EDUCATION

'Param' pioneer to head Nalanda University

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  • Dr Vijay Bhatkar, founder-Executive Director of CDAC and the architect of India's Param supercomputer series has been named Chancellor of Nalanda University

To head Nalanda University, the 21st century avatar of one of the world's most ancient seats of learning, the President has appointed distinguished computer scientist Dr Vijay Bhatkar.

The announcement was made by Rashtrapati Bhavan last week and Dr Bhatkar takes over as Chancellor immediately for a period of three years.

Dr Vijay P Bhatkar was born in October 1946, did his M Tech at the Sayajirao University Baroda and obtained his PhD from IIT Delhi in 1972. He moved from a position as technology policy planner in Delhi to head the Electronic Research and Development Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, where he headed many pioneering projects in plant automation, color television roll out and even critical security infrastructure challenges.

However he is best known as the architect of India's national initiative in supercomputing—the Param programme of supercomputers, in the 1980s and 90s which he led as Executive Director of the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Pune. Parallel processing technology was then in its infancy—but he put his faith in the technology, though leading supercomputer players like Cray said it would not work.

'Param' pioneer to head Nalanda University

Dr Bhatkar explained to me the genesis of the name for the Indian supercomputer: "In 1990 we had a prototype—within two years of starting the programme. What should we call it? After long hours of thought and meditation, I hit on a name: 'Param' means supreme and Param is also acronym for parallel machine."

Based on the Param series of supercomputers  (which continues to grow even today) a new generation of leaders, led the effort to connect multiple Param computers into the Garuda Grid which went on to become the National Knowledge Network (NKN).

In recent years Dr Bhatkar has continued his scientific leadership in new roles: as Chairman of ETH Research Labs, as National President of the people's science movement Vignana Bharati and a member of many national science advisory committees. He is a recipient of both Padma Shri (2000) and Padma Bhushan (2015) and continues to articulate a vision to make India a supercomputing power in the exascale era.

Ancient and modern

Nalanda University located in the town of Rajgir, in Bihar, is a postgraduate, research-intensive, international university supported by the participating countries of the East Asia Summit. The University was created in 2010 by a special Act of the Indian Parliament and has been designated as an “institution of national importance”. The first students joined in 2014. It is close to the site of the ancient university which thrived from the seventh century BC to 1200 AD. At its peak, the ancient school attracted scholars and students from near and far with some travelling all the way from Tibet, Korea and China. The first chancellor of the modern university was Nobel laureate Dr Amartya Sen.

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