Chennai engineering student's doctorate claims false

The story ‘He has arrears in engineering, PhD in Physics’ that appeared in these columns on October 28 was wrong. The Hindu has learnt that the subject Rohit Gunturi has not been awarded any doctorate by the University of California, Berkeley.

The Hindu had gone by information put out by Anna University, which claimed that Gunturi had been given a Ph. D by UC Berkeley, along with supporting documents.

In response to a communication from The Hindu, officials of the University of California, Berkeley, on Monday, rejected this claim outright.

In an e-mail, Prof. Wick Haxton of UC Berkeley clarified that Gunturi did not present any paper at the university's conference. He had submitted two abstracts that were rejected. “The conference is open to anyone who applies. Mr. Gunturi did attend the conference. Since his abstracts were rejected, he was allowed to present a poster at the meeting. The poster session is again open to anyone — no refereeing of any kind is involved," he said in an email.

Officials at UC Berkeley added that they had since got in touch with Anna University presenting the facts of the case. Anna University vice-chancellor M. Rajaram confirmed that he had received a communication from UC Berkeley, and was looking into the matter.

"We have had instances of students getting recognised for their work by foreign universities. Hence, there was nothing to suspect,” another AU official said.

The university has now removed the report of Mr. Gunturi’s work from its website.

We regret the error.


The story that appeared on October 28, 2013.

A student of Anna University has earned a doctorate from a foreign university even before completing his graduation.

Rohit Gunturi, a final-year B.E. student of electronics and communication engineering (ECE) at College of Engineering, Guindy, has been awarded a PhD. by the University of California, Berkeley, eight months before he graduates, for his outstanding research in physics.

Rohit worked on the inner structure of the electron and carried out most of his work on sub-atomic particles of electrons in high-energy physics laboratories at Thumba in Kerala.

“I never wanted to do engineering. I had always wanted to pursue physics, but my father said only a degree in engineering would ensure a good career. So, I chose a stream like ECE, which has the most physics,” he said.

When he failed in two subjects in the first-year examinations, Rohit went back to physics. “Since Anna University did not have facilities for high-quality research, I approached other institutions. I spent hours reading about advancements in physics and the work of scientists such as Neils Bohr,” he said.

“I cleared the arrears but failed in more subjects in subsequent years. Clearing university exams needed preparation with frequently-asked questions. I never had the time or inclination to do that because of my interest and involvement in physics research,” he said.

Encouraged by his professors at the University, Rohit started publishing research papers and attending conferences. “My greatest worry was losing out on attendance in college. Every morning, I would sit and calculate the number of days of attendance I needed to get the mandatory 75 per cent attendance,” he said. Rohit published his first paper in the International Journal of Science and Engineering Research in 2012, and his subsequent eight papers were published by the Journal of Physics.

After presenting papers at conferences in Amsterdam and Berkeley, a professor of UC, Berkeley, met him in Amsterdam and expressed interest in his work.

“Last month, he invited me to attend a conference in Berkeley. He was so impressed with my research he conferred a doctorate on me. I was thrilled because of the five persons awarded doctorates, I was the only Indian,” said Rohit. He now plans to accept the offer made by the University to pursue integrated PhD. in particle physics.

“I have a job offer from Accenture too. But physics is my first love. I cannot imagine doing anything else.”

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