“I want to take up B.Sc. Chemistry. But I am scared that my parents will force me to take up engineering because I have always scored more than 90 per cent,” tells a girl who is about to step into Plus-Two.

While the reverse is always true, there is an increasing number of intelligent and high-scoring students who are on the threshold of a career-making decision based on pure sciences. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is tapping this group to convert them into scientists and researchers who will work for a bright India.

As many as 160 students from Government and private schools are at PSGR Krishnammal College for Women to attend the “Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE)” programme of the DST. The Hindu is the media partner for the event.

They are the cream from the higher secondary section of 23 schools from Coimbatore and nearby districts that has been handpicked to be ‘inspired' to contribute to the scientific think tank of future India.

The five-day residential camp (from May 14 - 18), is a combination of lectures, practical sessions, and field visits related to the latest in the field of science. With the DST's aim of “attracting talent to the study of science at an early stage and build the required critical human resource pool for strengthening and expanding the science and technology system and research and development base in the country”, these science students are being mentored.

And, the girl who wanted to pursue Chemistry was assured by experts at the camp that she had to go after her heart. She and other students were informed by P. Kandaswamy, Fellow of National Academy of Sciences, Allahabad, one of the implementing bodies of the INSPIRE programme, about how the DST encouraged, through various scholarships, those who wanted to take up science in the undergraduate, post-graduate, and doctoral levels.

Pointing out that engineering was not the be all and end all of professions, E. Balagurusamy, Member (Education), State Planning Commission, urged students to go after science and arts, because the country had ample opportunities in these disciplines.

“It is not what you study, but how you study and apply that knowledge, which will give you success in life. The situation is such that most of the engineers join the information technology industry. It is very rare that engineers from core disciplines work in core engineering industries. Use opportunities in science and arts to give back to society,” he told the students.

Highlighting the relevance of the programme in such a scenario, Mr. Balagurusamy said India was in a bad situation in scientific knowledge. Many qualified professionals went abroad citing reasons of ‘poor opportunities' in research and jobs.

“One just needs to look around to find research topics. The country is filled with problems that are awaiting solutions. Only science can come to our rescue. Science seats are going vacant in colleges.

Researchers in science will soon become a rarity. This is because of the myth that there is no scope in pure sciences,” the Planning Commission member added.

The organisers believe that the interaction with academic experts, hands-on training in the advanced college laboratories, and the visits, would make them aware of the varied facets of science. This awareness, is what they say, is the first step to make them look beyond engineering.