Saturday, May 15, 2010

Vacation 2010

Passing through one of the busiest period. A major pending work : 40-50 page revision of Comm. Book for US edition. has to be finished in this vacation period itself. Already exceeded time limits. Feeling guilty. Perhaps will put up something like this as status message : “Thank you for not considering me till vacation ends i.e. July 3rd week!”

In fact, this is what I conveyed to a multinational research lab.’s India (Bangalore) head when he visited our lab. and discussed possibility of a long term collaboration - invited me to their Bangalore centre for discussion. This organization is in top three in terms of numbers of US patent filed last year. Also it appeared they give a good deal to university researchers in terms of IP sharing etc. I humbly asked if we can start the exercise in Aug. since my hands are full now and I shall be available in email if you need any info. etc. I am grateful that they appreciated it and schedule is drawn accordingly.

Few days back there was an important project meet with a big sponsor from abroad. A new young faculty colleague nicely presented a new proposal and defended it quite well. There was one component in the proposal – every three months for next three years he has to go abroad to participate in a series of high profile meetings. One senior faculty cautioned on this part. Given the kind of load in other projects and regular activities at IIT – it may be quite stressful to commit such a schedule in one project itself. By the time one has returned and disseminated the ideas, preparation has to begin for next visit and it has to be sustained for three years! In return journey I gave my input to the young colleague sharing same concern on time management so that he can take an informed decision.

This is vacation time here. It does not mean vacation from (i)own existing project review, report preparation, submission of utilization certificates (ii)participating/coordinating new institute research initiatives and following up (do not want to say "No" if it is inst. initiative i.e. for greater good, benefit reaching larger number of people in the organization)(iii)research meet with existing/prospective collaborators (iv)commenting on others’ new project proposals and evaluating progress of existing projects of others as review committee member (v)coordinator’s job in an existing national mission project and a new role in another mission project (vi)admission process to IIT (vii)coordinator/faculty role in short term course for faculty members of other engineering colleges arranged in vacation (viii)journal paper review of others and the ones being submitted from our research group, PhD thesis checking and sending report (ix)finding people of new projects approved and arranging training for them (x)guiding/monitoring progress of different sponsored projects and research outcomes …… all these besides usual admin. responsibilities. I also have overlapping interests in some of the neighborhood NGOs engaged in community service. And not to forget the book writing job with which I started this post. In fact, the one next in series, me as single author, is waiting for this to be completed. The initial work done. The sponsoring editor (from India) does not allow me to forget. I appreciate that. That is the way to get job done from us! A major respite in this vacation of course is no class room teaching, answer-script checking. Trying to make the most of it.

I often quote a once-popular Tata Steel catchline – “We also make steel”. An analogous statement for us would be – We also have a family. And in so called vacation period like this their expectation level is different. Yes, planned a week of vacationing. Rest is all work. The highest priority of course is to meet the publication related commitment.

Boss at home often says cynically which is highly correlated (That’s what makes a boss perhaps!) with the comment of super boss that got lot of media attention. “The amount of effort you put, I wonder when can I expect a nobel prize from you!” She is quite right. To save time, to enable multi tasking, a good amount of work I conduct through virtual meeting – email, chat. This also helps me to responding to that thread when I am most prepared for it i.e. properly switched off from previous tasks and switched on to these. These extend work hours. And there is hardly any difference from home and office as far as my contribution to the family is concerned. Credit goes to everybody in family for being a great support. Thanks are also due to them too who consider my service is of any use. Unless there is anything compelling or I want a break of some sort I may not be available with a new post in this vacation. From UG students completing 1st year there was a request on how to make the most of IIT days. I discussed that in person. I also told that I would come up with a post when I gather more thoughts on it and take views of my colleagues. Let me see if that can be done soon! Bye for now.

This post may also give a on clue what keeps an average IIT faculty occupied with! Or the the title could be changed to "Vacation - IIT way" :-)