‘IT is application-oriented while CS is more theory, they are almost the same’

Dr. Srija Unnikrishnan is the Principal of Fr. Conceicao Rodrigues College of Engineering, Mumbai. She completed her graduation from College of Engineering, Trivandrum and her Post Graduation from Osmania University, Hyderabad. She is currently also a research guide, guiding four PhD and M.E. projects. We interviewed Dr. Unnikrishnan on her thoughts on whether engineering is relevant in today’s times.  

What has changed in undergraduate education for engineering students?   

The two main things that have changed are: the expectations that companies have from the students when they offer placements; and the syllabus of the courses. Companies these days expect that the student who takes on the job offer must have capability to take on work responsibly, rather than be trained to do the work. Unfortunately, though the syllabus has changed over the years, it still doesn’t reach standards required by the companies. Hence it is upon the teachers to make the studies relevant and prepare them for the future, be it for jobs or further studies.

What is your view on the ‘Computer Science’ versus ‘Information Technology’ debate?  

Students have no idea what stream to choose, and pursue fields according to what the society values. ‘Computer Science’ and ‘Information Technology’ are almost the same. Placement companies don’t distinguish between the two. Students from both streams are eligible for the same jobs but students do not have the knowledge select from them.  IT is application oriented while CS is a little more theory oriented.   

How are you managing the role as a Principal and ‘parent’ to the students at Father Agnel?     

The staff has always taken an initiative of meeting the student’s requirements, demands and giving quality education. Attitudes and tendencies of students keep changing, so we have to have keep them interested all along their engineering journey in college. Mandatory requirements  by AICTE and University of Mumbai have also to be met along the way as the Principal. Permissions are needed for initiatives in college where the management is very co-operative. So there is a balance between being both.

Do IITs do a better job than other engineering colleges?

The major difference is the residential facilities that IITs provide. It is a big advantage. My two sons are in IIT and I can see the difference. On an average, students from non-IIT colleges are not different in entry level engineering, but staying and studying in IITs makes a lot of difference. We have seen that it takes a few years for non-IIT students to meet IIT standards. In the long run, all students are not very different as it depends on the performance of the graduate in the company.  

What is the most significant research you have done?

The research was in telecommunications and the topic was ISI in band limited channels. ISI stands for InterSymbol Interference. When you try to send a signal through the band limited channels (frequency limitation when present), the major source of interference is ISI. So, my research work was on how to eliminate ISI.  The easy method is to use an equalizer but it is a costly affair. My method was to do pulsation at the transmission side such that you get the signal on the receiving side without ISI. This was one of my most significant research projects. I have done 22 research papers which are published as my thesis or ME projects.