The Harmonious co-existence of Paradox- Voices interviews Prof. Ram Akella, President AANA.- 16th Dec 2008

He walks through the crowds meeting his old friends,
reliving those days of yore with a spirited enthusiasm
that would be hard to match. He has big dreams for
his alma mater; he goes misty eyed recalling his
childhood on campus; the manner in which it influenced
his growth as a researcher and the person that this
place made him. For him, the Institute is his extended
family. His twinkling smile cannot hide the pride he
feels for the institution and his eagerness to give back
to it in abundance. He is overwhelmed with all that is
happening and has immense words of encouragement
for the students for whom he is a fascinating alumnus.

He is Prof. Ram Akella, University of California, and
President, AANA (Alumni Association of North America).
Having spent his childhood amidst the campus greenery
as his father, Dr. A.K.Rao was a Professor at the Aerospace
Engineering; he reminisced about the 4.5 km walks
and his stay at Bungalow 8. Every tree, every stone,
every path seemed to sing a song to him, the song of
belongingness.

He is currently at the University of California, starting
a new department that is a confluence of Computer
Science and Management Science, called the Centre
for Knowledge Information Systems and Management
of Technology (KISMT). Prior to this, he had a stint at
Berkeley and Stanford. He completed his PhD (1976-1981)
from the Indian Institute of Science after graduating
from the Indian Institute of Technology. This was on the
insistence of his father who believed that the stringent
and rigorous environment of the Institute would ensure
an overall development. From here, he moved on to
Harvard and MIT for his higher studies.

He feels that different educational institutions hone
the students’ skills differently; in fact there is a
difference in the culture. While some places are more
competitive and aggressive, building the students for
the rat race; he believes that the Institute focuses on
modesty and sincerity, the yarn that binds this fabric
to date. Over the years, the institute has retained its’
refreshing goodness and that has to also be tempered
with an intellectual aggressiveness that will ensure the
development of talented multidimensional individuals.
Focus on leadership and entrepreneurship across
disciplines will propel and sustain this movement. The
perfect combination is a business like attitude with a
hint of mellowness.

He notes how it is important to compete with self and
have a questioning nature. He says that students should
do research when they feel that it is fun, otherwise it
could just be a waste of time for them. He also urges
that research should be substantive and have an impact
on the world and bring about a change.

For the Institute, he feels that greater international
collaboration and industry experience will ensure that
it is on the top of the order and we will realize the
Alumni aspiration of seeing IISc as one of the top five
Research institutions in the world. He highlights the role
of the Alumni in this regard in garnering intellectual and
material support for the institute.

He expresses how the harmonious coexistence of
paradox is the identifying factor of IISc and closes with
few words, “IISc is the best!”

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