“If someone loves solving mathematical problems and if solving a hard problem gives her or him pleasure, then she or he should pursue mathematics. The future is bright.”
Rajeeva Karandikar took charge as the director of Chennai Mathematical Institute following the footsteps of the eminent mathematician C.S. Seshadri. He is a psephologist and holds a Ph.D from the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata.
In this e-mail interview with Education Plus, he talks about the future of research and his plans for the institution in future.
On the state of research in mathematics, computer science and physics in India, and the gaps that need to be addressed.
I will talk about mathematics. In terms of quality, some people have been doing very good work but in terms of quantity, it is not much, as contributions from majority of the faculty members in mathematics departments are often of indifferent quality.
Centres of excellence like CMI focus on research, but remain independent from mainstream universities. How can this be bridged?
We have good intentions and organise seminars, workshops, summer schools, conferences where people from all over the country can participate. Also, faculty from CMI do visit other centres when invited to interact with faculty and students.
Is research in applied mathematics is gaining more popularity compared to pure research?
Research in applied mathematics is still at a low level. Indeed, what is needed is applications to concrete problems and not research in applied mathematics. It is important to balance research in mathematics and applications to real world problems.
Nurturing interest in mathematics starts at school. How can it be done?
We need to improve teaching in schools which is easier said than done. Again we can conduct workshops for school students. DST has a programme on this, called INSPIRE, where we participate.
Seshadri, the former CMI director, has been quoted as saying, “Unfortunately the progress in the universities has been far less than what one had hoped.” What is the reason?
There are many reasons. Social, economical, opportunities after completion of studies… The story is same for all sciences, not just mathematics.
Are there enough women mathematicians? What is the reason for the existing gap?
Yes, there is a gap, and we can do what we can, but not much.
What do you have to say to young and aspiring mathematicians?
If someone loves solving mathematical problems and if solving a hard problem gives him or her pleasure, then he or she should pursue mathematics. The future is bright.
Are there any new projects in the pipeline for CMI? Any plans of working with universities?
CMI has to consolidate its position first. We are open to collaborative programmes.