Q: Give a brief idea of architecture courses in IITs and NITs and placements.

A: Architecture primarily deals with planning and designing, handling of spaces and look at the form and function, you look at what kind of shape or innovative form, a building or structure should take, and how functionally you can organise the space. You need creative talent and aptitude to get into this architecture. IIT-Kharagpur and IIT-Roorkee offer specialization in Architecture course. School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi is a very good institute for architecture. They have a separate entrance test.

There is another School of Planning and Architecture that was started in Vijayawada. One can also aim at that. There is lot of opportunities now.

Earlier only architects used to recruit fresh architects from college and train them. Now there are lot of real estate companies like DLF, Rahejas, Lanco, all infrastructure are getting into real estate. They also recruit architects to handle projects on site. They have plenty of scope.

Q: Is there a good future at M.Tech level in other subjects like physiological engineering, water system engineering, geotechnical engineering, transportation and structural management?

A: Geotechnical engineering is the foundation engineering which involves structural knowledge, subject analysis of soil. (It is the branch of civil engineering concerned with the engineering behaviour of earth materials.) Most of projects in India are now almost failure because of lack of soil analysis. Structural analysis comes later. Transportation engineer is involved in design of roads, bridges etc.

They are all related to structural engineering. These are all related subjects. Professional colleges instead of saying all these things, they say structural engineering, transportation engineering, construction management etc. Construction management also requires structural engineering. These are all within civil engineering only. Nowadays, environmental engineering that deals with air pollution, water pollution, water treatment is gaining importance in India. It is also related to structural engineering.

Q: Which institutes offer Robotics?

A: As part of mechanical engineering, some of the institutes are offering robotics as a subject. Robotics is a real mix of all branches of engineering.

You need to be good at mechanical engineering, be a good control engineer, a good electronic engineer, any branch of engineering, gets into robotics. If one is really passionate about Robotics and you want to pursue that further to B.Tech, Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S.A. is the world's number one. Prof. Raj Reddy heads that.

I have one suggestion: please don't try to specialize too much at B.Tech level. At B.Tech level you please get your fundamentals clear in one area of engineering with a flavour of some of the other branches of engineering. There is much more scope for you at post graduate level to get into the specialization and may be you should go into industry and come back for a Master's degree.

Q: What is life after Robotics? Is it, as my parents call it, life-settling?

A: This is a pretty classic question. Selecting your branch of engineering involves social pressures in India… A lot of work that goes into robotics from a mechanical engineering perspective is multidisciplinary -- drilling models, visualise how it works, calculation of velocity. There are also things like control systems etc.

You should also not worry too much about life-settling aspects of your choice. A lot of you have the option of charting your career. If you qualify for an IIT or an NIT the confidence you should gain is the ability to get through a competitive exam or a competitive situation. You will face a lot of competitive situations in the future. Don't get unduly worried about the changes. The scope for lateral shift has improved dramatically.

Q: What branch should a girl student take?

A: I don't think there is any branch a girl student is not suited for. In my own organisation (DRDL) I find some of the best engineers are girls. But there is a tendency for the girl students to get more and more into electronics or computer side because we joke, it is more comfortable of the engineering disciplines. There is another perception that mechanical, chemical or electrical engineering involves more hard work and is not suited for girls. It is totally a wrong impression. Girls can enter into any branch of engineering. Secondly, you may not end up in engineering finally but may end up in a new area like management or any other area. Please don't be constrained by the fact that you are a girl because you have an equal opportunity.

Q: What are the chances of career settlement after doing telecommunications at IIT-Kanpur?

A: There is no dearth of opportunities with MNCs like CISCO, AT&T, Texas Instruments, Motorola, Nokia. There is absolutely no shortage of jobs.

Q: Which are the languages that help in M.Tech projects?

A: C, C+, Java. If you learn some more languages, it adds to that.

Q: What are the future prospects in power sector? What is the scope for entrepreneurship in renewable energy sources?

A: Today, we have 100,000 MW of power. This is expected to double in the next five-year plan. There is a tremendous scope available in the power industry for the next 10-20 years, be it in manufacturing of equipment required for the power plant, power generation or transmission of power. There is a huge potential available in Asia, in India, China, Middle East.

Q: What is the difference between normal engineer and an engineer from IIT?

A: In IIT, you go through a process where the cream is picked up. So, you have the best talent available. You find yourself in the most competitive environment. In terms of infrastructure also they are better than most other institutes but then there are certain private institutes with wonderful infrastructure. What sets the IITs apart from these institutes is only the competitive environment that is available there. IITs also have a cosmopolitan culture unlike the NITs.

It doesn't really matter which institute you come from, if you are pursuing something with passion. There was a student of Nanotechnology of SRM Institute of Science and Technology who probably got the highest package last year at around 1.4 crore per annum. While the institute does make a lot of difference it is not the end of life. The opportunities are there.

Q: What is the best option in Embedded Systems?

A: There are huge options in this field. Car manufacturers, household appliance manufacturers like LG, Philips, Samsung, offer jobs in the subject.

Q:Can you please explain what all we will do in automobile engineering? What kind of topics will we be doing in a wide range, is it mostly about mechanics or dynamics part or will there be electricity or some other parts of physics included too?

A: If you want to work in automobile engineering like design of cars, design of engines, etc., mechanical engineering is the course you should be doing if you want to get into the automobile industry. It has got nothing to do with aesthetics. That part is called industrial design which you do at post graduate level. What you study in mechanical engineering or automobile engineering is very functional. It is all about function but nothing about form.

You can ignore electrical engineering and still become a pretty successful mechanical engineer. There is physics embedded and there is lot of thermodynamics.

Q: What is automotive engineering?

A: The new course we have in IIT-Madras basically incorporates the mechanical aspects plus aesthetics.

Q: Can you please specify about defence systems, particularly weapons engineering?

A: Weapons engineering is highly multidisciplinary. DRDO has one of the institute that offers an M.Tech course in weapons engineering.

Q: Can you explain about Oceanology in IIT-Kharagpur?

A: You learn about onshore platforms, off-shore platforms and applications like wave energy. IIT-Madras has done lot of research on that. It is a good course if you have aptitude for it. A structural engineer cannot become an oceanography engineer because there are lot of complications in there like structural dynamics, vibration is required, etc.

Till 2004 IIT-M had some problems with placements for M.Tech in Ocean Engineering. But after that, from 2005 onwards companies were told not to come unless they could give a specified minimum salary package. That is the scope. There are not many institutes in the country offering ocean engineering as a specialization. There are lot of opportunities as there is lot of potential within the country and abroad.

Q: Due to recession, will it be wise to choose CSE as a discipline? Will be there be future for information security?

A: We cannot control recession. What we can control is how good we are at doing things. If you focus on being good at whatever you do, not just computing, there are higher chances of survival even during recession. Recession will come and go but if you are good, your job will always be there.

Things like civil engineering, computer science have long term prospects because India is going to grow.

Security concerns have become more and more prevalent in the recent times, in the last 10 years. Information security is a very important area, it is nascent. It offers a lot of scope.

Q: What is difference between integrated courses and B.Tech programmes in CSE in private institutions?

A: The main value of an integrated programme is that you take a holistic view of life, of your profession as well. We need to do all the things in order to complete our lives. We can not be engineers all the time. An integrated course gives you the ability to view other dimensions that might impact you in your profession. If you are interested in a higher degree, getting two degrees in five years instead of 4+2 saves you one year. Across every branch, dual degree students are getting better placements. All the IITs are offerin an option where B.Tech students can convert to dual degree after completing three or four years.

Q: What is the best branch a creative student with a Fine Arts background can get? Are there any animation courses in engineering at IITs and NITs?

A: There is no animation course in engineering. What could you do with people with creative bent of mind? A fascinating book I would recommend is

‘The Whole New Mind' by Daniel H. Pink. He talks about the fact that the right-brained people will come back and dominate the whole world. The right brain is the source of creativity and inspiration. If you have the creativity and the right skills, that will make you extra successful. It is one of your added advantages.

In Computer Science you can look at User Interface Design and Human Computer Interaction People with creative background will excel without a question. There is a huge premium for people who are outstanding programmers of computer graphics hardware and software.

Q: What is the difference between aeronautical, aerospace and avionics fields? What are the placement options for these branches?

A: Aeronautical engineering dealt with design and development. We were basically exposed to aircraft. Outside the realm of atmosphere is basically known as astronautical engineering. Aerospace engineering in IIT-Madras combines both aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering because the dynamics of operating an aircraft in outer space is completely different from that in the atmosphere. It is the job of an aeronautical or aerospace engineer to keep the aircraft airborne or goes into outer space.

It is one of the most fascinating subjects you can study. It is all branches of engineering you can think of. If you are a good aeronautical engineer, you would have to be a good mechanical engineer or a good student of thermodynamics. There is no limit to what you can do. We have a president who is an aeronautical engineer, the first man landing on the moon who is an aeronautical engineer, first Indian woman astronaut who is an aeronautical engineer.

Basically, electronics in aviation is avionics. It is job of Avionics engineer to design systems to navigate from point A to point B or in case of a missile it is to design guidance control systems to see that the missile reaches its target and in case of space craft, he/she should be able to control the spacecraft in outer space.

One can get options to work in Defence labs, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, space agencies like ISRO, NASA. The scope is vast. However, getting a degree in aerospace engineering is not necessarily a passport into the NASA or becoming a spaceship pilot. NASA only has American citizens. One can specialize in emerging technologies such as cryogenics, nanotechnology etc.

Q: Is aerospace engineering a tough branch?

A: It is one of the two toughest branches offered by any of the IITs. One is Electrical Engineering and the other Aerospace Engineering. Both of them involve the maximum amount of abstract mathematical content. Whether you are in maintenance or design, the scope for error in aerospace is zero. You make an error in design, somebody will pay for it, you make an error in maintenance, somebody will pay with their lives.

Q: Are there any NITs offering aerospace engineering?

A: As of now only IITs are offering aerospace engineering. But there are some institutes like Punjab University, MIT of Anna University that offer the course. Nationwide, there are almost 100 private colleges and deemed institutes offering aeronautical engineering.

Q: Can you throw some light on Engineering Physics?

A: Only two or three IITs are offering this course. It is a very specialized programme. It is somewhere in between a Science programme and an engineering programme. It is basically a hybrid of physics and electrical engineering. It has excellent job opportunities in India.

There is an excellent semiconductor industry that is coming up in India. Semiconductor companies, medical electronics are the companies hiring these graduates.

Q: What are the prospects in Biotechnology?

A: Biotechnology is a vast subject and a very receptive subject. If an aeronautical engineer wants to come into Biotechnology, he/she can but not vice versa.

There are good prospects in the sector. One can enter into any good pharmaceutical company, vaccine production company, academic institutes or research institutions.

After B.Tech the scope is not as much as in other disciplines. After B.Tech, for the first five years all you need is passion and perseverance and you need to choose your discipline. There are lot of areas to choose from like cancer biology, basic research, tissue structures, stem cell research etc. You should also expect lot of competition from students of pure biology, microbiology, genetics etc.

Q: What is Bio-Informatics?

A: It is creation and enhancement of databases, algorithms, computational and statistical techniques to solve formal and practical problems arising from the management and analysis of biological data. Drug design cannot be designed by a pure biologist he should have some knowledge of mathematics and physics.

It is basically a combination of computer science, biology, physics and other subjects.

There is a subject called biophysics which is a hardcore physics plus biology. People can study cells in the body and the effects of drugs. Most MNCs in India and abroad recruit Bio-Informatics students.

Q: What are the career prospects in the Metallurgy?

A: After infrastructure and power, the third largest investment expected in the country 2007-12 is in metal and metal products. We are talking about approximately 450,000 crore to be invested in metals and metal products. The general feeling is that metallurgy involves working in furnaces, in terrible, dusty and hot atmosphere work conditions.

Don't get worried about extractive metallurgy or working in a Steel Plant or a non-ferrous industry. But, the maximum investment in the country is now coming in steel.

One of the universities in the State is offering a B.Tech course with steel making technology as one of the specializations.

There will also be tremendous investments in non-ferrous industries.

Q: What should I prefer, good branch in any college versus any branch in an IIT; and new IIT versus old IIT?

A: If you select an institute it gives you an environment where you would develop awareness if you study in that particular institute.

Branch gives you a perspective in terms of how your work environment is going to be. You should have some alignment with your interest, work in a very competitive good environment where you will grow.

It is going to be very individual specific.

There are lot of variables that come into play like parental preferences, whether they will be willing to send the child to such a far off place, is it a boy or a girl. For more specific information (rank-based enquiries), one can refer to archive chats available on the website time4education.com.

Q: What is better: M.Tech in IIT or NIT or MS abroad?

A: Education-wise they are the same. If you are family can support you and your obligations are not so much here, you can go abroad for your Masters. What gives you an edge is in today's world when all businesses are global, when you study overseas; you make friends with all people from all kinds of countries. You learn the way they do a problem or whatever. It is an education by itself, not just electronics but you will learn to cope up with all the situations mutually when you work in a company.

Q: Is IIT-Hyderabad ready? Are new IITs as good as the old IITs?

A: The campus is under construction. In 2011, they will start operating from the new campus.

An IIT cannot be built in a day. IIT-Guwahati took about six or seven years to get operational. Every new IIT is mentored by an old IIT. IIT-Madras is the mentor of IIT-Hyderabad.

Q: Why is it that IITs don't come up very high in global university rankings?

A: The so-called global rankings are primarily based on research benchmarks. You are here for studying at NIT or IIT not in their research programme but in their undergraduate or postgraduate courses.

I spend more than 70 per cent of my time on undergraduate education. So, what we are being ranked on is only 30 per cent of our efforts. You can go to any country and say you are an IIT graduate and immediately there is a certain level of skills and expectations of performance.

That is built over 50 years. Cambridge or Oxford took 300 or 400 years to build their reputation.

Q: What are the opportunities for persons with disabilities?

A: I don't think anybody should worry and put a thing like disability in their heads. There is nothing that will stop you from working.

If you have a problem with your legs, don't go into jobs like production side. Instead do design-related works.

The programme was anchored by T Muralidharan, Chairman TMI Group.