The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) is one of the premier centres of scientific research in India that works at the very cutting edge of world science, bringing visibility and international recognition to scientific efforts in India. To facilitate a greater role in world science and technology, TIFR has started an ambitious new campus in Hyderabad, the capital of the newest member in the family of Indian states, Telangana. The site of the ~200 acre campus, adjacent to the University of Hyderabad, has been generously made available by the state government, to nurture research and higher education in the region.
The TIFR Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences (TCIS) is the first centre of TIFR Hyderabad. TCIS faculty are young and dynamic, and drawn from all the three major branches of the natural sciences and engineering. Nearly a hundred graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and scientific staff already work here on research topics that are carefully chosen across the life sciences, chemistry, physics and materials sciences. Substantial experimental efforts have commenced using tools of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Laser Sciences, Condensed Matter Physics, Synthetic and Biological Chemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology. These experimental efforts are well complemented by wide-ranging theoretical approaches in both Physics and Chemistry. This well-rounded, multi-pronged approach has distinct merits – around the world there is increasing cognizance of the fact that some of the most interesting research in solving human problems is done at the frontiers of disciplines using tools from various streams to comprehensively address a scientific question. The department-less structure at TCIS allows scientists to truly understand, engage in and contribute to each other’s research in ways that cannot be possible in the best of other research institutes in the country. This truly presents a unique opportunity in the context of Indian science.
At TCIS, outreach efforts are taken very seriously too, whether it is in organizing a series of popular talks by scientists who are leaders in their fields, called Sawaal-Jawaab, or in visits by school and college students to our facilities; even if a handful of these students are excited by the possibilities that Science opens up, it will be a worthwhile effort. Being the first centre of TIFR Hyderabad, TCIS is planning to incubate a broad set of activities to allow the seeding of further programmes in TIFR Hyderabad. In the longer run, TIFR Hyderabad is envisioned to have nearly 250 faculty members working in different theme-driven centres covering all areas of the natural sciences, mathematics and computer science.
Thus in the three main elements of the vision of TIFR’s new campus involve:
- Unification of traditional disciplines under common themes, while maintaining the rigour that characterizes individual disciplines.
- Convergence of fundamental and applied sciences, facilitating new technologies
- Unification of research, science education and outreach in ways that reinforce and elevate each other.
India is at the cusp of rapid development, which will in a large measure be facilitated by highly trained scientific personnel. There is a critical need for both quality and quantity in scientific training and TIFR Hyderabad will cater to both. Not only is the timing unique, our location in Hyderabad is fortuitous too. The proximity to institutes like the University of Hyderabad and the upcoming National Institute of Animal Biotechnology (NIAB) should generate synergy and innovation both in research and in conducting academic programmes. Fruitful interactions are also currently underway with academic institutions in Hyderabad with overlapping interests like IICT, CCMB, CDFD, IIIT, IIT Hyderabad and BITS Pilani, Hyderabad. Interactions with Information Technology and Biotechnology companies in our vicinity are envisioned and industry collaborations will be actively encouraged to translate science to real world applications. Over the coming years, we aim to make Hyderabad one of the powerhouses for knowledge in India, providing vital highly skilled personnel for myriad industries and academic institutions around the country driving overall economic growth, and as importantly, the growth of scientific attitudes to the challenges that face us.