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VAJRA Program Links UH Professor to Indian Institute of Technology at Madras By Janet Miranda

Gopal Pandurangan, professor of computer science in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of HoustonGopal Pandurangan, professor of computer science in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of Houston, has also served as visiting professor at his alma mater, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Madras, through a program designed to strengthen ties between universities in India and elsewhere. IIT Madras is the top ranked engineering school in India according to the National rankings of the Indian government.

The Visiting Advanced Joint Research program (VAJRA) was created in 2017 by the Indian government to establish visiting professorships at Indian higher education institutions for faculty from all over the world. Around 70 professors from overseas, out of about 260 applicants, including the United States were selected to engage in collaborative cutting-edge research with Indian faculty in science and technology areas including in areas such as computing, energy, water, health, security, nutrition, materials, and manufacturing.

“This is a fantastic program. It facilitates faculty and student interaction by bringing together researchers from different institutions” Pandurangan said. “It enables joint research collaboration that benefits the students at IIT.”

He has been part of the VAJRA program for one year, spending the summer at IIT Madras, where he collaborates with faculty member John Augustine. Pandurangan earned an undergraduate degree in computer science at IIT Madras.

As VAJRA faculty, Pandurangan helps guide research and works with Augustine in the fields of distributed computing, networks, and large-scale data.

During his time at IIT Madras, he also mentored students, giving talks and tutorials. He said that could be helpful to attract students who want to do a Ph.D. or a postdoctoral fellowship at UH.

“It enables collaboration not only with IIT students but with my own students at UH. They get to interact with foreign faculty, bringing a wealth of information and resources. This can benefit a lot of students, especially those who are looking to work with people from all over the world,” Pandurangan said.

In an effort to deepen the ties between UH and India, he hopes to help establish a joint Ph.D. program that will allow students to spend time at both institutions. That way, he said, students from both schools could benefit from diverse talent and more opportunities for collaborative research.