Inaugural Prof. Ram Kumar Prize for Outstanding Teaching and Research at IIT-Roorkee

It has been a privilege and honor for us to have been able to support the creation of the Annual Prof. Ram Kumar Prize at IIT-Roorkee. The prize has been instituted by the Board of Governors and the Director of IIT-Roorkee to nurture and celebrate excellence in teaching and research. Prof. Ram Kumar was a highly regarded faculty in the Department of Mathematics in the then University of Roorkee in early 1960’s.

Dr. Partha Roy, Professor of Biotechnology, was selected to be the inaugural recipient of the Prof. Ram Kumar Prize by the committee appointed by the Director to screen and evaluate the nominations.  Some information on innumerous accomplishments of Prof. Roy is available here.

Prof. Roy has been presented with the award at the IIT-R Charter Day held on November 25, 2016.  See here an interview with Prof. Roy, discussing his most significant research accomplishments, his teaching philosophy, and his advice to young faculty. Look here for some pictures of the award ceremony.

Our heartiest congratulations to Prof. Roy for winning this coveted award.

hat_tip  Prof. Ashok Misra (Chairman, BOG), Prof. Pradipta Banerji (Director), Prof. Sandeep Singh (Dean), Prof. Manoranjan Parida (Dean), Prof. Deepak Kashyap (Dean), Members of the Award Commitee

2 thoughts on “Inaugural Prof. Ram Kumar Prize for Outstanding Teaching and Research at IIT-Roorkee

  1. Ramkumar Foundation Post author


    1. What you consider to be your most significant research accomplishments?

    By training I am an endocrinologist which I started while doing my Masters and continuing till date. My Ph.D. thesis was on the isolation and biological characterization of a peptide hormone (Gonadotrophin Releasing Hormone, GnRH) from the brain of an Indian major carp. This hormone is known to play a critical role in the reproduction of fish and enhance the productivity of fishes. Once we isolated this hormone it was used extensively for the enhancement of fish reproduction and was better than the existing system of commercial fish production. Ours was the first report to have isolated this hormone from any Indian carps. This project was further taken up by Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt. of India, in the form of additional projects for field trails where also it came out successful. This product was given to farmers at a very cheap price during those days. Later on this peptide was synthesized chemically and was found to be more effective than the existing synthetic GnRH in the market.

    During my postdoctoral research at Institute of Biomedicine, University of Turku, Finland and then at Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology (IRDB), Imperial College London where I worked almost for 6 years, my major task was to develop a recombinant mammalian cell based bioassay to analyze steroid hormones (mainly androgen, progesterone and estradiol) from biological samples (blood and urine) and environmental samples (industrial effluents, sewage treatment plant effluents etc.). The beauty of this assay/test system was that it could estimate the level of bioactive steroids in biological and environmental samples. We developed two such recombinant cell lines. One of them was able to estimate the blood level of androgens in females suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This was a critical step towards the diagnosis of this disease since the current methods used ELISA which usually estimates only the immune-active forms of hormones whereas the assay as developed by us could analyze the bioactive hormones which was responsible for causing the effects during PCOS. While this assay was in the final stage of validation, it was taken up by two leading pharmaceutical companies in Finland and Netherlands respectively for screening their (anti)androgenic molecules for the development of novel anti-prostate cancer drugs. These projects were conducted as academia-industry joint projects. These cell lines were extensively used by these industries until recently they developed their own cell lines based on our cell lines.

    After I came back to India, based on the need of the country and more precisely the region of India where Roorkee is situated, I thought of focusing on something which is more linked to betterment of local lives rather than anything fancy. Being very close to Himalaya, I realized that this region has great potential for the development of novel drug molecules from plants. Further I realized that the people of this region have tremendous faith and usage on these medicinal plants. Towards this end we started working on several plant products targeting mainly diabetes and cancer, two most prominent diseases of Indian subcontinent (of course other parts of globe as well). Further, my reason of targeting these two diseases was that it was common man’s disease but not everybody could afford to get it cured due to expensive drugs. So my question was can we develop any cheaper therapy of this? Although till date we are struggling hard to get some good plant based therapy for diabetes, but we have got an excellent lead for breast and prostate cancer. We have developed a novel hybrid compound which is a derivative of resveratrol where two pharmacophores has been hybridized together. This compound shows potent action for the cure of breast and prostate cancer. At this point of time we are working on its pharmacokinetics to check its metabolic stability in collaboration with some pharmaceutical industries. If this compound comes out successfully in its last lap of tests we are looking forward to transfer this to industry for commercialization. We believe that this will help in the development of indigenous drug candidate from plant source and would be affordable to all. We are looking forward to that.

    All these have led to the publications of more than eighty papers in journals of repute having high citation indices and several book chapters. Also currently we are working on patenting some of our work.

    2. What is your teaching philosophy?

    I have established two primary philosophies as a teacher: to get students to think about science as a process, and to individualize their learning experiences, the former of which I learned as a student myself, and the latter of which became evident as an effective teaching strategy. Progressing through various college/ University education system allowed me to define learning as a personal process of growth. Being able to ask questions and actually attempt to answer those questions was extremely motivating. The same ideas flow into my classrooms, where I urge my students to think about very basic questions they have, and to begin questioning all those “facts” in the textbook. It was only after I took up teaching as a profession I realized the interactive, intellectually stimulating classroom environment was lacking in most of the courses I took during those days. Because of this, I have made an effort to be not only a mentor, but a teacher in learning, by providing my students with opportunities to learn in ways they are most likely to benefit from. Since the first moments as a teacher, I realized how precious the time was with my students, and how I wished to help them find their love for a fascinating subject like Biotechnology, just as I did, by being involved and invested in more hands-on methods of learning. Just like me, I feel that most of my students already know that they like Biotechnology, but I want them to begin understanding the process of scientific thinking rather than learning definitions without context to real data. In order to achieve this, I continually aim to involve students by using a variety of methods in all of the classes I teach. I philosophically believe that students need to have a strong base on a subject even if it is only few topics rather than knowing many things just superficially.

    Involving and motivating students is a challenging task, but my goal of individualizing learning creates an open and comfortable classroom environment where students can feel free to ask questions, make mistakes, and challenge themselves. My questions in the exams are not to assess how much they have mugged up rather it is how much they have understood. That means, the questions are very conceptual and fundamental rather than descriptive or narrative types. I firmly believe that students enter the classroom with expectations to learn and advance their knowledge; naturally it becomes imperative to justify this fact. In order to keep students motivated, I have found that it becomes imperative to be a creative teacher, by utilizing various active learning methods like group discussions, peer teaching or short presentations. Students rarely admit that they don’t know anything, so using methods that allow them to bring their misconceptions or misunderstandings to light provides an opportunity for me to determine whether my teaching is effective.

    Another tool that I find equally effective in the classroom is to establish rapport with my students by making it a point to get to know my students, not just by name, but by asking them to think about their personal goals as potential future scientists or entrepreneur or corporate manager. While assessing the students during presentations, my major focus is their body language and contents of presentations rather than judging how much they know or mugged up. Based on this information, I am able to get to know my students and approach them in different ways to personalize their learning. This is reflected positively in my evaluations, where students always feel that they can approach me, ask questions, or even challenge their own thinking. In addition, several of my previous students still contacts me to clarify various issues related to correlating what they studied earlier and the research they are carrying out now.

    The classroom is a dynamic space, where each teacher can do the things he or she wishes to do. It is the responsibility of a teacher to create interest among students for a topic he/she is teaching. That is what I aim to create for my students.

    3. What advice would you give to young faculty members starting their career at Roorkee?

    I started my career here at IIT Roorkee about 12 years back. I think under the current scenario things are much changed and obviously towards the brighter side. First of all I would like to salute those of my senior colleagues who started their career here much earlier than me. I can feel what sort of hurdles they might have faced during those days. In spite of this we still have faculties in the institute as senior faculties and alumnus who are recognized globally for their achievements and accomplishments. In summary, if someone has zeal, enthusiasm and perseverance, I am sure he/she would succeed wherever he/she is. We all accept that Roorkee is a small town which is a bit out of all the basic amenities that we get in a metro city. But it has something which is far better than what we have in metro city and that is the undisturbed life and a long heritage of education and research.

    So I would like to suggest all my junior colleagues who are starting their career here that always look at the brighter side of the institute and must feel privileged and proud to be a part of this heritage institute which is now 170 years old yet maintaining a high quality of education all these years. My appeal to them is that let’s come together and work together to carry forward the name and fame of this institute what our seniors has given us by their devotion and hard work and make it “the” best institutes in India and abroad from “one” of the best institutes . Also I would advise them to read the history of this institute soon after they start their career here so that they appreciate the long tradition of this institute.

    November 28, 2016

  2. Ramkumar Foundation Post author

    First Prof. Ram Kumar Prize Function at IITR

    On Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 9:36 PM, Dr. S.P. Gupta wrote:

    Dear Dr Agrawal,

    Here are three pictures of the function held on 25th November 2016 in the Main Building Lawns which show Prof. Partha Roy, Head of Bio Technology Department receiving the first Ram Kumar Prize of Rs. 2.00 Lakhs, instituted by you, from Prof. PK Ghosh, Director. Others on the Dias were Prof. Pradipta Banerji (Chief Guest), Prof. Prem Krishna, President, Alumni Association and Prof. Sandeep Singh, Dean Alumni Affairs and International Relations. Prof. Partha Roy made an eloquent speech in response to continue to achieve excellence in academics and thanked the Foundation and IIT Roorkee, his colleagues, his students and his family for this honour. The function was attended by a large gathering of Diamond Jubilee and Golden Jubilee Alumni, Faculty members, students and invited guests.

    I am copying this mail to Prof. Partha Roy as well.

    Warm regards and thanks a million for instituting this award which I trust will go a long way in IITR’s efforts of excelling in academics.

    Warm regards,

    Dr. SP Gupta
    Emeritus Fellow
    Electrical Engineering Department,
    (former Deputy Director)
    Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee
    Roorkee 247 667

    Prof Ram Kumar Prize 1
    Prof Ram Kumar Prize 2

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