In conversation with An Interview with Prof. Sanjay Puri, Chairperson, Special Centre for Nano Sciences

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JNU News is a bimonthly journal of Jawaharlal Nehru University. It serves to bridge the information gap and tries to initiate constant dialogue between various consitituents of the University community as well as with the rest of the academic world. Views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily of JNU News. All articles and reports published in it may be freely reproduced with acknowledgment.

In conversation with…..

An Interview with Prof. Sanjay Puri, Chairperson, Special Centre for Nano Sciences

Wafa: When did your association with JNU begin?

Sanjay Puri: I finished my PhD in 1987 from the University of Illinois, USA. Shortly thereafter, I joined the School of Physical Sciences (SPS) in JNU. At that time it was a nascent department, and we now have almost 25 years of growth. In the initial stages, SPS specialized in the kind of physics that I do, which is basically Non-equilibrium Statistical Physics. It was an ideal opportunity for me to come back to India and have a tenured job, and I've been here ever since. Of course, I still travel frequently.

Lakshmi: Tell us a little bit about the new nano-science Centre that you are working on beginning.

Sanjay Puri: In the middle of 2010, I was appointed as the Chairperson of the Special Centre of Nano Sciences (SCNS). As you would know from reading various articles and news reports, there's been a huge amount of interest in making and using machines, materials, medicines, etc. at microscopic length- and time-scales. There's been great research interest in harnessing activity at the nano-scale for scientific and technological benefits. The SCNS will bring together people from Physics, Chemistry, Life Sciences, etc. with distinct science interests but with a common theme, i.e., they would like to work at the nano-scale. There are many different and exciting things happening all over the world in this area and one hopes that we can have a similar world-class centre in JNU. We have started looking for faculty and we've been able to identify a few potential candidates. The most important part of any department or centre is the faculty. Once the recruitment process starts going, hopefully we'll be able to get a few excellent faculty in SCNS. The people come first and after that it's infrastructural facilities and instruments and so on.

Wafa: How far along is the Centre in terms of operation and what can we see in the near future?

Sanjay Puri: The Centre is already operational. We have appointed a visiting professor recently, a very talented person. I also have 10-15 very attractive applications from people with diverse scientific backgrounds. I hope the new Vice-Chancellor will hold selections for our centre on an urgent basis, so that we have people in place by the end of 2011. The advertisements have not gone out yet -- from the time of advertisements going out to people joining SCNS, we are looking at a minimum of 6-8 months. In parallel, we are trying to bring in adjunct faculty from other JNU schools and centres, because this is a strongly interdisciplinary kind of area.

Lakshmi: What are your immediate goals?

Sanjay Puri: I think my immediate goal would be to have four or five very good faculty members in place. It would be nice to have a senior individual, but usually it is hard to get people to move at a senior level. With 4-5 faculty members in place, we can have a pre-Ph.D. teaching programme and a Ph.D. in Nano Sciences. On a longer time-scale, once 8-10 faculty members are in place, then we could think of going for a Masters' degree. In the initial stages, I would like the colleagues who come to focus on building up research activities and programs.

Wafa: Are there a lot of similar centres in India?

Sanjay Puri: There are a few. The Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore has one, and there are a few other top places that have started nano-science programmes. We've been a little late getting into the act but we're into it now. I hope that, with JNU being such an attractive place, we'll be able to get good faculty and support.

Lakshmi: On a somewhat unrelated note, what can you say about your experience in JNU in the time you've spent here?

Sanjay Puri: I feel it's been an excellent experience. I've been very happy being in JNU and my 20 odd years have been highly productive and fruitful. In this period, 10 Ph.D. students have finished their theses under my guidance. I know some people grumble about JNU, and the fact is that it's fashionable to grumble! But I am always optimistic. The JNU blend of teaching, intense research and total academic freedom has factored very nicely into my professional activities, so for me it's been a very positive experience.

Wafa: Any particular memory that you have that stands out?

Sanjay Puri: My absolutely favourite memory is of walking on campus. I love taking long walks on campus, just exploring it. The JNU campus is really very beautiful. When I first came here 20 years ago it was much wilder. Now there are many more buildings, but then “development” does have to take place, I suppose! But there are still many beautiful spots on campus that I like exploring.

I think the other aspect which has been really nice is that JNU life is very vibrant. It's a pleasure to have such distinguished colleagues in humanities, languages, literature, etc., apart from those in science. At a science institute, I think I would have lost out by not interacting with extremely bright people from various disciplines. For me, being at JNU has been very pleasant.

Lakshmi: And to wrap up, what message do you have to the JNU community?

Sanjay Puri: We're primarily a research institution; and have mainly Masters' and Ph.D. programmes. What I would like to say to the students is that, regardless of what discipline or stream of research you've gone into, treat it as fun. In my own research career, I have been “working” very hard for the last twenty-five or thirty years now. But it doesn't seem like work at all because I enjoy it so much! So just treat your research as fun, enjoy it thoroughly, and other things will flow naturally. Don't get too tense about when your thesis is going to finish, or when a publication is going to come out, etc. All that will happen in due course when you approach your work with the right attitude.


New Dean/Chairperson/Proctor

  • Prof. R. N. Menon as Dean, School of Language, Literature & Culture Studies

  • Prof. Manu Mittal as Chairperson, Centre of Russian Studies, School of Language, Literature & Culture Studies

  • Dr. Neera Kongari, Centre for Japanese, Korean and North East Asian Studies, School of Language, Literature & Culture Studies has been re-appointed as Proctor.


  • Shri Ajay Kumar Gupta, Junior Engineer (Elect.) Engineering Branch

  • Smt. Prempati Devi, Office Attendant, Engineering Branch

  • Smt. Manju Verma, Office Attendant, IHA

  • Smt. Kusum Devi, Helper Mess, IHA

  • Smt. Geeta Dangi, Helper Mess, IHA


  • Dr. Kapilanjan Krishan, Assistant Professor, School of Physical Sciences

  • Prof. Rowena Teresa Robinson, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences

  • Prof. Shashiprabha Kumar, Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies

  • Shri K.L. Arora, Personal Assistant, Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences

  • Smt. Saroja Appu, Section Officer, Finance & Accounts Department

  • Smt. A. Vasantha, Senior Assistant, Project Finance Cell,. Finance & Accounts Department

  • Shri Shiv Kumar Sharma, Professional Assistant, Central Library

  • Shri Raj Mani, Professional Assistant, Central Library

  • Shri V.P. Gupta, Professional Assistant, Central Library

  • Smt. Neena Kapoor, Assistant Librarian, Central Library

  • Shri Ganga Sharan, Telephone Operator, Telephone Cell

  • Shri Surinder Kumar Bhargwa, A.C. Operator, Engineering Branch

  • Shri Alok Banerjee, A.C. Operator, Engineering Branch

  • Shri Lakhmi Chand, Security Guard, Security Branch

  • Shri Dhan Bahadur Rana, Security Guard, Security Branch

  • Shri Karan Singh, Havaldar, Security Branch

  • Sh. Ganesh Raosaheb Jagtap, Stenographer, Administ-ration Branch


Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli, Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies has been conferred the “K. Subramanyam Award” by the Defence Minister of India, Sh. A.K. Antony. This award was instituted by Dr. Swadesh Rana, an alumni of SIS by donating a corpus for an annual award which is conferred each year, on an Indian scholar, journalist or analyst who has made outstanding contribution in the area of strategic and security studies.

Prof. Saumitra Mukherjee, School of Environmental Sciences presented an invited paper on “Remote sensing Applications in Groundwater Management in view of climate change” in the National Symposium on “Climate Change-Research, Awareness and Capacity Building” in the 80th Annual Session of the National Academy of Sciences, India at Jaipur National University, from 2-4 December 2010. He also presented an invited paper on “Influence of Climate Change on Water Resources” in a National workshop on “Climate Change and its Impacts on Water Resources-Adaptation Issues” organized by Punjab University, Chandigarh from 23-24 November 2010. The Workshop was sponsored by Central Ground Water Board, Ministry of Water resources, Ministry of Earth Sciences, DST, WAPCOS and ONGC.

Dr. B. R. Deepak, Centre of Chinese and Southeast Asian Studies, School of language, Literature & Culture Studies was invited in the capacity of one of the leading China experts in the country during the discussions on India-China relations; with a select group of academicians, with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao held on 17 December, 2010. Dr. Deepak is the only researcher in the country who has delved into the studies of India-China relations during the freedom struggle, referring to the original classical as well as standard Chinese sources in China as a Nehru Fellow. During the discussions with the Chinese Premier, Dr. Deepak emphasized that civilizational as well as linkages established during the freedom struggle could do away with some of the mistrust between the two nations, and suggested that these linkages should be incorporated in the school text books of our two countries, so as a better understanding is developed between the two nations. During the discussion Premier Wen also expressed his views on India-China civilizational contacts and stressed the importance of cultural and youth exchanges in boosting the China-India strategic and cooperative partnership. He said that China and India, two open and lenient peoples with self motivation, have cultivated their brilliant civilizations, and forged friendship and jointly promoted the advancement of human kind through exchanges.

Campus Activities

Green Diwali

The will to bring in positive changes requires leadership quality and calls for innovation. This is what was witnessed, when Mahi-Mandavi hostel celebrated Green Diwali this year on November 5, 2010. The festival started in the morning with a plantation drive, spanning over beautification of the hostel premises and ended in the least amount of use of crackers in the University. The theme of the festival – go green – was initiated and led by the young Hostel-President, Mr. Phakharuddin Ansari and the members of his Committee. This move had already seen a huge success on the occasion of the Independence Day, August 15, 2010. The festive occasion was graced by the august presence of the Dean of Students Welfare and the Registrar of the University, Prof. V. K. Jain. He inaugurated the event and addressed a massive audience of the Residents, Wardens and other dignitaries. The first among over 150 saplings covering a range of fruits, flowers and shade was planted by the Dean himself, which was then followed by the Senior Warden of the Hostel, Mr. Ravikesh, other present dignitaries, volunteers and residents. The Dean congratulated the Hostel and its President for being the first in JNU to take such an Eco-friendly initiative and promised to develop the area in front of the Hostel into a beautiful park, work on which has already started. This move saw its gratification on the following November 14, 2010 when the first ever Bicycle Rally of JNU was successfully organized.

Chandrika Kumar, Research Scholar
Centre for German Studies, SLL&CS

'First JNU Cycle Rally' to Spread Environmental Awareness

The idea of organizing a cycle rally in the University was conceived by Prof. V K Jain, Registrar and Dean of Students Welfare and Dr. Abhijit Karkun, Professor at the Centre for French and Francophone Studies (CFFS) as an initiative to promote environmental concern in the university community. The First JNU Cycle Rally was also envisioned as a launch pad for the JNU Eco-Club, which would further the environmental cause by organizing successive cycle rallies, tree plantation drives, cleanliness drives at public places in and around the campus. Md. Phakhruddin Ansari, an MA student at the CFFS and President of Mahi-Mandvi Hostel, took on the role of co-ordinating and organizing the event. The office of the Dean of Students and the university Sports Office were instrumental in providing financial support for the rally. Mr. Ansari could also enlist the support of the presidents of all the student hostels on campus in organizing the event.

On November 14, 2010 around two hundred cyclists, young and old, gathered in front of the Administrative Block of this university to participate in the First JNU Cycle Rally. Before the start of the rally, the JNU Eco-Club was officially inaugurated by Prof. V K Jain, who took out precious time from his busy schedule to attend the event. Prof. Sachidanand Sinha, Associate Dean of Students, was also present. Besides university students, a considerable number of children of the non-teaching staff were also among those who enthusiastically took part in the rally. Dr. Abhijit Karkun himself, who also offered invaluable logistical assistance, joined in the pedal-pushing endeavour. Another member of the JNU teaching staff, Dr. Thomas Schwarz, a DAAD visiting lecturer at the Centre of German Studies who is a regular cyclist, also took out time to participate in the rally. The cyclists had to cover a distance of about eight kilometers proceeding through the Dakshinapuram residential area and passing the Old Transit House, Ganga Dhaba, Kendriya Vidyalaya, the hostels Tapti, Mahi-Mandavi, Lohit, Chandrabhaga, Koyna to come back to the Administrative Block. The participants shouted the slogans like “Let's Go Green, Go for a Green Campus”. Major P K Sangwan, the Chief Security Officer of the University, and his team of security personnel played an important role in managing the traffic on the route to be taken by the cyclists. They were presented with a certificate of participation.

The success of the First JNU Cycle Rally was evident in the wide-scale participation it saw. Its significance lies in its promise to be a potent vehicle of spreading environmental awareness among university communities in a time when environmental pollution and its associated dangers pose a serious threat to a sustainable and healthy life.

Md Phakhruddin Ansari, Athletics Convener,
JNU Sports Office and Omkar Joshi, Research Scholar
Centre for German Studies, SLL&CS


Workshop on "E-learning and Multimedia for Education"

The DIT sponsored projects at the Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University organized a one day workshop on "E-learning and Multimedia for Education" on November 3, 2010. The inaugural session was chaired by Chairperson, Prof. Sankar Basu. Dr. Girish Nath Jha introduced the theme of the workshop presenting the computational linguistics and e-learning related developments done at the Centre. Dr. Andrew Lynn of Communication an Information Service, JNU presented the Shiksha portal of JNU. Prof. Vaishna Narang, of SLL&CS gave the inaugural address and Dr. Maureen P. Hall from University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, USA gave the keynote speech.

The workshop had five sessions including the inaugural session. The secondary and senior secondary school teachers from some Delhi schools were also invited. Educationists, Sanskritist e-learning experts gave talk and presentations. The last (fifth) session was for industry participants who are working on e-learning and content development. Among these, Educomp, Adobe India and Chinh India Foundation presented their work on different topics in the area of e-learning and multimedia.

Girish Nath Jha, Associate Professor,
Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies

Two Day International Seminar on "The Literary and Cultural Legacy of India and Oman"

The Centre of Arabic and African Studies (CAAS) SLL&CS, organized an International Seminar on "The Literary and Cultural Legacy of India and Oman" on November 8-9, 2010. The basic aim and objective of the seminar was to trace and unravel the commonalities reflected in the literary and cultural milieu and ethos of both the countries and explore the avenues and to foster fast growing socio-cultural relations between the two countries. Keeping this in view, the Centre also decided on this occasion, to commemorate the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Oman more than five decades back. The programme was inaugurated on November 8, 2010 at 11:00 at the auditorium of School of Social Sciences and the chief speaker of the inaugural function was Prof. Zubair Farooqi ex-head of Department of Arabic, JMI, New Delhi, who delivered the key-note address in which he amply unfolded the contribution of Indian Scholars in the field of Arabic language and literature. Before the key-note address, Dr. Mujeebur Rahman of the CAAS, JNU, welcomed the honorable guests particularly H.E. Humaid Bin Ali Al-Manni, the Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman and H.E.Sami Al-Sulaiman the ambassador of Kuwait, Prof. Zubair Farooqi, Prof.Abdul Wadood Azhar, ex-Dean SLL&CS and Prof. Sankar Basu, the present Dean of SLL& CS. After the welcome address Prof. M. Aslam Islahi, the Director of the seminar got the audience abreast with the basic theme and idea of the Seminar and elaborated the fact that the relation between Oman and India goes back to time immemorial. H.E. Humaid Bin Ali Al-Maani who participated in the seminar as Chief Guest delivered his speech in Arabic stressing the significance of diplomatic relation and bilateral ties between Oman and India and forcefully averred that our relations with India are deep rooted and time tested.

On this occasion, H.E. Sami Sulaiman, the ambassador of Kuwait enlightened the audience with the ever growing diplomatic relation of Kuwait with India. After that, Prof. Abdul Wadood Azhar ex-Dean SLL&CS addressed the gathering and shared with them his experiences while teaching in J.N.U. He expressed his happiness over seeing an Arab ambassador for the first time among the students and scholars learning Arabic in J.N.U. After Prof. Azhar the present Dean, Prof. Sankar Basu delivered his presidential remarks in which he expressed his thanks to the organizers of the seminar who gave him an opportunity to highlight the significance of foreign languages in the context of present global scenario.

Before concluding his remarks, the Dean read the letter of regret sent by Mr. Sultan Ahamd, the hon'ble minister of State for Tourism, Government of India. In the letter, the hon'able minister expressed his inability to attend the programme because of his hectic schedule related to the American President Barak Obama's visit to India. In his letter however, he expressed the hope that the "present international seminar will surly help us to further improve our understanding of the beautiful relationship that people of India and Oman shared for decades and will lead to more people to people contact".

In addition to the inaugural session there were three more active business sessions of seminar in which more than 25 prominent Arabic scholars from India and Oman presented their valuable papers which roused the interest of the august gathering in the literary and cultural heritage of both the countries.

In the valedictory session, recommendations and suggestions prepared and tailored by the seminar committee consisting of some eminent scholars and academicians were read in Arabic by the seminar director. A few of these suggestions are as follows

  1. To explore avenues and create opportunities for the promotion of Arabic language and literature in India.

  2. To arrange scholarship and other incentives for students and scholars pursuing Arabic programmes in different Indian colleges and universities.

  3. To strive for the exchange of visiting faculty between Oman and India

  4. To explore the possibility of Arabic student's trips to Arab countries especially during summer or winter vacations.

  5. To organize seminars, conferences and symposia on topics related to Arabic studies and Arab culture.

  6. To make arrangements for training the teachers engaged in imparting the knowledge of Arabic in different Indian colleges and academic institutions.

Aslam Islahi, Chairperson,
Centre of Arabic and African Studies, SLLCS

Panel Discussion "Understanding Indian Society Today: Challenges & Opportunities"

"Understanding Indian Society Today: Challenges & Opportunities" was the theme of the panel discussion organised as part of the Alumni Week during November 15-20, 2010. In the opening remarks, the panel moderator Prof. Anand Kumar underlined the growing disconnect between democracy, development and governance in India in the recent years. The post Mandal dynamics of social changes has created new emphasis about the need of social justice. Similarly religion based political mobilization around Mandir-Masjid disputes has created new crisis about the constitutional commitments for secularism as well as protection of dignity of the minorities. The market centric shift in our economic policies has decentred the poor and poverty. These aspects of our national scenario need to be recognized.

Dr. Rizwan Qaisar (Historian) presented an analysis of the problems faced by the Muslims in their day to-day life as there is no solution to their voicelessness in the political and economic sphere. He suggested the need of time bound programme for education and employment among the minorities as the first priority of our policy makers to make secularism strong.

Dr. Vivek Kumar (Sociologist) discussed the major trends among the Dalits in the context of democracy and development. According to him there are seven dimensions of growing dalit assertion and movement in India as the result of social changes and political mobilization. These emerging dimensions include the first one is socio-religious reform movement; second is political empowerment through different political parties which began with ILP, SCF and RPI and continuous with BSP. The third movement is of Dalit employees like BAMCEF. Literary and creative writing movement comes fourth. Dalit women and NGO movement is fifth and sixth type respectively. The Diaspora is seventh in the string of Dalit assertion.

Dr. Ranjana Kumari (Political Scientist) participating in the panel discussion emphasized the need to check growing violence against women in domestic and public spheres. It includes, female foeticide, wife beating, eve-teasing and various forms of sexual harassment. We cannot put an end to this shameful situation unless there in sharing of power between men and women from family to parliament 33% reservation in parliament will be one of the most effective ways of giving respect to women in India.

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