The Head’s Desk

Message from The Head’s Desk

This is a brief report on key developments in the Department over the past year.

Prof. Kannan completed his 3-year term as Head of the Department in October 2018, and was succeeded by myself, Prof. Nagarajan. I want to thank Prof. Kannan, and all HoDs who came before him for guiding the Department to the happy place that it finds itself in today. Our currently-serving faculty and retired faculty have also contributed significantly to this rise, and are to be duly acknowledged. Prof. Sesha Talpa Sai retired in June 2019 after a long and stellar career, and two youngsters came on board—Dr. Raj Srinivasan and Dr. Jithin John Varghese. With this, we have 30 faculty members in our ranks, with two more slated to join in October 2019. We also hosted two Visiting Professors as occupants of the Chevron Chair—Prof. Sanat Kumar from Columbia University and Prof. Dominique Bonvin from EPFL.

The research ecosystem in the Department continues to grow more robust as post-doctoral Fellows, and Ph.D./ M.S. candidates grow in number. With 129 Ph.D.’s and 22 M.S. students on roll, the average Research Group per faculty is 5—a healthy statistic indeed. Of these, 68 have joined since January 2017, indicating an accelerating trend that bodes well for the future. The pdf count has steadily increased over past 3 years, and now exceeds 15, again pointing to a bright research horizon. The Department continues to add state-of-the-art research equipment, including a LEICA SP8 Confocal Laser Scanning Microscope,  Q-sense Explorer (a modular QCM–D instrument), and a Spectrofluorimeter for use by the Solar Energy Research Group. The Summer Fellowship program, in which we host outstanding pre-final-year undergraduate as research interns over a 2-month period, saw 11 participants this year being guided by our faculty. Many are expected to pursue postgraduate research once their interest is kindled by this experience.

We continue to attract excellent undergraduates into our own B.Tech. and dual-degree programs, with nearly 20% of the admitted students being female—among the highest in the Institute. Our incoming class size is now 90+, and is expected to touch 100 in the next 2 years. Graduating students continue to pursue a variety of career options, ranging from start-up’s to core industry positions, from fintech to manufacturing analytics. Post-graduate study options include IIMs and graduate schools in India and abroad.

Our industry relations and international collaborations have never been stronger. Several faculty are involved in GoI schemes such as UAY, IMPRINT and SPARC which promote industrial and international engagement. Our 2019-20 industry partners include Shell, GAIL, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Cummins India, and Exxon-Mobil. Sponsoring agencies include MHRD, DST, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, and Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises. Several international faculty visited the Department for research collaboration and co-teaching. Two GIAN courses were offered, involving Profs. Jay H Lee from KAIST, Korea and Prof. Eliseo M. Ranzi from Politecnico di Milano, Italy.

Our faculty members maintain a high and sustained level of technical vitality. An average of 4 journal papers have been published per faculty over past 5 years, with 45% of publications in Top 20% of journals in field, and 59% of citations in Top 20% of journals in field. Six patents have been filed in the past year, with one being an international PCT. These are enviable metrics. Books published during the past year include “Computational Fluid Dynamics for Engineers and Scientists” by Prof. Sreenivas Jayanti and “Mathematical Modeling for Underground Coal Gasification” by Prof. Preeti Aghalayam. Two short-term courses have been offered— “Development of Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics Laboratory for Undergraduates” by Dr. T Renganathan and Dr. Ethayaraja Mani, and “Thermochemical Conversion of Biomass for Energy and Fuels” by Dr. R Vinu and Dr. Rajnish Kumar. Four conferences were organized on campus in the past academic year– ChemSymp and CHEMCLAVE in 2018, Chem+ in March 2019 and Soft Matter symposium in Jan 2019.

Our students and faculty continue to be high achievers whose accomplishments receive widespread acclaim. Ms. Sharanya Sriram  and Mr. Bincy George Abraham received the Technical Excellence Award for their project titled “Sustainable Zero-Energy Prototype for Desalination Coupled Wastewater Treatment” at Carbon Zero Challenge 2018. Ms. Amrutha received the Keshav Ranganath Award for Excellence-in-Research in July 2018. Mr. Aditya Nanda was a member of the IITM Student Team, a NIRMAAN pre-incubatee, that won Second Place in the international event, MoveHackthe Global Mobility Hackathon conducted by NITI Aayog, Govt. of India in Sep 2018. Mr. Sarin John and Mr. Siddharth Singh were part of Team Anveshak‘ that won First Place at the Indian Rover Challenge 2019 held at Manipal in Jan 2019. Mr. Md Ayub Shareef, Ph.D. student, secured the 3rd highest rank in the UPSC exams conducted in July 2018, and joined as Scientific Officer in National Test House, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution. Mr. T. Akhil and Mr. J. Aneesh, students of the Dept, bagged three prizes in the Waste Management Innovation Challenge organized as part of UK India Social Innovation Challenge, held on Feb 12, 2019.

Dr. Vinu received the Early Career Research & Development Award in April 2018, INSA Medal for Young Scientist in December 2018, and NASI Young Scientist Platinum Jubilee Award-2018 by National Academy of Sciences, India (NASI), Allahabad in Sep 2018. Prof. Raghu Rengaswamy received the Dr YBG Varma Award for Excellence-in-Teaching during AlumNite on July 19, 2018, and was appointed as Institute Chair in April 2019. at the 34th National Convention of Chemical Engineers held in Chennai on October 27, 2018. Dr. Rajnish Kumar was recognized in November 2018 by Web of Science and Clarivate Analytics as a “2018 Highly Cited Researcher”, one of only 10 Indians in the list of Top 4000 around the world. Prof. S Pushpavanam received the Hikal Chemcon Distinguished Speaker Award in December 2018. Prof. Nagarajan was appointed as Alumni Community Chair Professor in May 2018, and received an Award for “Distinguished Service to Alumni” in IITMAA Sangam-Confluence for Impact​ on Sep 29, 2018. He also received the “Eminent Engineer Award” by the Institution of Engineers (India) in October 2018.

Several novel initiatives were undertaken in the past year to ensure that the Department continued its march towards global eminence. An Advisory Board was formed with representatives from industry and academia who could help define a roadmap. Board members are:

  1. Prof. MS Ananth, Former Director, IIT Madras & currently Faculty Fellow in the Dept
  2. Shri MM Murugappan, Executive Chairman, Murugappa Group
  3. Dr. Yashwanth Narendar, VP, St Gobain Research India
  4. Dr. Laxmi Narasimhan, General Manager, Centre of Novel Catalytic Materials, Shell R & D, Bangalore
  5. Shri T. Shivaraman, MD & CEO, Shriram epc
  6. Shri M.S. Srinivasan, Industry Relations Officer, IC & SR, IIT Madras

Two meetings have been held thus far, and “solar desalination” has emerged as a research focus area based on the deliberations.

In order to enhance communication, indeed life skills of our research scholars, a weekly training program has been organized, with Dr. Sumathi Narayanan as the trainer. A “PG Students Lounge” has been created to enable social interaction. An “Introduction to Chemical Engineering” is being offered to second semester UG students to kindle interest in the multifaceted aspects of chemical engineering. Classroom lectures by faculty and industry resources are combined with industry visits to give that hands-on experience.

Prof. R. Nagarajan
Head of the Department
Department of Chemical Engineering
MSB-126, Mechanical Sciences Block,
IIT Madras, Chennai-600036.
Tel: +91 44 22574151



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