CHENNAI: As the Padma Shree and Padma Bhushan awardee, Dr. A. Sivathanu Pillai was being ushered out of the auditorium at VIT University after being honoured with a Lifetime Achievement award, a young aeronautical engineering student stopped him to ask a question about her project.
When the organisers tried to convince the girl to postpone her question, he immediately stopped them and asked the student to go on. After a few minutes, the eminent scientist handed over his card to the student and said, “I will arrange for you to conduct your experiment in a top lab. Send me a mail!” The girl couldn’t stop smiling.
In his speech to the students too, Pillai repeatedly stressed the need for students to take up research-based careers, rather than jump at the first placement they get.
“Indians have some of the brightest brains. Even the first rocket weapon was invented in India and used in the war by Tipu Sultan. So, we have the manpower and intelligence to progress faster than other nations but we should be able to choose the field first,” he explained.
However, for that to happen, Pillai claimed the education system must change. While many assume that only the highly studious ones excel in science, Pillai said students would only choose space research and technology subjects if they were exposed to creativity.
“A subject such as space research needs students to think creatively, to question and to learn. With teachers and parents constantly pressuring the student to find a high paying job, the interest for research dies,” he noted.
On a different note, when asked about the role of ISRO, DRDO and other institutes in fighting climate change, the Father of BrahMos (supersonic cruise missile), said that recently a minister from North Karnataka got in touch with him seeking help for the drought.
“It was too late to transfer water from any other river so I found out where borewells could be dug and he followed my advise and succeeded. However, the most we can do is help the government with images and information ofn environment degradation, the rest is upto the government,” said Pillai.