Meeting Mathemagicians

THIS INSTITUTE wants to create many more Ramanujans, says, Prof C. S. Seshadri, Director. They initially concentrated on developing research in pure Mathematics and theoretical computer science. In a short span of time, Chennai Mathematical Institute (CMI) has become one of the best places to purse research in these areas. The long-term goal of the CMI is to evolve into an institution on the lines of the great universities in Europe and the United States.

The CMI was founded in 1989 as a part of the SPIC Science Foundation, funded by the SPIC Group in Chennai. Since 1996, it has been an autonomous institution. A Governing Council consisting of professionals manages CMI which remains a non-government institution, largely run on private funding, but with substantial support from the Government of India.

The institute has nurtured an impressive collection of Ph.D. students. Members of CMI maintain active research institutes throughout the world, according to Prof C. S. Seshadri. A number of scholars from around the world visit CMI, enhancing the vibrant research atmosphere at the institute.

The CMI has taken the initiative to bridge the gap between teaching and research by starting B.Sc. and M.Sc. programmes in Mathematics and allied subjects, conducted entirely by faculty who are active in research. The teaching programme began in 1998 when CMI arrived at an arrangement with the Madhya Pradesh Bhoj Open University, Bhopal, to offer accreditation for a B.Sc. Honours course in Mathematics at CMI.

In 2003, the institute expanded its teaching programme to include a B.Sc. course in Physics. It has also established connections to more modern applications of mathematics such as participation in the financial mathematics courses being taught at the ICICI Research Centre at the Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR) in Chennai.

The CMI selects its students through a nationwide entrance examination held in 10 major cities. About 400 students apply to CMI each year, of which about 15-20 are admitted. Students who have qualified for the final stage of the Indian Mathematics Olympiad are also eligible for direct admission. The general fees per annum for B.Sc. and M.Sc. are Rs. 1,500 and Rs. 2,500 respectively. This fee is generally waived depending upon the students' performance.

The teaching programme at CMI has benefited greatly from the active participation of faculty from the Institute of Mathematical Science (IMSc). The CMI has a regular exchange programme with the Ecole Normale Superieure (ENS) in France.

Each year, the two top-ranking senior B.Sc. students spend the summer at ENS working on research problems with faculty there. In return, four Ph.D. students from ENS visit CMI each year to participate in research and teaching.

Shanthi Kannan

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