Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Interview of Prof. Shyam Sunder Agrawal , an eminent scientist in the area of Acoustic Speech and Communication, currently working as the Director General at KIIT Group of Institutions (Former chairman, Acoustical Society of India)

Q. First of all, how did you find the campus and hospitality of the college?
A. The day, today, was a very pleasant, in a beautiful campus. The campus has very nice architecture, many different varieties of beautiful flowers, so much greenery around here and very peaceful and calm environment.

Q. What was your inspiration behind your decision of choosing the field of speech processing?
A. The field speech processing is definitely a bit different from other fields. My reason was that It is basically an inter-disciplinary field. It is an area which includes various aspects of engineering and science. One needs signal processing techniques as well as aspects of artificial intelligence techniques, and programing skills. One also needs linguistics and phonetics skills. It involves biological aspects also at higher levels. I was in my Master’s degree in electronics and I did a project under supervision of some person who worked in the field of speech therapy. I found the field interesting, it was a bit difficult from others and very few people were working in the field. I had a fascination of Hindi language as it is my mothertounge, I started working in speech processing of Hindi language, So the beauty of Hindi and field were both my inspiration.

Q. With a lot of difficulties in the journey what kept you moving ahead on the path?
A. There were some ups and down but fortunately I got opportunities to tackle them down. Firstly, immediately after my Master’s degree, there was an economical pressure to do some job for the livelihood for the family, I got some options as a lecturer in a college, but I wanted to do research. I got research opportunities but there was no fellowship in the beginning. My family supported me for the period. After six months, I started getting fellowship and things went ahead. Second time was when I finished my job as lecturer in university, fortunately I got the appointment as a scientist from Govt. of India. And I worked in the speech processing field there, around thirty years, I got many projects, worked as head of institution and retired.

Q. After completing career as a scientist for the government, you are still working in the field, tell us about the journey after retirement.
A. Even after the retirement, I got an opportunity to work with an American scientist as a researcher. Later when I joined a group of institution, but as you know in private institutions the research is not permitted at a high level as scientists do, so I moved on from there, I started working for my own and now we have a group of faculties and delivering projects to many big companies like Nokia and some government supported projects too.

Q. In this long journey, you have visited researchers and institutions from many country, how was that experience?
A. In the meantime, I’ve been to many countries under different fellowship schemes, I have visited various institution, worked as visiting researchers in various institutes as MIT California and others. I was in Europe for a period as a researcher, the experience was very good, in other countries I saw a bit upper level in research than us but our country is working very hard to excel.

Q. As u told us, institution does not support research at higher levels, what are your suggestions for the institutions so that they could adopt better policies?
A. There are two things associated with this, first is the university with which the colleges are affiliated. Higher education needs research at higher level, one needs to innovate from the knowledge gained in his life. If the universities are confined to only syllabus and few exams in higher education, the students will not grow much, they will not innovate. The universities need to support research and they must think about it. Second thing is the management of college and their vision, what they want to achieve and deliver from the college, if they focus on delivering better to the society they must provide valuable atmosphere and facilities for the researchers. The quality of professors and supervisor for researcher affects a lot in higher education so the management should ensure better faculties to promote research there.

Interviewed by: Surya Pratap Singh and Pragati Baheti
Edited by: Vipul Barodiya and Oshin Malviya

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