Grand Vision Of IIT Guwahati Medal Winners

The award winners across various disciplines at the 24th Convocation of the institute exude a new confidence in their capability to bring about a change in the country

The character of Farhan in one of the most iconic Hindi movies released in 2009 faced the dilemma of pursuing engineering or wildlife photography. There is no such dilemma for Akshita Jain, the winner of Shankar Dayal Sharma Gold Medal at the IIT-Guwahati’s 24th Convocation, held on June 17. 

Jain, a BTech chemical engineering passout, is a wildlife photographer and a proficient Kathak and Bharatnatyam dancer heading Spic Macay unit of IIT-Guwahati. She believes that the stress of academics is released by cultural activities. She won the medal named after former Indian president precisely because she excels in both spheres. And she is confident that she will follow wildlife photography in the long run once she has done enough professional work. Already, she did a field survey conducted by the MP Forest Department (though not for the purpose of photography), gave a TEDx talk on this project, has worked with Tripoto as a photographer, published her work in the National Geographic and other widely read publications, and has won several national and international competitions. Alongside, she is also interested in data science and has done an internship with Microsoft. 

Gaurang Ramakant Kane, student of BTech engineering physics, the winner of this year’s President of India Gold Medal, exudes similar confidence about the path he wants to tread – academia rather than industry, in theoretical physics and to popularise science. 

And Sonu, who has won the best thesis award for MDesign, adds another dimension when he says, “We are here not because we are studious but we are aware. Each student here must have known what he is good at.” Speaking for himself, he informs that through his learning he wants to develop teaching aids so that kids in the age group of 6 to 12 can play and learn at the same time. And the institute has supported this journey of ideation to product development. But when Covid struck and he was stranded in his native place, he created another devise to help his community – a floating device to cut singharas in ponds.  

Societal good

This is the ethos that the medal winners of this year’s Convocation exude. They are confident, aware and with a sense of responsibility of giving back to the society.

They are in unison that India is the right place to apply one’s learnings. Be it through startups that are making a meaningful change in society or doing further studies for enhancing India’s knowledge base, they want the action to be here. The winners share how they learned from their seniors who were doing serious work in startups. 

In fact, some of the work that these winners have done is reflective of this changing priority of service to the society. Aman Ujjwal, a postgraduate in civil engineering and the winner of Governor of Assam Gold Medal, did his masters thesis on modelling of landslides (there being high incidence of landslides in Assam), to understand it better in order to save lives. Abhinay Kumar of civil engineering, a winner of best thesis presentation award, has done considerable work in using waste plastic in road construction, so that the problem of increasing garbage mounds is also tackled. His work has been published in six publications. BDesign passout Pragnya Ramjee who won the Governor of Assam Gold Medal for scoring second highest CPI amongst undergraduate students in all disciplines. She did a project pertaining to connecting senior citizens with smart phones. And Shreya Debnath of MSc Chemistry, who won the best thesis award in MSc, took the initiative during Covid of working with a startup working on refurbishing phones as there was a great education loss among all age groups of students. 

Abhijeet Das, who won the best thesis award in computer science and engineering, and who is now pursuing post doctorate in France, says there is a lot of respect for Indians for the work being done. To him and other medal winners the best path is to learn, come back and apply the knowledge here. 

Institute’s thrust

The institute’s endeavour to work for betterment of the region has played a big role in this mindset. A result of the Assam Accord of 1985 and launched in 1994, the IIT is doing considerable work in problem areas that beset the region: floods, landslides and earthquakes. Director TG Sitharam, addressing the convocation held at a time when the state is reeling under floods and several lives have been lost, informed that the institute had deployed drones to assess the situation and identify villages that had been cut off. 

Jagdish Mukhi, Governor of Assam, graced the occasion as the chief guest; Rahul Mehta, Founder of Mehta Family Foundation, Houston, was the guest of honour.

A total of 1,620 degrees were awarded: 697 BTech & BDes students, 470, MTech and MDes, 253 PhD students and 197 master degree students besides 3 students of dual degrees (MS + PhD).

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