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PyCon X Italy, May 2019: Aakanksha Chouhan, 2nd Year CSE student and member of Minsky group at Next Tech Lab gave an invited talk at PyCon X Italia in Florence, Italy. She was the youngest invited and funded speaker at the International conference on Python programming and its applications.

Aakanksha elaborated on her research at Next Tech Lab on better understanding Synesthesia using Artificial Intelligence. Her work in deep learning led her to exploring creative applications of AI. Aakanksha’s talk was attended by over 400 people and was well received by the community.

PyCon Italia is attended by thousands of experienced programmers, computer scientists and industry veterans looking to hire top talent in Italy. The conference was sponsored by industry leaders like Python Software Foundation, Intel, and IBM.

The event was held at the Grand Hotel Mediterraneo and hosted several speakers from around the world for the 4 day multi-track conference.

https://www.pycon.it/conference/talks/hearing-colours-and-seeing-sounds-using-python

May, 2019: Following discussions between SRM APs Biology research team (initiated by SRM AP Pro VC Prof. Narayana Rao and Dr. S. Chandrasekhar, Director CSIR-IICT, Hyderabad) and the Applied Biology division of CSIR-IICT, Dr. Manjunatha Thondamal, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology at SRM AP, was invited to establish a C. elegans facility at IICT campus and train the scientists/students.

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May 2019: A three member committee of the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) consisting of Dr. Vijay Laxmi Saxena, the General President (Elect), Dr. Manoj Kumar Chakraborty, the immediate past President of ISCA and Dr. Ashok Kumar Saxena, the past General President of ISCA visited SRM University-AP, Amaravati on 16th May and held discussions to organize the 108th Indian Science Congress at SRM University-AP, Amaravati between 3-7 January, 2021.

Dr. P. Sathyanarayanan, President, SRM University-AP, Amaravati, Prof. D. Narayana Rao, Past General President of ISCA and Pro Vice Chancellor, Dr. D. Gunasekaran, Registrar and Dr. B. Siva Kumar, Dy. Registrar welcomed the high level committee members. Dr. P. Sathyanarayanan chaired the meeting.

The ISCA committee along with senior functionaries of the university visited lecture halls, halls for plenary sessions, hostel accommodation, the inauguration and science exhibition venues and other facilities.  Prof. D. Narayana Rao made a presentation on SRM University-AP, Amaravati and Dr. B. Siva Kumar explained to the committee the logistic facilities available at the university to organize the Indian Science Congress.

The Indian Science Congress Association comprises eminent and established scientists, academicians, planners and science administrators of the government of India funding agencies and research scholars. The Indian Science Congress is held annually during 3-7 January.  India has the unique distinction where a major science event is customarily inaugurated by the nation’s Prime Minister who then unravels the scientific agenda of the country before a large and wide scientific community.

The Indian Science Congress also provides an opportunity for scientists and academicians of different disciplines to interact and formulate interdisciplinary research programs.

According to Prof. D. Narayana Rao, the ISCA committee were very much convinced that SRM University-AP, Amaravati has the necessary facilities, expertise, and commitment to organize the Indian Science Congress. “Dr. P. Sathyanarayanan and I are hopeful that the university will have the opportunity to organize the event in January 2021 and this prestigious opportunity will enable SRM AP to gain exposure to varied scientific research possibilities which will further improve its research programs and facilities.”

“I analyse texts that reflect the relationship between literature and environment with an emphasis on issues like pollution, resource crises, unchecked development and species extinction.” says Dr. Nibedita Bandyopadhyay who did her Ph.D. in English at IIT Kanpur with a specialisation in Environmental Humanities. Her journal papers and book chapters have appeared in reputed publications like Taylor and Francis and Lexington.

One example of the kind of literary text she speaks of is Ruchir Joshi’s The Last Jet-Engine Laugh, a novel that touches on the subject of resource capitalisation while exploring the generation gap in a Gujarati family over a century of political and social turmoil in post-colonial India.

In 2016, upon an invitation from the American Studies Association, Dr. Bandyopadhyay presented a paper on environmental humanities at a conference in Denver, Colorado. The following year she got a tuition award to participate at a conference in Cornell University’s ‘School of Criticism and Theory,’ where her mentor was historian Dr. Faisal Devji, from the Oxford University faculty.  “It was a workshop where we analysed texts on the tenets of literary theory and criticism such as feminism, post-colonialism, eco-criticism and cultural studies”.

For Dr. Bandyopadhyay the April 2019 Dartmouth conference on digital humanities was notable for both raising concerns about technology and presenting opportunities in preservation and analysis of literary and cultural texts. She emphasises that digital humanities can lead to increased interdisciplinary research that will be fruitful to her domain as well because environmental humanities is a field which constantly engages itself with other fields of research.

 “Even though traditionally ecocriticism and digital technologies have been in conflict, I see some interesting possibilities. Many eco-critics see modern technology as a major contributor to carbon dioxide emissions and as essentially anti-environmental. It is understandable how and why experts in environmental studies would resist adopting digital technologies at the heart of digital humanities. But if we judiciously combine ecocriticism and digital technologies, this will yield  some remarkable changes.” Nibedita says.

The Dartmouth conference was highly successful in its attempt to dispel some of these doubts. One of the keynote speakers, Prof. Sukanta Choudhuri of Kolkata’s Jadavpur University spoke about a project that digitalizes and records works by writers like Rabindranath Tagore. Dr. Bandyopadhyay shares some of her memories of the conference session: “I raised the question of the numerous regional Bengali dialects that can be found from West Bengal to Bangladesh and how to reconcile these variations and differences, and most importantly, the mode of approach. It is a good idea to make digitised versions of classical texts but these must be made available to the Third World countries. It needs to be open to a wide audience, the public at large. Or else it has no meaning.” Here again, Dr. Bandyopadhyay points out the hesitation among some scholars of conventional humanities to adopt digital technologies and how the benefits once clearly understood can help overcome the diffidence: “They are just not comfortable with the medium. We need to build a real collaboration between Computer Science and Humanities because digitalisation depends on the operation of programming languages that belong to computer science. Digital technologies can in fact help in three important ways – digitization can record certain lost texts on environmental studies, simple online tools like hyperlinks can connect a large community of users to digitised texts, and computational technologies like Voyant can provide analysis, and this applies to environmental studies too”.

The computational tools in digital humanities are not confined to literary boundaries. Dr. Bandyopadhyay points out how these technologies can also access the natural world. “Digital tools can help to record the population and extinction rates of species in the natural world as well as take note of global warming and climate change. It is a new and challenging approach as not much work has been done in this area of research.”

In the coming semesters at SRM AP, Dr. Bandyopadhyay, who has taught Communicative English to SEAS students and creative writing and fiction analysis to SLABS students, will look to infuse SLABS course work with elements of digital and computational tools and introduce students to the immense possibilities. “For example, once we select a text and create a situational context, the students, many of whom come from technological backgrounds, can actively participate in digitisation exercises, access computational tools and even develop new programs to expand research and facilitate the analysis of literary texts. It will make the journey even more exciting for them.”

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