Go for low hanging research fruit, Tom Kailath tells Indian students

10th July 2011
Go for low hanging research fruit, Tom Kailath tells Indian students
Chief Guest Prof Tom Kailath of Stanford University hands over a medal to a student at the convocation of IIIT-Bangalore on July 10 2011, as the Institute's Founder-Director S. Sadagopan looks on. ( Photo IndiaTechOnline)

Global guru  of information and communication engineering and professor emeritus at Stanford University, Thomas (“Tom”) Kailath,  has challenged Indian students to address pressing and practical societal challenges even as they strived to create the next big thing in pure and theoretical studies. Extracting water from water vapour or storing solar energy for use, by home makers, later in the day, might seem disconnected from the more esoteric, mathematical reaches of applied science. But he reminded them of the early work in information theory, whose algorithms and projections have found stunning application half a century later, in the communication technology that fuels mobile phones and high speed Internet.

Prof Kailath was the chief guest at the 11th annual convocation of the International Institute of Information Technology  (IIIT) in Bangalore, July 10, which saw just under 150 students graduate with degrees or doctorates in IT disciplines.

While all for fundamental research, he seemed to be striking a note of caution about the funding of such research in developing economies like India. “Go for the low hanging fruit”, he suggested to students, adding that there were earthy problems aplenty to engage and challenge them.

In his remarks, N.R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman of IIT-B’s governing body and founding father of iconic Indian IT company Infosys, said entrepreneurship was the key to eradicating poverty not just slogans like “Garibi hato” ( banish poverty). He commended the Institute that was already incubating five startups fuelled by the innovation of its own students. Institute Founder-Director S Sadagopan commended the state of Karnataka which had supported the establishment of an embedded systems lab to the tune of Rs 140 million ( industry had chipped in another Rs 90 million).
IIIT-B, was established in 1999 with a vision to contribute to the IT world by focusing on education and research, entrepreneurship and innovation. The Institute is a registered not-for-profit society funded jointly by the Government of Karnataka and the IT industry. Over the last 11 years the Institute has graduated more than 1200 post graduate students, who have established the insitutute’s brand in India’s infotech industry.

Prof Tom Kailath, the first Indian to be awarded a doctorate in Electrical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1961 has received numerous accolades during his half century with Stanford University where he guided over 100 students for their doctoral work. He is currently Hitachi America Professor of Engineering Emeritus at Stanford. July 10 2011