Published: 11th August 2021
As CUSAT turns 50, we talk to the Vice-Chancellor of the esteemed institute about the events that are lined up for the year
KN Madhusoodanan talks about the history of the university, its projects for this year and the vision he has in store for the future
The Cochin University of Science and Technology has managed to achieve a lot for an institute that is only 50 years old. It has been a pioneer in introducing several academic programmes that are unlike anything that is offered in the country. The current Vice-Chancellor, KN Madhusoodanan, lets us in on the history of the institute as well as its current ambitions, as CUSAT celebrates turning 50 this year. Excerpts from an engaging tête-à-tête:
1. CUSAT's been revolutionising science and technology education in the state for years. How did it all start?
In the 1970s itself, we had initiated several departments that were unlike anything elsewhere, like BTech in Polymer Science and Rubber Technology. If you look at the polymer and rubber industries in the country, you would find our alumni in leading roles over there. Another unique course we introduced was Ship Technology with the help of Cochin Shipyard, the largest shipbuilding and maintenance facility in India. In the 1980s, CUSAT came up with courses in Computer Applications and Instrumentation that were, at that time, very novel. We also started programmes like Marine Geology and Chemical Oceanography. Then in the 1990s, we started the undergraduate programme in engineering. We have consolidated our presence in these areas of expertise over the past few decades.
2. What are some of the programmes that you have got lined up for this year?
We have proposed a centre for interdisciplinary studies and innovation to the government and we are awaiting a positive response so that we can start programmes based on it this year. We are planning on conducting a science and technology exhibition that will highlight all our achievements for the public. This will also provide an opportunity for industries and other R&D institutions to tie up with us. We are also planning a national science lecture series. Then, we have a programme called 'Adopting a Village' that will work towards providing science and technology solutions for problems at the grassroots level. Another series of events that we have planned is to conduct international conferences in five thematic areas of expertise that will involve extensive participation from our faculty. We also plan on initiating an award for outstanding alumni from our previous batches.
3. We love that your students have come up with their own ideas for the 50th year celebrations.
For our students, we are planning to conduct an art festival and special sports events. This will ultimately depend on the COVID situation of the city as events would be conducted on the university premises and not online. Hopefully, we will be able to hold them in December or January next year. The students have also come up with the idea of conducting a national hackathon with the support of industries. We have to identify a few areas where product development has to be initiated. We have been conducting hackathons at the local level for some time now but we intend to expand to the national level soon.
4. What's the support like for start-ups that have originated from the institute?
We have supported several start-ups from within the university. About 25 of them have been registered. We also have an incubation centre for them. We want to enhance their activities so that an entrepreneurial spirit can be cultivated among the students.
5. With COVID all around us, it is our youngsters that are coming up with innovative solutions. Have CUSAT students contributed too?
Of course. We developed a pulse oximeter that has added features like continuous monitoring and USB support. We have also developed a special face mask that has been made using a special polymer that enhances its filtering capacity. Both these products are close to the mass production phase.
6. Which areas are you targetting for the expansion of the university?
One area that we are looking forward to is incorporating interdisciplinary studies into our curriculum. With the strength that we have acquired so far, we want to enhance the scope of our activities. We have already identified several areas where we can integrate the knowledge we already have to come up with new programmes. They include sensor technology, quantum technology and climate studies.