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NIUS Chemistry, Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (TIFR), Mumbai

The National Initiative on Undergraduate Science (NIUS) is a major endeavour of the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE-TIFR) to change the experience of science education in India. In world-leading institutions undergraduates are not only consumers of knowledge but also augment it by taking part in research activities.

Undergraduates taking part in research is an almost unheard of concept in our country with the exceptions of prestigious institutions like IISERs and IISc etc. A vast majority of students who fail to make it to such institutions do not have opportunities to undertake a research project of their own.

The NIUS program is here to change that by giving such students an opportunity to work on a project of their own for a period 2 years during their holidays. The selection is really flexible and by non-conventional means.

Students are allotted mentors for the project, with whom the students stay is contact through the duration of their research.An individual will develop essential skills of referencing literature, planning and executing experiments and communicating their results in a concise manner in the form of reports to their mentors.

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Such skills are essential for future academic endeavours and are rarely found in students graduating out of the present education system. The academic environment is really positive and one is never limited by the availability of resources and access to the cutting edge. Students also gain an opportunity to use high end research instruments related to their project which they may have otherwise never have access to in less resourceful parent institutions. The NIUS Chemistry program offers students a wide variety of fields in which the student can conduct his or her project; some of which are Green chemical synthesis, Computational chemistry, colloid and interfacial chemistry, nanoscience etc.

Several NIUS students have successfully published their research in international peer-reviewed journals of high impact and have gone on to study in world leading institutions like the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester, TU-Berlin, Ruhr University-Bochum etc.

These endeavours of HBCSE are supported in terms of resources and people by leading academic institutions in the vicinity such as the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR).

Therefore the NIUS Chemistry programme is a golden opportunity for motivated students who are passionate about their subject and are willing to go beyond the limited learning prescribed in syllabi and to develop essential skills of academic research and also build friendships with people coming from diverse backgrounds.

PS: This article is a tribute to Professor Chitra Natarajan (HBCSE-TIFR) who passed away recently after a battle with cancer. She was a bright and jovial face at HBCSE who always encouraged NIUS students like me to write about my experience so that people like her who worked in science education and popularisation could use the student's perspective to bring change into the present system.

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Dhwanit Dave
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St. Xavier's College-Autonomous,
Mumbai

 


   
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