Designing Spaces for the People

JU News Desk
Published: May 2014

Vibharvari Kumar is exploring how changing infrastructure in a city can influences its people

vibharvariVibhavari Kumar has a degree in architecture, sociology and management, neatly tucked away in her academic profile. The amalgamation of these three different disciplines has enabled her to look at architecture and spaces from a people centric perspective. “As an architect you design spaces for people and in order to do so it is important to understand people, how they respond to concepts and what do they actually need from their spaces.” Hence, after finishing her B.Arch from REC (now NIT), Trichy, she went on to pursue her Masters in Sociology to gain an insight into people and their social behaviour. A professional who has freelanced as an architect for a number of orgnisations, she feels the best of designs come out when the feedback of the people who would be using the spaces are taken into cognizance. “It is also very interesting to note that how infrastructure designing can influence a particular neighbourhood. For instance, we can look at Dwarka in Delhi. The connectivity with Metro has changed the face of Dwarka, making it a much sought after suburb. My studies are based on somewhat similar premises,” says Vibhavari. Her research with the Department of Cultural Studies at Jain University under Dr. ChoodamaniNandagopal focuses on the socio-cultural impact of the upcoming Metro in Bangalore. It is entitled Socio-Cultural Impact on Street Scenario of Bengaluru with the Emergence of Metro: A Proposal for a Socially Viable Design Model-Peoples’ Perspective. While there have been a number of researches on management and economic aspects of Metro, there have been relatively fewer studies on how the transformations in the infrastructure of a city creates a socio-cultural impact. “My research has two dimensions, one is the physical tramsformations in the city space in terms of infrastructure, city skyline, business structures and environmental impact, second is the socio-psychological changes, that is, how is it affecting the attitudes of the people.” Keeping these parameters in mind, Vibhavari is examining the changes that have been witnessed in Bengaluru in the past thirty years. Another aspect that she focuses on in her research is what people expect from their neighbourhood for a socially viable sustenance. Bengaluru being one of the hubs of economic development in the country is witnessing a rapid progress, both in terms of physical infrastructure and culture. The addition of Metro is sure to add new dimensions to the city, making Vibhavari’s study important. As she puts it, “It would be helpful to the Government and urban planning authorities apart from the researchers and academicians.”

From the World of Art

Amarnath is looking at the fascinating realm of contemporary art in his research studies

amarnathM.S. Amarnath felt a pull towards art from an early age and his fascination continued as he grew up. The rangolis at home, popular arts on calendars and vehicles, illustrations in the books, all called out to the artist within him. So, it did not come as a surprise to anyone when Amarnath decided to pursue B.A. in Fine Arts and then MFA from M.S. University, Baroda. He has been painting for more than two decades now and has given several exhibitions in India and abroad. “I experiment with diverse mediums, acrylic, oil paints, water colours, tempra colours and even alternative materials such as mud.” Practicing art and teaching it has given him insight into the world of art and the transformations it has undergone. Amarnath feels that today, paintings have broken away traditional academic perimeters that used to focus on creating pieces based on perfected techniques and represented well known subject matters. “It is more about the process rather than the product. It gives an artist a freedom to explore various territories.” Besides, he has also taught in various institutions and is at present working as an Associate Professor at the School of Architecture, R.V.C.E, Bangalore. Based on his observations of the changing trends in paintings, he decided to pursue his doctoral studies in the domain of alternative approaches to art. At present he is pursuing his PhD under the Department of Cultural Studies at Jain University under Dr. Choodamani Nandagopal. He defines his research work as revisiting art from a specific perspective, in his case to examine how art has changed and how artists are experimenting with colours, medium, exhibition of their work and many more aspects. “There are a number of alternative choices that are available for the artists today in terms of material, format, the vocabulary and also styles,” says Amarnath. He is capturing the alternative approaches in his research work entitled, Alternative Approaches in Art Practice. “I have chosen the period from 2002-2012. Besides, the thesis will also contain 100 years of history of art, both of the east and the west. Another, dimension that I am exploring is how identities are created through the use of alternative approaches.” The completed research work will also contain a key to the terminologies used in alternative approaches to art. As a person who was is more involved in the practice of his art, Amarnath feels that pursuing his research degree took him into the realms of more serious enquiry. “My research has helped me hone my analytical skills further and has given me an altogether different insight into interpreting the things I see,” says the artist.

Studying Benefits of Microbes

Shwetha S. has always been fascinated by microbes and is researching on their beneficial usage

shwethaMicroorganisms have been both a bane and boon to mankind. A wide array of diseases that human beings as well as flora and fauna are plagued with has microorganisms as their causal factor. But, at the same time, microbes have also played a stupendous role in the development of the quality of life. And, Shwetha S. was impressed by these beneficial traits of the miniscule organisms that remain indiscernible to the naked eyes. “The microorganisms caught my imagination during my pre-university days when we were studying about algae, fungi and other microbes. I was drawn to the ways in which they can be used in agriculture, medicine, industry and also for addressing environmental issues.” A journey to gain an in depth understanding of microorganisms led her to an undergraduate degree and then a Master’s Degree in Microbiology. To pursue her interests further she then joined the Centre for Emerging Technologies at Jain University as a research assistant. Intrigued by the scope of research in the field and the opportunities available at the University, Shwetha then decided to pursue a PhD Degree at the Centre for Post Graduate Studies under Dr. T. Padmavathi. While doing background work for her research, she became particularly interested in Agricultural Microbiology. “Agriculture is one of the most common means of livelihood in India. It is not only important for the farmers engaged in it but a robust agricultural sector is also significant to ensure the food safety of the country. Some of the microbes can be very helpful in agriculture.” She zeroed down on Solanum melongena L., commonly known as brinjal, a common crop of North Karnataka as a plant. The title of her study is Interactions of Piriformospora indica with Solanum melongena. L.P. indica is a cultivable endophyte which colonizes the roots and has several benefits for plants. It acts as a growth stimulator, bio-control agent, helps the plants against salt stress and other stress factors. “The soil lacks phosphates which are usually supplemented by adding fertilizers. It helps the plants to absorb phosphates from the soil. I am still experimenting on how interaction with P.indica influences a plant in stress.” The biggest trial Shwetha faces in her studies is going through the waiting period. “While working with plant studies one has to wait for the entire growth of the plant to test each objective of the study. It is the only way to determine the influence of an organism on a plant.” But, she points the support from her guide and the Director of Centre for Emerging Technologies where she is doing a part of her experiments helped her in overcoming the various challenges she encountered. And, it has also encouraged her to pursue further studies. She intends to a post doc after completing her PhD and wants to continue researching in the field of Microbiology.

Working with Nano-Chemistry

Chemistry has always been the first love of Minchitha and she is pursuing her research studies in one of the latest areas of the subject

minchitaMinchitha K.U. is pursuing a PhD in Chemistry. She discovered her love for chemical reactions and their numerous applications while in High School and continued to be partial to them when she opted to study a combination Botany, Zoology and Chemistry while pursuing BSc. “The laboratory work that we used to do in high school, attracted me to Chemistry at first and I decided to take it up as one of the options during my undergraduate studies. Later, armed with a Master’s in Chemistry, she ventured out to pursue a PhD in the subject.

A research scholar with the Centre for Emerging Technologies of the Jain University under Dr. Kathyayini, her studies are in the field of nano-chemistry. “This field has a very wide application in the industries and when I came to know that studies were going on in this area at CET, I decided to pursue my doctoral studies here.”

Nanotechnology is basically the concept of manipulating matter on the atomic or molecular level and nano-chemistry is a relatively new branch of Chemistry pertaining to the laws and properties for assembly of atoms of nano-scale. To be more specific, Michitha’s study is based on carbon nanotubes. CNTs are of special interest because of their unusual properties and probable applications in a number of fields such as electronics, optics, nano-technology and others. Another application of CNT due to its unique properties is as a catalyst support in heterogeneous catalysis for organic transformations, the area in which Minchitha is working. “I am doing heterogeneous catalysis. The title of my thesis is Preparation, characterization and evolution of catalytic activities of multi-walled carbon-nanotubes: Transition metal oxides composites in organic synthesis.” The catalysts that Michitha is working with can be re-used and is non-toxic.

“I have synthesized benzyl acetate which has applications in perfumery and cosmetic industries amongst others. I am also working on increasing the percentage yield of synthesized products by optimizing reaction conditions,” explained Minchitha. She adds that the support she has got from her guide and Dr. Venkatesh has been exemplary and has been a source of inspiration for her.

A person who has always been interested in Chemistry, Minchitha plans to continue her research and make her career in the academic field by teaching. “I have always loved teaching. Right from my schooldays I was influenced by the role played by teachers in shaping their students.”

Applying Biochemistry

Maheshwari’s research studies revolve around application of biochemistry in pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry

maheswariMaheshwari joined the Centre for Emerging Technologies at Jain University as a research associate after teaching at one of the colleges for about a year. Keen on doing her research, this student of Biochemistry soon found her research interests aligned with the work going on at the Centre for Post Graduate Studies (CPGS) at the University. She decided to pursue her PhD here and is currently pursuing her studies under Dr. Bindu from CPGS.

“I was always interested in Biochemistry, more specifically, in clinical biochemistry. If we look around us Biochemistry is everywhere, right from respiration to digestion process,” says Maheshwari. She applied for the INPIRE Fellowship and was selected. “It was great and gave me further confidence. Let me add that my seniors at CET, especially Dr. Venkatesh supported me a lot throughout the process.”

Maheshawari’s study revolves around the latex protease, its properties and synthesis. The title of Maheshwari’s study is Isolation and purification of latex protease for pharmaceutical and biotechnological applications. “I am studying the wound healing properties of latex proteases as well as their industrial applications such as milk clotting for making cheese and detergent like applications.”

To get the opportunity to pursue research in the area of one’s interest is a boon but it is not without its own challenges. “In the initial stages everyone comes across some hurdles. Often one follows the protocol but does not get the desired results. At such times, you feel as if your work is going nowhere. But, once you sit with your guide and discuss the issues, they can always be sorted out. Dr. Bindu is an excellent guide and one can always rely on her to motivate her students,” Maheshwari shares.

At present she is concentrating on her research and wants to work in a field that would give her an opportunity to practically apply biochemistry to solve challenges pertaining to industrial processes, pharmaceutical applications and environmental issues.