If you love Physics, it is rare that you have not heard about him. Yes, I am talking about Prof. Harish Chandra Verma. As a matter of fact, his books are more popular by his name rather than its title Concepts of Physics. He was born in Darbhanga, Bihar in 1952 and spent most of his childhood in Patna. Patna Science College is his alma mater where he did his bachelor degree in Physics.
Since Dr. Verma joined IIT Kanpur in 1994, apart from his regular research on nuclear physics, he took many socio-educational initiatives for the benefit of education and society. Some of these initiatives are School Physics Project, Siksha Sopan, and Utsahi Physics Teachers. He is also releasing a Hindi edition of his two-volume book Concepts of Physics.
Q. India still idealises west and look up to them for authentication of its own brain. Do you think, sir, this scenario will ever change?
A. First part of the statement is partially true. Largely in our research we do as stated, but when it comes as a challenge we have shown our own competence. Examples are development of first supercomputer PARAM, ISRO projects, Nuclear energy program, DRDO Missiles and many more. But yes, if as a culture we give importance to our original thinking the output will be much more.
Q. Do you feel that India, as a country, lacks scientific temperament and research is neglected compared to other government jobs as career?
A. Yes, and a prime reason is we neglect innovation and independent thinking in school system. Too much emphasis on grade cards and secured comfortable future are driving the education.
Q. You have been working hard through various social initiatives to lift the standard of education for the unprivileged and inculcate scientific temperament. How do you feel when an Indian origin Noble prize winner labels the Indian Science Congress as Circus?
A. In private conversations I used to say that Indian Science Congress is a MELA. Venky has gone a step ahead to describe this event. But perhaps we see it from pure research perspective. The aspect of bringing a large mass to science research exposure is a nice aspect of Science Congress.
Q. What are the aspects that you are working on presently?
A. Science Education to make future researchers and teachers. Motivating Science teachers to enjoy their subject. Shift from rote learning to more realistic science relating live problems.
Q. Research is more about perseverance than intelligence? What is your opinion?
A. Well, perseverance is surely a very important factor but good insight is also instrumental to quality research. Research has its own glorious uncertainty and the researcher enjoys it. With perseverance, you have to chance to strike something great. Intelligence may not be a good word, but intelligent guess help a lot.
Q. You are synonym to Physics for school going children. Is there still any
dream you contemplate about?
A. The dream is to make science enjoyable for all students and teachers. Trying to develop contents in terms of print, videos, teachers annual and so on.
Q. What are your advises to budding scientists or PhD candidates?
A. It is a great idea to become excellent teacher and researcher. Research is not only about publishing papers but to bring out something new in any field. Look at the nature around your own surroundings and come up with problems and try getting solutions.
Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland
Dr. Siddharth Suman is a freelancer writing especially on societal issues, science, and education in both Hindi and English for various online media houses. In addition, he loves to write poetry and short story for the expression of personal emotions and thoughts. His poetry book titled 'Evaporating Soul — between love and life' may be read at Kindle.