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Posted at: May 16, 2018, 12:43 AM; last updated: May 16, 2018, 12:05 PM (IST)IN CONVERSATION

UG route to research

UG route to research
Finding cure for life-threatening diseases from medicinal plants.

Geetu Vaid

Panjab University, Chandigarh, might have jumped five places to 130 rank in the Times Higher Education (THE) Emerging Economies University Rankings 2018 released last week, but the fact remains that Indian universities, including even the top notch IITs fare poorly in the International rankings of best institutions. Lack of emphasis on research and innovation remains the Achilles heel of Indian higher education institutions. Publications of research papers, international collaborations, citations, patent filings are some of the key factors that decide the ranking of an institute.

Most Indian institutes focus primarily on classroom teaching and very little thrust is given to research, practical application and innovation. Add to this the fact that proper records of processes and evaluations are not kept, thus, no wonder that one has to scroll down the top- league institute list to find the name of an Indian institute/university.  

Research is the backbone of effective learning and focus has to be shifted to it to achieve global recognition. “The endeavour to seek new horizons and coming up with solutions to problems is the ultimate goal of education rather than just handing out paper degrees,” says Prof Neeraj Mahindroo, Dean Research and Development and Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Shoolini University, Solan. 

This research-centric university is matching global standards when it comes to research projects taken up here. It has recently been ranked among the five top private universities of north India by the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) set up by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD). In an interview Prof Mahindroo asserts that innovation, ideas and out-of-box thinking all stem from research and teaching has to be closely aligned with research objectives. Excerpts: 

Is associating research with post graduate and doctoral degrees the right approach?

The perception that a student is “qualified” to take up research only after graduation is highly flawed. The fact is that anyone can do research and in fact, the sooner a keen and intelligent mind is set on the path of exploration and research, the better it is. It is high time that higher education institutions add research projects in the undergraduate courses for students inclined towards it. In our university we have a specific course for research-oriented students at the undergraduate level. 

What are the key points of this programme?

The university offers Summit Research Programme to students interested in research and innovation. Students of BTech in biotech and food tech programmes can opt for this.  The entrance test is also unique as the students are tested on their “idea and innovation” quotient. In this programme the research work begins right from the day a student enrols into the four-year undergraduate degree.  

What are the different research projects taken up by students in the university?

As the university is located in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh, we are cashing in on the unique biodiversity of the region besides working for its sustainable utilisation. Students of different departments are working on research projects that explore the flora and fauna of this region. 

Students of pharmaceutical departments are working on the medicinal plants that are in abundance here.  As many as 50 plants are being studied at the moment to find cures for different diseases. Drug resistance of microbes and water are the other areas on which students are doing research.  

The students have developed a herbal purifier which can be used as a tea bag to clean water. in the process of testing this. For the engineering students the challenge is to develop technology that can be useful for the people in the hill region whether it is the farm equipment for the hilly terrain or use of solar energy or hill architecture.

Difficulty level

It is a harder course than the regular one. There are credits for research in each semester. The students are attached to a student researcher and are given research assignments and problems to work on. They do research in the UG course so that they get admission to a good school in India or abroad after graduation. 

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