N Lakshmi Nagendra feels she has come a long way in a year filled with personal and professional growth
Covid-19 pandemic put a dampener on the spirits of many college freshers who missed out on the campus experience. N Lakshmi Nagendra talks about it with a tinge of sadness but she knows that her college experience hasn’t been compromised. As she grows in both personal and professional walks of her life, she tells us why she feels she might have struggled with the transition at any place other than SRM University, AP.
“When I first visited SRM University, AP campus I had travelled a few hours from my hometown in Khammam, Telangana but it felt like I was transported to a completely new place. I was amazed by the state of the art infrastructure on the campus. I am glad I took the decision to enroll with the university because I have come a long way only in one year of the program.
Since I am very interested in the field, I opted for B. Tech Computer Science with Cyber Security. But as I was looking forward to being on the campus and starting this new chapter in my life, the Covid-19 pandemic had hit. It was definitely disappointing but we had to seek solace in the fact that we could be in the comforts of our homes.
I think at any other place we would have struggled with the transition, but SRM University, AP had left no stone unturned to ensure that we moved to online learning smoothly. We could see the efforts being made right from the virtual orientation program, which was filled with exciting activities. Unique events like Chess and other games made it a lot of fun for all of us.
The campus diversity is one of the reasons I chose the University, and so far I have come across students from many different states. Although we have met virtually, I have become friends with some of them. A friend from Pune knows more about coding than we do, so I learn from him. These interactions are truly enriching.
I can say that the classroom learning experience is of very high quality. I have learned so much from my faculty members, not only about the subjects but dealing with everyone in such a calm and composed manner. We are also connected through Whatsapp, and whenever we have any queries we know that we can reach out to them without any hesitation.
Some of the highlights for me are the group discussions where we learn from each other’s diverse perspective. I also love playing games and doing experiments in the lab. There are many fun events being conducted online, which keep us going. Of course, we wish that we could be back on campus, but we have time. And right now we are making the most of it.”
It was a case of first impression being the lasting one for Vijayawada boy Hashmmath Shaik when he visited SRM University, AP campus. He left having made his decision to enroll for the B.Tech, CSE program. And though he hasn’t been able to return to the campus due to the pandemic last year, he believes his learning experience hasn’t been compromised. He journals his experiences of first year of college; from virtual orientation to Zoom classes and extracurricular activities.
“Choosing the graduation program and college is a big deal and I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. Hence I wanted to check things out myself and was completely blown away by the infrastructure at SRM University, AP. Coming from Vijayawada, this was a whole new world to me, but I knew that this is what my dream college would look like.
Unfortunately due to the pandemic last year, we haven’t been able to go back to campus. But my B.Tech CSE program began with a virtual orientation program that put all of us at ease. It was a well-rounded program with quizzes and games and motivational sessions. There were talks about mental health in times of the pandemic, which was very thoughtful.
While I have not been able to attend offline classes, I don’t think the learning experience has been compromised in any way. Zoom is a brilliant platform for student engagement. Teaching practices where students are asked to solve questions are also very helpful. We have had our exams in lab classes, which was good practical exposure for all of us.
I am very impressed by our faculty members, not only because they too had to adapt to online teaching but they have also done it brilliantly while focusing on students’ needs. We are given assignments on a regular basis to understand if we have grasped the topics. They are always accessible and pay special attention to topics so that we have complete clarity about them.
Besides academic learning, I am thrilled to see the preparations for cultural activities that are held online. As a first year student, I have missed those experiences that are crucial to college life. I can’t wait to get back to campus and participate in Basketball games, play guitar – these are my main interests. I also want to be a part of the theatre group and perform on stage.
I think hostel life is one of the coolest aspects of college years. I can’t wait to experience it with my batch mates who come from everywhere in India – UP, Odisha, and also African countries, Bangladesh. I haven’t seen all of them though we are connected on social media. I am confident that when we meet it will be like we have been friends forever. I am really looking forward to it.”
“Zoom is a brilliant platform for student engagement. Teaching practices where students are asked to solve questions are also very helpful. We have had our exams in lab classes, which was good practical exposure for all of us. I am very impressed by our faculty members, not only because they too had to adapt to online teaching but they have also done it brilliantly while focusing on students’ needs.” – Hashmmath Shaik, B.Tech CSE, Batch 2020-24.
Fear of the Unknown is the greatest fear of all, they say. It’s that fear that we have almost universally dealt within this year of uncertainty. The word “new normal” has been coined and is talked about by experts in great detail. But what does it truly entail? How do professionals of today and tomorrow navigate their way through the new normal on their way to success? It’s time to upskill, but what are the skills that will be in demand in the post-Covid world?
The new world might be mired in uncertainty, but one thing is certain – that workspaces will see a transformation in times to come. If you want to make your mark in the changing professional scenario then here are skills you should possess:
Adaptable professionals for the flexible work environment: Work from home has already become a norm for companies big and small. Workspaces will keep evolving rapidly in times to come. As a professional, you need to keep pace with the changes or be left behind.
Get what it “techs”: Technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Robotics, IoT had already made their presence felt before the pandemic. They will make businesses more resilient in the post-CoVid world. Being equipped with skills in the latest technologies is the surest way to futureproof your careers.
Data with destiny: Data has become the most valuable asset for organizations. But as Bernard Merr writes in Forbes, “Data is useless to a company unless there is data literacy – people equipped with skills to understand the data and make better decisions because of it.” Data literacy skills will score high on companies’ priority list.
Innovators have a way in: In spite of the difficulties this year, some businesses have thrived. It’s largely because of the creativity they have shown in catering to their audience through innovative strategies. In the future too, organizations will be focused on professionals who can think and function creatively.
Critical thinking will be critical: With great amounts of data, comes great responsibility to analyze it discerningly. The rise of fake news, misinformation has been a menace in the recent past. The industry will be looking for critical thinking professionals, who can scrutinize information for objective decision making.
Leaders are forever: Technological disruptions with the changing nature of the workplace have meant that teams and teamwork have become more fluid. It will take strong and capable leaders with high EQ to bring out the best in their teams. Leaders who can encourage and enable seamless collaborations will be highly sought after.
Research and innovation-driven Universities like SRM University – AP, Andhra Pradesh have already incorporated platforms and initiatives in their curriculum to equip students with these skills. “We, at SRMAP, believe that the Universities and educational institutions need to trigger the thought process and inquisitiveness to go beyond the classrooms and textbooks,” says Prof. D. Narayana Rao, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University. And it’s this inquisitiveness and thinking out of the box that will make all the difference in the post-CoVid world.
“Education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think,” said Albert Einstein. In recent years, there has been a sea-change in the understanding of what we need from professionals of tomorrow. We need thinkers and thought-leaders that can shape the future. Interestingly it has coincided with new-age digital disruptions that have made information easily accessible to Gen Z. Knowledge acquisition for them, is not limited to classroom learning. The new Internet age has practically made traditional modules of learning redundant.
Traditional learning worked on “one size fits all” model with the unreasonable expectation that all students have similar capabilities. If learning institutions and educators have to keep up with the evolving demands of the industry and Gen Z learners, they have to embrace new-age advancements. These pedagogies and technologies encourage students to be inquisitive, to explore and innovate. New age universities like SRM – AP, Andhra Pradesh have already incorporated these advancements in their learning experiences for students.
“Interdisciplinary communication is where truly great ideas emerge,” said Carl Seger. As work environments get more collaborative across functions, it’s vital for future professionals to have insights into streams that are beyond their domain. Moreover, experts also assert that multidisciplinary learning encourages lateral thinking, which is a sought after trait in tomorrow’s professionals and leaders.
Active Learning places greater responsibility for learning on students as they are actively involved through case studies, role plays etc. It does not diminish the role of the instructor but simply puts more onus on learners, which develops problem-solving skills amongst them. Application cards, minute papers, visual modeling are some of the advances in strategies that are being adopted by leading learning institutions today.
AI become the buzzword and is certainly here to stay. It has revolutionized the way curriculums are delivered across schools and Universities. AI has the capability to arm educators with insights to understand students’ performance, their strengths and weaknesses. This information can be used by educators to offer more personalized guidance to suit their specific needs. AI tools overall generate a more dynamic learning experience for students.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
Virtual Reality has taken the education sector by storm due to the truly immersive experience it creates for learners. It makes it easier for students to process and absorb the information they are getting. Augmented Reality through the mediums of video clips, images, animations etc. create a real-time experience while keeping students engaged. Experts believe it can enhance creativity, problem-solving skills and critical thinking skills amongst students.
Remote to Hybrid learning
Remote learning was already gaining prominence before it was necessitated by the pandemic this year. The potential of virtual classrooms is limitless as high-quality learning is made available to students across the planet. Modern technologies like Zoom, social media, video-conferencing are being leveraged to deliver highly productive sessions for educators and students alike. These learning experiences complement offline learning into a powerful Hybrid learning module.
Education sector as we knew it has gone through a reboot. It’s up to learning institutions and academics to keep pace and put their best step forward. Some of the pioneers of new-age education in India like SRMAP are already leading the way.
Since its inception in 2017, SRM University, AP has raced towards its vision of becoming a world-class university that is globally connected, nationally relevant and regionally transformative. The ambitious plan for the multi-stream research university was built on its state of the art infrastructure, new age curriculum, and a strong faculty team. At the heart of it all has been the sprawling, green campus designed by American architects, Perkins + Will.
But the campus of any learning institution is only its foundation. It needs to be harnessed and complemented by a holistic, dynamic learning experience that can give students the edge in their respective careers. Undoubtedly, it is hard for freshers walking onto the nascent campus to envision it for their future. “Not knowing what my journey was going to be like was the most challenging part for me,” confesses Alluri Harika, CSE, student of the first batch.
In three years’ time, she not only graduated with a specialization in Cyber Security but also got placed with Optum Global for a plum package of Rs. 11.59 LPA. “I wanted to experience diversity. I went through many stages of knowing about the faculty, university culture, curriculum, campus diversity. It showed their willingness to provide an efficient and global standard of teaching. I would say we grew together a lot in three years,” she adds.
Campus diversity of SRM University, AP is much talked about because it in itself is an enriching experience for students. Sri Harsha TR, who also specialized in Cyber Security vouches for the impact it had on his transformation as he says, “I had some amazing discussions and interactions with students from different streams on campus, in research labs. I also learned a lot while I was organizing festivals. It’s the diversity that I miss the most today.”
Today, he is realizing his professional dreams after converting his internship into placement with AbInBev for a handsome package of Rs. 12+ LPA. Students of the first batch of SRM University, AP unanimously agree that their initial scepticism faded quickly as the curriculum went from strength to strength. They also got the opportunities to explore a wide range of platforms to grow and showcase their talents.
Nilofer Sultana Mohammad, who specialized in Data Science and bagged a placement with Barclays Global Service Center reveals how campus activities groomed her personality and instilled a sense of independence in her. “Always being a part of organizing committees made me a multitasker, who could manage time efficiently. I also overcame my fear of public speaking and became more persistent,” she says brimming with confidence.
Her defining moment came when she attended a semester at the prestigious University of California, Berkeley. Nilofer admits that it changed her perspective about the world and her own life, and made her an independent woman. That seems to be the story for all students, who have been part of the young SRMAP campus. They have broadened their horizons, gained new perspectives, built a strong professional foundation, and transformed with their university.
What is Energy Storage?
Ever since humans mastered energy capture, energy storage and retrieval for use at a later point of time or place has been the key pursuit in power engineering. As per Wikipedia, “Energy storage is the capture of energy produced at one time for use at a later time. A device that stores energy is generally called an accumulator or battery.”
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Why is it important?
Energy comes in multiple forms, which include radiation, chemical, gravitational, electrical, temperature, and kinetic. Energy storage technology converts energy from these forms into economically storable forms that are safe and accessible.
Energy storage systems are assuming greater importance with the increasing focus on sustainable energy (solar, wind, hydro) electric vehicles and the rapid rise in use of battery-powered electronic devices like smartphones, which has led to a surge in production of lithium-ion batteries. This makes energy storage one of the most promising upcoming sectors.
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What are the industries involved in Energy Storage?
When one thinks of Energy Storage, one immediately thinks of batteries. However, batteries are about storage and retrieval of chemical energy, but energy is of many different types. A hydroelectric dam, stores gravitational potential energy, ice storage tanks store ice frozen by cheaper energy at night to meet peak daytime demand for cooling, and fossil fuels such as coal and gasoline store ancient energy derived from sunlight, buried and over time and then converted into these forms. Industry application include power storage and distribution obviously, but also automobiles, real estate, mining, and telecom.
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Who is the field relevant for?
The demand for energy storage systems is likely to grow exponentially globally as the world shifts towards renewable energy sources. This shift will mandate both grid level and unit level energy storage systems that are of a viable size, cost, and energy efficiency. Significant research is currently being conducted on materials, engineering, and other optimisations.
The kind of backgrounds required for this field could include:
Metallurgists for analysing potential of viable materials,
Chemical engineers and chemistry graduates,
Automobile engineers interested in electric vehicle development
However, energy storage is somewhat interdisciplinary bringing together material science with expertise in the energy storage using sectors.
What are the career prospects?
Estimates by Lux Research, an independent research and advisory firm, suggest that the global industry for energy storage could be worth $100billion in the next few years.
Given the focus, demand, and growth, energy storage sector will generate significant jobs in the future. Moreover, due to the shortage of qualified professionals relative to demand, entry salary and salary growth prospects are positive.
How do I get started?
The roadmap involves an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering or material sciences with a focus on specific courses in renewable energy and energy storage.
What are Nanomaterials?
Nanomaterials are substances or materials that are manufactured and used at a, as the name suggests, very small scale. ISO (2015) defines a nanomaterial as a ‘material with any external dimension in the nanoscale (size range from approximately 1 – 100 nm) or having internal structure or surface structure in the nanoscale’.
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Why are they important?
Nanomaterials are the most recent and most exciting development in materials science. Nanoscale materials have unique optical, electronic, or mechanical properties. Thus, when compared to the same material which is not at a nanoscale, they show more optimal performance measured typically in strength, chemical reactivity or conductivity.
What are the industry applications of nanomaterials?
The scope, unlike the size of nanomaterials, is massive:
Better building insulation,
More energy efficiency,
Nimble automobiles, aircraft, ships, spacecraft
…..there is nothing nano about the potential for nanomaterials and nanotechnology. There is every possibility that this field will touch just about every industry that exists today and will even create new and unthought of applications.
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Who is the field relevant for?
Considering that we have only just begun to understand the scope of development and application of nanomaterials, the future for this field is bright.
The kind of backgrounds required for this field could include:
Material Scientists, and
Physics, Chemistry, and Biology graduates.
However, nanoscience is essentially interdisciplinary wherein science is applied to engineering and hence a holistic mindset/approach is needed.
What are the career prospects?
As mentioned, the industries requiring this expertise are extremely diverse. Currently, nanomaterials have seen significant adoption in sectors like:
Energy, among others.
According to the widely followed recruiter.com, salaries in the USA range between $45,000 and $73,000 for nanotechnology engineering technicians. Needless to say, as use of nanomaterials expands engineers with significant experience can see their salaries grow significantly in the coming years, more so since demand will outstrip supply of candidates.
How do I get started?
The pathway starts from an undergraduate degree in engineering or sciences with a focus on specific courses in nanotechnology, nanomaterial, or nanoscience. Alternatively, with the growth of nanoscience in India several universities including SRM AP offer undergrad and masters courses with specialisation in nanotechnology. This can be coupled with the many options available at the PhD level in this exciting field.