A movement called Research Awareness in Student Environments (RAISE), engineered by Switzerland-based scientist Dr. Lawrence Rajendran, has sought to inculcate research culture in undergraduate engineering students in rural areas.

Dr. Lawrence, born and brought up in Chennai, who now serves as co-director, Division of Psychiatry Research, Zurich University, started this initiative among some of the students and teachers of bio-technology at Arunai Engineering College, Tiruvannamalai, two years ago.

It all started with Dr. Lawrance forwarding copies of some of the good research papers published in reputed international journals to 10 students who opted to join the initiative. They were given the assignment to read, comprehend and summarise the papers forwarded to them separately. “It was a tough task for their level. But they did that,” Dr. Lawrence said.

Whenever difficulties arise in understanding the papers, students contact Dr. Lawrance by email. He does the mentoring.

“After the first set of students did sufficient number of exercises in summarising, the second phase of submitting review papers has been introduced. In this phase each student member has been asked to submit a review paper concerning a recent development in a particular subject like neuro degeneration. This phase is going on now,” said S. Palani, Assistant Professor of biotechnology in Arunai Engineering College and local coordinator of RAISE.

Subsequently the movement went to the social networking site, Facebook, as a group, to accommodate more students from other rural environments; to effectively guide them and to rope in other experts in this initiative. raise.rural in Facebook has 189 members and keeps on growing. Students share academic matters, raise questions and get answers there.

Meanwhile, the research fervour infused by RAISE motivated professors and students alike to attempt to write for international journals. “As many as 15 research papers authored by me appeared in various national and international journals in these two years. Ten out of them were co-authored by students of Arunai Engineering College in RAISE initiative,” Dr. Palani said.

When asked about future plans of RAISE, Dr. Lawrence said that he has plans to take some of the students who were through the first two phases, to Zurich University where they can work in his laboratory for a few weeks. He has plans to send students in a similar fashion to universities in Germany and Belgium.

“That apart, we plan to send top researchers of Indian origin in international universities, to colleges in rural areas, during their visits to India. There they will interact with students of backward regions. Now I am receiving hundreds of mails every week seeking answers and guidance. Many of them are as simple as ‘which course I can join?' Since I am already overburdened we are looking for someone with a Ph.D. who could help in replying these mails,” he said.

raise.rural in Facebook has 189 members and keeps on growing. Students share academic matters, raise questions and get answers there.