22 Jan 2018 18:59 IST

We help students do what they want to do: Shiv Nadar Univ Chancellor

SN Balakrishnan talks about the university’s plans and making the curriculum more flexible

SN Balakrishnan, professor of Aerospace Engineering at the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Engineering Mechanics at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, is Chancellor of the Shiv Nadar University (SNU) and chairman of its Executive Council. He also heads IST Rolla, an engineering firm focused on providing clients the best in research, development and technology. Balakrishnan holds a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. He spoke to BusinessLine on Campus about his goals and priorities for SNU. Excerpts from the interview:

What does Shiv Nadar University (SNU) offer to students, in terms of curriculum, that sets it apart from its peers?

Our curriculum is different in the sense that we believe in holistic education. So engineering students also take courses in creative writing and have even published poems. Some have taken minors in economics and sociology, as a result of which an electrical engineer went to do his masters in public policy in the US.

This has helped, as most students in India do what their parents want them to do and not what they actually want to do. By making the curriculum more flexible, we enable the students to do what they actually want do to.

How important is research for SNU?

I think Shiv Nadar is the only multi-disciplinary research-focused university. For technology, we have the IITs, and for management there are the IIMs. At SNU, we have all schools including Humanities and Social Services, all of which focus on research. Even in the undergraduate courses,students have undertaken research apart from the regular class projects.

Science students do projects with engineering students; engineering students collaborate on projects with students studying arts and sciences, and this leads to very interesting things.

How does the university prepare students for industry?

Students are made to do internships. Many engineering students opt to undertake an internship for an entire semester. We also have a very effective career development centre which actively talks to industry and finds internships for our students. All this gives students exposure to industry.

What’s next for the university?

We already have departments; but we want to have a a school in fine arts, and one in creative design. We hope to have a school of communication. This will hopefully happen in a year. Some time later we would also want to have a school of law.

Other than that, we are changing the engineering curriculum a little bit by including creative design. The courses will be designed in a manner where there will be a core course in design. It will be like exploring the left as well as the right side of the brain. We are trying to see what happens if we train both the left and the right sides of the brain, and what kind of new products or services will be created. We have been teaching this at the college but, from next year, we are making it compulsory.