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Prof. V S Rao Director-BITS-Hyderabad

Interview Date : 6/15/2012

Dr V S Rao obtained the Bachelor of Science degree from the Andhra university in the year 1972. He secured the Masters degree in science from Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani (India) in the year 1974 . He obtained his Ph.D. from BITS Pilani in the year 1979. He obtained a certificate on Educational Economics and Education research from university of Bielfeld, Germany , 1998.
 

 Teaching Experience

Ø Years of Experience: 32 years

Ø Courses Taught:
     1 Organic Chemistry
     2 Structure & Reactivity of Organic Compounds
     3 Synthetic Organic Chemistry
     4 StereoChemistry & Reaction Mechanisms.

Ø Profile of Experience at BITS, Pilani (1974-2000) :
(July 2006 - to date) Director, BITS - Hyderabad Campus
(April 2000 - June 2006) Dy. Director (Off-campus Programmes) 
(Feb 1995-March 2000) Professor 
(1990 - Jan 1995) Associate Professor 
(1982 - Jan 1990) Assistant Professor 
(1980 - 82) Assistant Lecturer 
(1978 - 80) Research Associate 
(1974 - 78) Research Scholar (CSIR Junior Research Fellow)

 Research Project

Ø Research Funding: 3-Benzisoxazolylpiperidines and Quinoxalinyl Piperazines as Potential Atypical Antipsychotic Agents.
Funding Agency: University Grants Commission, New Delhi

Ø Research Experience:
32 years of research experience in different areas of chemistry. Worked/working in the areas of Natural Products, Drug Synthesis and Green Chemistry.
Guided several thesis and project students in the areas of Chemistry, Educational Development and Organizational activities. Guided Ph.D. students in the areas of Drug Synthesis and waste treatment. Presently guiding two Ph.D. students in the area of Drug Synthesis.

   
TCG (The Career Guide) Speaks to the Director, BITs Hyderabad.

 TCG: How did BITS come to Hyderabad?

 Dr.V.S.Rao: It all started in 2005 when the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Mr.Rajashekar Reddy approached our Chairman Dr.K.K.Birla for starting a campus here at Hyderabad. This was mainly because there were many students from the South of India going all the way to Pilani for BITS. He wrote a letter to our Chairman mentioning the same that almost 700 students went from AP to join BITS, hence starting BITS at AP would greatly benefit the students. This was flatly refused by our chairman, who had already started the BITS Goa branch in 2004. He obviously did not have enough resources to start afresh at any other place. However Dr.Rajshekar Reddy pursued relentlessly His good relationship with Dr.K.K.Birla and persistence through series of letters yielded his request. He almost gave the land free of cost with highly subsidized electricity and water supply. With these amenities he could convince our Chairman and on 14th November 2005 green signal was given to go ahead. This preparatory period was for about four months.

 

TCG: Seven hundred students from our state is not actually a very big number. Was this the only reason for BITS?

 Dr.V.S.Rao: The main reason behind this was to bring world class institutions like BITS to our state.

 TCG: Andhra Pradesh students are known for their hard work and entrepreneurship. Major percentage of IITs constitutes AP students. Why is it so? What about BITS Hyderabad?

 Dr.V.S.Rao: Very true. I find our students very diligent, ambitious and enterprising. It could be genetic, upbringing, ambience in which they are brought up or totally their own motivation. It is a common understanding that more education means better financial position. This was realized long time ago. Right from my school days, roughly 40 years ago itself people understood the importance of education and pursued it. It is continuing with more rigour now. Investing in education was found to be more sensible and reasonable, the reason why we see an exponential growth in the educational institutes today. Thanks to this enterprising and zealous nature of our people that today we see many corporate colleges in our state. In BITS (All campuses) 35% of students are from Andhra Pradesh, which is the largest contingent from any given state in India. Same thing is true with California too! Students are very well aware of the ‘brand images’ of the universities and work for their admissions accordingly. Obviously they can also see the economic advantage, respect in the peer, Higher Education opportunities etc. hence they chose BITS.

 TCG: What do you think is the strength of BITS?

Dr.V.S.Rao: I can say it is our strong discipline, administration and value system which the reason for its reputation. Another outstanding advantage of our university is the admissions during the second semester. This will benefit all those who have missed out the first time for various reasons and those from other universities also, who would like to move to BITS. This means that the students will take extra four and a half months in their last year to make the loss of joining late, in the second semester. They graduate in the month of November instead of July. There are also students who do exceedingly well and reach pace with the first semester batch, but the number is very less as the syllabus is very vast added to the time constraint.

 TCG: Will this have any negative implication on them in any way?

Dr.V.S.Rao: Not at all. They are just on par with others in every manner. This will neither have an effect on their placement of career in any way.

 TCG: What is the most sought after branch in engineering? Why?

Dr.V.S.Rao: It is ECE, just as it is in the other reputed institutes of AP. This branch is not there in the Goa campus. The next preference in all other branches is Computer Sciences.

TCG: Why isn’t Mechatronics offered in BITS?

Dr.V.S.Rao: We do not offer by this name but we do have mechanical engineering. If a student wishes to do this he/she has the option of electives, thus giving a broader base and exposure. Since mechatronics by itself is a specialized field we do not want to bring this right from the first year. A general degree like mechanical engineering is more fetching than a specialized one. We strongly believe in broad based education hence we offer broad based courses. Research is some thing that comes at secondary and tertiary levels, not at the primary. As the student moves higher up on the academic ladder there is always scope for specialization.

 TCG: Engineers in spite of having the required skills are unable to push themselves across in the market due to lack of soft skills. What do you think could be the reason? What is the solution for that?

Dr.V.S.Rao: It is true about the soft skills that NASSCOM says, not more than 15% of our ‘finished’ product is ‘usable’. This is because of our education system that needs an overhauling. We must equip them with life skills, soft skills, etc., right from the school level. We must stop looking at a language as a tool to earn good marks/percentage. The purpose of any language is to communicate and it must be spoken more, taught less.

 TCG: What is your Institute doing in this regard? i.e. in imparting life skills?

Dr.V.S.Rao: We lay great emphasis on life skills and spoken skills, though language is not a part of the curriculum. We have a panel of guest lecturers to enrich students in the above mentioned skills. We also encourage the students to organize events, programmes, committees etc which will train them in to good leaders and HR persons. In this process they gain a lot in inter personal relationships. Team work is done with a lot of involvement which teaches them to worship work later. We are planning to bring in our senior students who are distributed in the city to help them launch these activities.

 TCG: How are the hostel and food facilities in this new campus?

Dr.V.S.Rao: As you can see there are separate hostels for boys and girls. Food is hygienic and tasty. We are getting badminton and tennis courts for the students ready soon, to keep them busy in the evenings.

 TCG: Is the other infrastructure necessary for academics like lab, workshop etc ready?

Dr.V.S.Rao: This workshop you are seeing is for the engineering students which will start operating from the 1st of October.

TCG: Having no senior students means absence of ragging? How do the students feel about it?

Dr.V.S.Rao: They do not have the fear of ragging but they feel they are missing the fun! But we are requesting senior students from the city and other campuses to come and interact with the freshers here. We plan to start all the clubs, for music, dance, festival programmes etc through students.

 TCG: Does their rigid academic structure provide them with enough time to pursue other co curricular activities?

Dr.V.S.Rao: Of course, that is where the administration comes in to picture. I am sure with the present batch of students, who are very dynamic and enthusiastic we will surely be able to start off with a bang. We are fortunate to have students like this.

 TCG: Which branch of engineering has the cream or the intelligentsia? We just discussed about the education system that plays a major role in grooming these bright youngsters, do you mean to say they are doing well because of their sound schooling?

Dr.V.S.Rao: For the first part of your question I can say that Computer Sciences students are the best ones as the cut off point for their admission is high. Coming to the latter part of the question their intelligence could be attributed to their genetics. It could be also the upbringing, exposure and ambience as we discussed before.

 Till we started the admission test for BITS, that was four years ago, percentage of girl students was 42. But after we introduced admission test it dropped to 16%

 TCG: With more girls coming in to engineering do you think the medical sciences will be neglected?

Dr.V.S.Rao: This trend of more girls opting for engineering has started a decade ago. This is because of the media, exposure and avenues in engineering. Students, girls or boys do not seem to be having the required patience to go through six years medical course. They are going for engineering as they can have their financial independence faster. Till we started the admission test for BITS, that was four years ago, percentage of girl students was 42. But after we introduced admission test it dropped to 16%. It is generally observed that girls do not perform well in the tests reason being lack of coaching facilities. Parents may not be willing to send them to places like Kota for training. I do not quite believe in other reasons like girls not being able to do Math or any other subject. Caliber has nothing to do with gender. Yes girls today have become very conscious of the changing scenario in the job market. They are moving shoulder to shoulder with boys and certainly aren’t behind in any field. This will increase with time.

 TCG: Could you tell us about your Practice school?

Dr.V.S.Rao: Way back in 1960 when IITs , Anna University and others were leading BITS came in to being. In year 1964 Birlas decided to amalgamate all the institutions of Rajasthan. They decided to go in for collaboration with University of Massachusetts, Boston. G.D. Birla was going to Boston as his son Aditya Birla was studying there. He was convinced about the quality of the education there and was keen to go in for collaboration. We can say we were the pioneers in adopting the foreign education system and adapting it to the Indian curriculum. It is not just enough when we ‘borrow’ the system, we have to take sufficient care that it runs smoothly in Indian context too. For this we had several American professors as visiting faculty and vice versa. This exchange programme helped students as well as teachers. Thus quality education was transmitted and established. We could identify the areas where our education system needed to be sufficed with hands on activities, research etc., we also introduced flexible variables like free electives which gave the students the freedom to take the combination of subjects of their choice. For example many mechanical engineering students took a few electives from computer sciences for various reasons.  We can say we were the pioneers in adopting the foreign education system and adapting it to the Indian curriculum.

 This freedom is the specialty of BITS, which I do not see in the other institutions. Coming back to ‘Practice School’, it started only at the Postgraduate level for the chemical engineering students. This was a kind of internship which felicitated practical application of the subject for the students. They were trained at the plants and industries with required exposure. This hand on activity prepared them to take up the job they would take up. Thus PS or Practice School was essentially carrying out projects at site. This proved to a symbiotic association between the student and the industry. This makes the students responsible, answerable for their work and at the same time proud of their work. Even now we are running practice school in 30 places at Hyderabad in reputed companies like Wipro, Dr.Reddy’s Labs, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology etc. There are around hundred students scattered all over Hyderabad from all the BITS branches. All these students are receiving a handsome stipend for this. Thus we can see the ‘usability’ of BITS products!

PS is applicable to all branches be it Humanities, Sciences or Engineering.

Another important aspect is the interpersonal relationships students have to apply. Since they would be interacting with ‘life’ to learn about life, it is very important that their communication skills are perfect and pleasing.

 TCG: How was your experience working with a legendary like Dr.K.K.Birla?

Dr.V.S.Rao: He was an amazing man with an extraordinary caliber. Of all their industries he held BITS closest to his heart and put his life in to it. He worked relentlessly till his last breath. There wasn’t a single query/letter that he left unanswered. In fact the last mail he answered was four days before his departure from this world. His life itself was a huge inspiration to all of us who were closely associated with him.

 TCG: Is there anything in particular you would like to share with the youth today?

Dr.V.S.Rao: My only dream now is having got enough experience in Practice School for the past two decades; I would like the industries of Hyderabad to reap the benefits of this system. They can be competent enough to throw challenges at our students and bring out the best in them. After all great problems are solved this way, great inventions and discoveries are made this way! We want to integrate education and research. Present day youth sees no fun in knowing facts, challenges thrills him/her. Hence we are striving to link knowledge with life to bring out the best. We are open to the idea of our students interacting with experts from different walks of life to train them better. We believe only life can teach you life skills.

 My only dream now is having got enough experience in Practice School for the past two decades; I would like the industries of Hyderabad to reap the benefits of this system. They can be competent enough to throw challenges at our students and bring out the best in them.

 TCG Speaks to the Students of BITS, Hyderabad.

 How do the students feel about the new campus where they have to grope for everything?

Let’s get it from them straight…

 TCG spoke to a few students after the class, who were found interacting with their lecturers. This was a mixed group from Electronics, Mechanical, Civil etc. Most touching aspect of this interaction is the maturity levels exhibited by these youngsters, who despite coming from well to do families, are taking practical difficulties quite cheerfully. They are truly exuding a strong fervor for their University which seems to be their second home….

 TCG: Why BITS Hyderabad? Why not any other Institute? In spite of being aware of the teething problems why have you chosen to come here?

STUDENT GROUP: BITS has the brand value and we are all aware of the worth of being a BITS student. Teething problems as the word goes are not long lasting. The moment we get acclimatized to the surroundings and start concentrating on our academics these petty issues will subside. We are happy with our decision to come here as we will be the first batch. Plus we do not have the ‘ragging’ menace as we are all new! Most important of all Hyderabad is the second biggest IT hub, growing multifold, its great to be a part of a happening city like this!

 TCG: How do you feel about the ‘new’ campus with bare minimum facilities?

STUDENT GROUP: It’s wonderful to be here, we are all a part of the BITS family. Yes, there are initial hiccups, but we guess that is what is learning. In a way we are learning both inside the classroom and outside! Teething problems are inevitable in any institute, new or old, but the difference here is we are facing them together and we will be part of this growth. We will certainly accelerate the growth and make the institute and our teachers proud!

 TCG: What is the reason for you to NOT select Computer Sciences or ECE, since it is the theme of the day?

STUDENT GROUP: Recession made us rethink and any way core subjects are always in demand, like the Civil, Mechanical and Chemical.

TCG: Do you feel homesick?

STUDENT GROUP: At times, yes. But we soon become okay because we know this is bound to happen. This feeling of homesickness brings us together. We realize the value of friends during times like these.

 TCG: Do you (boys) feel threatened with the entry of girls into engineering?

STUDENT GROUP: Not at all! Statistics reveal the number of boys in any mainstream is 3 times more than that of girls, which speaks of our abilities. Any way hard work has nothing to do with gender. Girls are also extremely competitive and diligent. 

 TCG: How is your faculty?

STUDENT GROUP: Amazing! Our teachers take every effort to make us feel at home in addition to being wonderful teachers. Thanks to them we are able to sail over the day to day troubles easily.

 TCG: How are the hostel facilities and food?

STUDENT GROUP: We have a regularized weekly menu that caters to every palate. Yes, we do miss the home food but our mess is pretty close to that, clean, simple and tasty.

 TCG: How is the general attitude of your peer about the ‘teething problems’ in the hostel and the campus? Do they crib and cry over every small issue or take it in their stride?

STUDENT GROUP: Generally we are all very accommodating unless it’s a major issue like the water scarcity we faced the initial days. We can see the efforts being put to make us comfortable so we cannot become ‘complaint boxes’ always.

 TCG: There seems to be no scope for outings for you, how do you take that?

STUDENT GROUP: Yes, it is a little difficult but we have a good friend’s circle, our own groups to keep ourselves busy during free time. We are also asked to form different clubs and associations for extra curricular activities. This will hone our skills and keep us occupied too. Some fortunate ones who are from Hyderabad go home for weekends or once in a month, good for them!

 TCG: What is the best part of the studies here and the campus life?

STUDENT GROUP: We have electives so we feel we have the freedom to choose what we want according to our abilities. Classes are interactive. Hanging out with friends, knowing each other and exploring the campus in groups is the best part.