A Catalyst for Research
By Shilpa Kappur Vasudevan | Chennai | Published: 16th March 2015 06:00 AM |
Indresh Kumar serves as Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, BITS-Pilani. He completed his PhD in Organic Chemistry from National Chemical Laboratory (CSIR), Pune with Dr CV Rode (Scientist-F) in 2007-08. He did his Post-doctoral research with Prof Yujiro Hayashi at Tokyo University of Sciences, Japan. His main research interests are Asymmetric Synthesis, Organocatalysis and Heterocyclic chemistry. He completed his BSc and MSc from Chemistry from Charan Singh University, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. In a chat with edex, Prof Kumar tackles questions on research in Chemistry, how to get students drawn towards core research and more.
Can you comment on the research in Chemistry at BITS-Pilani?
Research is an extremely important component in the growth of any academic institute. Likewise, BITS-Pilani plans to become a research-driven university soon. Major decisions have already been taken by our Vice-Chancellor and other higher authorities to encourage high quality research. In particular, Department of Chemistry has recently installed NMR (400 MHz), a highly sophisticated nuclear magnetic resonance instrument for routine structural analysis through institutional support. Faculty members of the department are actively engaged in quality research in various aspects of chemical science like Organic Synthesis and Medicinal chemistry, Material and Inorganic Chemistry, Supramolecular and Computational Chemistry, etc. A significant number of research papers from the department are getting published in well-known journals.
However, Chemistry at BITS-Pilani faces the challenges of competing with various other departments of research-oriented institutes like IITs, IISERs and Central Universities. Research in Chemistry is going through a good phase at our institute and also at the country-level despite financial constraints. I wish to grow this chemistry research culture further.
What do you think has been your significant contribution(s) to Chemistry?
My research group is particularly working in the area of Organic Synthesis (concerned with construction of organic compounds through organic reactions) using latest aspect of catalysis named organocatalysis. We have recently independently contributed a few catalytic methods for the synthesis of Small Molecule Natural Products (SMNPs) using the cascade approach (an organisation structure where comparison is made easier). Recently, my contributions have been recognised through an award of ‘Outstanding Potential for Excellence in Research and Academics’ (OPERA) by BITS-Pilani.
Have you noticed any latest advancements in Chemistry?
Catalysis (increase in rate of a chemical reaction attributed to a catalyst) is a central and exciting section of chemical sciences. The recent emergence of organocatalysis can be considered as latest advancement in the broad area of catalysis. That’s why organocatalysis is now being considered as third and strong pillar of catalysis along with metal- and bio-catalysis.
How can academics play a role in getting Indians interested in core sciences and pursuing research, instead of moving to the service industry?
I believe that academics can play an important role to attract Indian students towards core science and research. I think it can be done in two ways (i) by providing basic and efficient lab facility at the entry-level and (ii) by giving students freedom to think beyond textbooks and support their ideas.
What do you do in your free time?
I like to spend time with my research students. I also like travelling, playing badminton and chess with my family.
What does the future hold for you?
I would like to see and establish myself as a quality teacher and researcher at the national and international level. For me the best quote about the future is “I can’t take back the past, but I can fight for the future” by author Shannon A Thompson.