reputed college in the state i.e. Presidency College. I chose chemistry as a subject partly because it was easier than Physics and Mathematics (smiling), I like the two subjects as well. And also, at present, chemistry has much more opportunities as compared to the other aspects of science.
Interviewer: What are your academic qualifications?
Arun Chattopadhyay: I completed my B.Sc. from Presidency College, Calcutta, pursued M.Sc. in Chemistry from IIT, Kanpur. I have done Phd from Columbia University, New York. Also, I have Post Doctoral research experience from Stanford University, USA.
Interviewer: What is the importance of nanotechnology in biotechnology?
Arun Chattopadhyay: Everyone wants to live forever, remain young forever. A child, although wants to grow up, but once grown up, he/she wants to remain young. Human beings have been trying to remain young and hence, prosper since a very long time, and through nanotechnology, there is real possibility that we can live longer, though that may not mean forever. Also, perhaps, we can understand as well as take care of our health through nano-robots.
Interviewer: Have you done something to reduce the age or such?
Arun Chattopadhyay: For a fact, no. Actually, we are working on applications of nanotechnology for water purification, anti-bacteria i.e. application of nano-materials to cure bacterial infections instead of using antibiotics and for anti-cancer activities. At present, we are working on the fundamentals, applications might take anywhere from 5 to 15 years, just wait to see the use.
Interviewer: The year 2011 is regarded as the International Year of Chemistry. Have you or the IIT done something for the celebration?
Arun Chattopadhyay: We have, in fact, not celebrated any special celebrations in terms of seminar, but we, as colleagues, are going all over India to deliver lectures. Last year, on the eve of it, we had Chemical Science Seminar and we are planning an international seminar next year, late January. So, although we haven’t celebrated any occasion this particular year, on the eve and on completion .
Interviewer: We have heard that you play sitar very well. What are your other interests except science?
Arun Chattopadhyay: I like music, I used to play sitar occasionally, at times; but at present, the pressure of work is very high. I also like to play tennis, do yoga and meditate. Teaching students and delivering lectures for young kids are of primary interest to me as well.
Interviewer: How is the life of a chemistry scholar different from that of others?
Arun Chattopadhyay: Well, differences exist only in the professional level. What people do is little different, but the level and the nature of work are very similar. As chemists, we have to go to the laboratory and work in most cases, while in other fields of science, we may not have to do that. But in chemistry, we can create many things in the laboratory, which is not possible in any other field.
Interviewer: What are your future plans?
Arun Chattopadhyay: My future plan is to pursue chemistry at the highest level, so that we can do chemistry for better from North-East India, and young students get benefitted in order to serve the society.
Interviewer: As you know that we are students related to the field of biology, would you like to inform some scopes of biotechnology?
Arun Chattopadhyay: In this century; biotechnology, with the combination of chemistry and nanotechnology, will lead to many important discoveries. Now human GNome project, prodiomics and all others are coming up. In curing and taking care of contagious and non-contagious diseases, biotechnology would prove to be of great significance.
Interviewer: Who inspired you?
Arun Chattopadhyay: Big scientists. As a kid, in my primary school, I had a very inspirational teacher called Dipali Dutta. Personally, she had a lot of problems, but she always cared for us, taught us the best at that time- to be ambitious and work very hard. She really taught us the greatest of how to achieve the highest level of achievement and at the same time to remain human beings, be good for others.
Interviewer: At present, it has been noticed that the young generation is pursuing degree from India and are working for the foreign countries. Is there any solution for it?
Arun Chattopadhyay: You see, good people work for the society, directly or indirectly from anywhere. Suppose, I am working in Guwahati, I can work in California also, which will help the people from guwahati. Scientists, normally, don’t care about the boarders as much. However, the society has to decide. Now that India is prospering economically, good people will come to India, people will not go away from India.If society develops, peaceful environment improves and technology develops, all people will come back. Wherever there is good and better opportunity, people will go and work.
Interviewer: What about money problem that the Indians have to face?
Arun Chattopadhyay: Fortunately, Indian economy is growing, money problem will not be a problem. And all of you, as youngsters, will have a better future.
Interviewer: Any message that you want to give to the students of North-East India?
Arun Chattopadhyay: Do not think of problems as problems. Problems are the real challenges of life. Without problems, there is no future. So whenever you face a problem, think how to solve and prosper from it. Do not think that you cannot do much because you are from North-East, you can do much better. In future, North-East may be better than the other parts of India.
Thanks for reading!