When Biden got a peek into IIT's cutting-edge research

Way back on July 25, 2013, then US Vice-President Joe Biden -- now the US President-elect -- had visited the hallowed portals of the famed Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B), and the memories of that trip are still fresh among officials here

Quaid Najmi Nov 08, 2020

Way back on July 25, 2013, then US Vice-President Joe Biden -- now the US President-elect -- had visited the hallowed portals of the famed Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B), and the memories of that trip are still fresh among officials here.

"We remember the trip well I had the privilege of welcoming him along with my team at the campus then. We offered him a bouquet of flowers," former IIT-B Director Prof. Devang Khakhar told IANS in Mumbai.

The others who were present to receive the dignitary included the present IIT-B Director Subhasis Chaudhuri, Prof. Hari Pandalai and Prof. Ravi Sinha and, on the subsequent tour, Biden even looked into a microscope.

Interestingly, Biden had not come for any formal convocation ceremony but for a closed-door interaction with women Ph.D. students.

"He was relaxed, jovial He also informed us how he was proud to have been in a teaching position for a couple of years in the US," former IIT-B Dean of Student Affairs Prof Urjit Yajnik told IANS.

Yajnik was specifically entrusted with the critical task of planning out the campus itinerary, identifying the students and departments which Biden would go around during his nearly three hours at the institution in picturesque Powai in the Mumbai suburbs.

Accordingly, Biden took a tour of the IIT-B's Nanofabrication Facility (IITBNF) in the Electrical Engineering (EE) Department and Geochemistry and Geochronology labs in the Earth Sciences Department here, said an official.

A doctoral student, Aditi Kothiyal from the IDP on Educational Technology, was selected to serve as Biden's tour guide, show him and walk through the labs, said an official.

The walking tour started from Victor Menezes Convention Centre (VMCC) along the infinite corridor with the first halt at the IITBNF, which she introduced to Biden as "a world-class facility".

"He was given a detailed overview of the research taking place at this facility on Nanoelectronic materials, devices and systems to which he listened attentively," said the official.

After donning the lab shoes, Biden and Aditi entered the Micro-Lab 2, where EE Department research students were eagerly waiting to show him the equipment used their research work and the research problems they were tackling.

At that time, a graduate student, Sanchar Acharya showed Biden a "completely home-built Chemical Vapour Deposition Tool" and explained in brief its operations.

Another student Rajul took over from there to present an overview of the ongoing research in the area of Nano-Sensors and even showed Biden the structure of one such Nano-Sensor under a microscope - which left him highly impressed.

One graduate student, Nehul Gullaiya, showed images of other such Nano-Sensors built in the lab for purposes like cardiac monitoring and detecting explosives and IEDs.

"Biden was especially interested in the latter application (detecting explosives and IEDs) and listened intently as the student elaborated on the Nano-Sensors' operations. He even asked a few questions to the other students in a friendly interaction," the official said.

Aditi took him on a tour of the other research experiments, aimed at development advanced logic and memory devices, solar photovoltaics and other apparatus.

Biden was fascinated to learn that the Department of Electronics & Information Technology-funded programmes enable students and researchers from all over India to use the facilities at IITBNF free of cost under the Indian Nanoelectronics User Program.

Before completing the tour, Biden made it a point to introduce himself and graciously shook hands with the support staff waiting there, waved to the students and others.

Stepping outside, he was received by two distinguished women -- then Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao and the former US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell and animatedly talked about the nano-sensor applications he was shown inside, particularly the one for detecting explosives and IEDs.

Officials said that the brief tour gave Biden a compelling snapshot of IITBNF which hosts students and researchers from all over India and international organizations get hands-on access to a state-of-the-art nanoelectronics research facility.

Nanoelectronics are tiny devices that serve as instruments of fundamental research and technological advancements in areas of computation, communication, healthcare and security.



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