A man who smiles at odds – Manoj Kumar Patel (CSIR-CSIO)
When our team first got in touch with Manoj K Patel, One thing we noticed was his passion and dedication towards Science and Research in Agricultural Biotechnology. He climbed all his difficulties with a smile and achieved success at a very young age and who always enjoy writing and cooking. One word our team always remembers about Manoj K Patel personally was “I am not a Doctor yet and I just submitted my thesis, waiting for my Defence”- Manoj K Patel. Well lets take a ride to know personal opinions of Manoj K Patel about his successful journey. The surprise you will get after reading Manoj K Patel achievements can leave you in joy for a while.
Manoj has started his research career in advanced Agri-instrumentation, charged particulate technology for environmental pollution abatement and precision farming. He has conducted his research on electro-hydrodynamics of liquid sprays and aerodynamics of charged particulate matter at CSIR-Central Scientific Instruments Organisation, Chandigarh. His current research interests are agri-instrumentation, electrostatic liquid atomization and spray systems, research and development of electrostatic technology for pesticides spraying, electrostatic high range sprayers for pest control, real time monitoring and variable rate technology for targeted and controlled dose delivery of pesticides, airborne charged particulate technology for dust suppression and air-pollution abatement, electrostatic deposition of antimicrobial liquids for surface decontamination, edible coatings to perishable food products and fruits to enhance the shelf life, autonomous robotic systems for agricultural tasks and activities.
Manoj K Patel (Q&A) :
Biostandups: How do you define yourself?
Manoj: Simple, honest and believe in myself, caring and supportive for others, has a dream to contribute something for my country and I wish the world will recognise me with my work not by name.
Biostandups: Please tell us about your education?
Manoj: I started my early education from a government school of my own village and completed my secondary education from CIC, Karwi, Chitracoot. I have completed my graduation from NIT Jamshedpur and post-graduation from Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research (AcSIR). I had a good exposure of science and research activities during my post-graduation under the guidance of Dr. Pawan Kapur and Dr. C Ghanshyam at AcSIR-CSIO, Chandigarh, which has strengthened my passion towards technological innovations. My interest towards agri-instrumentation and electrostatic processes applied to agriculture got further strengthened during my PhD work under the guidance of Dr. Manoj K Nayak, where I studied electro-hydrodynamics and aerodynamics of charged particulate matter. As a graduate student, I developed specific interest to basics and minute details of electronics, instrumentation and technological aspects applied to agriculture.
Biostandups: Why did you choose this profession/field?
Manoj: There are numerous reasons for choosing this profession/field. First, I have a great respect and regard for the word ‘scientist’ and ‘professor’ from the early days of my study. In childhood days, I used to be excited when someone says he/she is a scientist or professor. In this way, I wanted to choose this profession from the beginning only. As I remember, in the year of completion of my graduation, I appeared for the interviews of ISRO as well as of CSIR on July 3, 2010 and July 10, 2010. I was selected for CSIR but could not make it for ISRO. Second, I belong to a family whose first profession is agriculture and farming. I have seen the pain and difficulties very closely, the farmers face. There is a huge gap between the work scientific institutions/communities are doing and what the farmers and farming industry need. There is a need to provide the solution for agricultural and societal applications through technological interventions. There are many unexplored areas to be explored in agricultural developments. In lighter mood, let me define my profession in this way “to fall in love with research was my interest, but to live with it is my choice.”
Biostandups: Can you give some insight about your passion for science and future goals?
Manoj: My passion for science and technological innovations was developed through the motivation of my father, who was a hard working farmer, and the patience and faith of my mother, who is a homemaker. My brother always promoted me for my creativity and new ideas that lie within me during the early days of my study and that is well reflected in taking up scientific research as my professional career. My parents and family members always gave us the freedom and liberty to explore and decide on our career path. In other words you can say “science is my passion and a way to live the life, it is not only work for me.”
As a project leader along with my team are working in the area of advanced agri-instrumentation especially electrostatic processes applied to agricultural and societal applications, looking more towards technological solutions for farming and societal industry. Technological interventions and automation & mechanization in agriculture may surely boost the productivity that could be used for sustainable food production in the context of increasing demand of nutritional and healthy food for billions of hungry tummies and also to promote food security. We have extended the electrostatic spraying technique for various applications such as electrostatic dust suppression and environment protection, edible coatings to perishable foods and fruits based on electrostatic spraying.
Biostandups: You have been appointed as Ambassador and Partner for Innovation Development by SRISTI. How do you feel about it and what are your responsibilities?
Manoj: It is a kind of voluntary work and responsibility given by SRISTI and Techpedia, since; I have received the Gandhian Young Technological Innovation (GYTI-2016) Award 2016 at Rastrapati Bhawan this year. SRISTI and Techpedia work in co-ordination with National Innovation Foundation (NIF) to promote the grass roots innovations. NIF is a member of Department of Science and Technology. I feel good and honoured to be a part of SRISTI, however at the same time; it gives a lot of responsibilities to live up to the expectations. In this regard, I have to make students, professors of research institutions and universities aware about the GYTI Award by promoting, arranging the seminars and talks at different forums and also by sharing through social media. Nowadays, social media plays an important role in dissemination of knowledge.
Biostandups: What are one or two of your proudest personal / professional accomplishments?
Manoj: I will put my answer to this question in different perspectives. As I told you, I belong to a family whose profession is agriculture. To take birth in a poor family and to become a scientist was also a kind of proudest accomplishment or you can say happiest moments for me. It has given a smile to my parents, though they do not know much about science and my work, but I can feel the happiness and joy they have.
The second achievement which is totally professional was to get the Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Award 2016 at Rastrapati Bhawan that too from my inspiration Prof. R A Mashelkar. I was happy and elated to win the GYTI Award 2016 as it always feels great when a scientist’s idea gets appreciated. It, further, gave me a sense of professional achievement as I received the award in the early age of my career. Moreover, NIF provides an excellent platform to grass root innovators, young researchers, scholars, students and scientists to explore the innovative ideas. SRISTI and Techpedia give a reasonable research grant under the different categories to execute your innovation into reality. GYTI award and other awards, I received also gives me a sense of responsibility to live up to the expectations conferred on me through this.
Biostandups: People with physical abilities complain lot and achieve less. Was your disability ever bothered you?
Manoj: As such no comments on first part of your question. However, in my personal opinion, complaining is not a solution of the problem. Go through the problem and try to solve it, get involve in the system about which you are complaining. Once you find a solution, you will never complain. Try to be a part of the solution, not a problem.
Truly speaking, I never think that I am differently abled. I took this as a blessing of God; I can devote more time to my work rather spending time here and there. I can do everything that I wish to do. I went to different places for my studies, stayed alone in Hostels, PGs, infact in my schooling days, I cooked my food also and this became among my hobbies. I like travelling, adventurous rides, visiting different places and having good friends. I did my graduation from NIT Jamshedpur, post-graduation from Academy of Scientific Innovative Research (AcSIR) Chandigarh and about to finish my PhD too. I use to attend meetings, conferences, lectures etc. at different places and it never bothered. It’s all about passion and dedication about you wish to do and achieve. In one line you can define it as “Ye Housale Ki Udaan Hai.”
Biostandups: What do you think are your greatest strengths as Scientist? In which areas do you feel you can use some further development?
Manoj: My greatest strength is my self-confidence, sincerity and hard work. In this learning process my parents and family played a very key role. They taught me that one should not leave a work just because obstacles/hardships are coming, don’t give-up. I am also a very self-motivated person.
I wish to continue my work in the area of grass roots innovations and developments for societal applications especially in agricultural instrumentation. Technological interventions in agricultural and societal applications are need of the hour especially for Indian farming and rural developing economies. Automation and mechanization in agriculture to enhance the productivity is another aspect that has to be given the priority.
Biostandups: Can you describe how you go about solving a problem? Please give us some examples?
Manoj: It is a very general question which is asked by interviewers very frequently and I also came across such questions during my final year of graduation. First you should know the problem or define a problem. In case of our field, the problem should generate from the industry & the end users. The technology or product in which you are working should be demand driven. If the product is not viable in the market or the work you are doing is going to be absolute until you complete your project, then who will be taker of your product. We should remember the investment done by the funding agencies which ultimately comes from the taxpayers of the country. Once the problem is defined, analyse it by applying your basic and fundamental knowledge. Here, the basic and fundamental knowledge plays a very important role that has been learnt during the early days of education/career.
After completing this phase, next is go for a solution. Solutions may be numerous for a particular problem, however every solution has its own limitations, good and bad points. In the case of technology developmental work, it requires multidisciplinary knowledge of science and engineering both. Once the solution is over, go for implementation. Let me put some example to clear my point. Though the scenario is changing very fast, still we are lacking to give a finishing touch to our products. What we do, we develop a prototype and do some sort of testing and validation and also use to publish it (90% of the work) and leave the target at final stage; we jump to other projects. Let me tell you, you have not yet achieved anything with this 90% of the work. The remaining 10% efforts will make you great and what is that, the technology must reach to the end user, to whom you were working for the past many years. Evaluation and key learnings must be acquired from the completed work even if it is a failure before switching to new tasks/projects.
Biostandups: Describe a situation in which you did all the right things and were still unsuccessful. What did you learn from the experience?
Manoj: Though my professional career is very sort however, it happened in many occasions. Especially in scientific profession, it happens very frequently. Most of the eminent personalities and scholars have seen failures and they are successful because they have learnt from failures. Truth is that, failures give you more learnings than success. If someone wants to be successful in the life, one should go through the failures of the successful personalities. Learning from failures requires patience. In my personal opinion, scientific profession is not a routine job which can be accomplished within working hours only. One should devote more time depending upon the field of work. The work should be output oriented rather than deadline based working style, of course time management is very important. But the truth is that we always wait for deadline to work and this losses the creativity and innovativeness.
Biostandups: What new skills have you learned over the past year?
Manoj: Since my graduation was in electronic and communication engineering and post-graduation in instrumentation so entering into a new field was bit challenging. However, I took this challenge as an opportunity and started my research career in Agri-instrumentation i.e. charged particulate technology, charging of liquid sprays for pesticides spraying, environmental pollution abatement and precision farming and completed my PhD work in agricultural instrumentation. Initially, I have learnt the basics of agricultural engineering, algorithms, computational and optimisation techniques etc. Later on, I have concentrated myself on information retrieval, scientific reading, listening and observing, collecting, recording and interpreting the data, data representation, scientific writing and knowledge presentation. It is very necessary to communicate and convey the message to the audience therefore, communication skill should be strong. Teaching has helped me a lot in this direction. A good researcher achieves the excellence as scientist and academician both.
Biostandups: Have you ever had a great idea but been told that you could not implement it? How did you react? What did you do?
Manoj: Yes, I have faced this situation at the beginning of my career only. In scientific career, such situations occur very frequently. I have taken that comment and advice positively and started working with the facilities. I have made it a success and I feel proud of that. I am never influenced by results, believes in keep trying, patience pays you ultimately.
Biostandups: What pedagogical changes do you see on the horizon in your discipline?
Manoj: Since, I am from engineering background, so let me address this question in that perspective. Grass root innovations and technological interventions are playing a key role in improving the life of farmers and developing rural societies especially country like India where more than 60% of the people are associated with agriculture and relied upon farming industry. There should be a multidisciplinary approach which leads to a product or a process. The dependency on other countries, to import costly equipment or machine which is not even affordable to Indian farmers, must be minimised by engaging R&D activities in niche areas of agricultural instrumentation, to promote the industry towards indigenously developed products.
The agricultural scenario has been witnessing a sea change for last decade. An entirely new set of issues has been arisen such as natural resources depletion and degradation due to excessive use, human labour scarcity and increased costs for agriculture due to urbanisation and change in living style, household nutritional insecurity, slowed growth in farm profitability, food safety and trade competition. These issues offer very exciting challenges and opportunities that require frontier technologies and innovations in sustainable agriculture development and that too must be cost effective, affordable to Indian farmers. Some of the exciting areas are: use of machines and equipment to efficiently carryout farming tasks and activities, soil and water engineering aspects to efficiently use limited resources like land, water, drip irrigation and sprinkler systems, mechanical harvesting of crops, value addition and storage, transportation, agro energy in particular bio energy, biomass conversion, wind and solar energy for farm machines and on farm use to reduce energy costs. The next green revolution has to be achieved through technological interventions.
Biostandups: Think about a co-worker from the present or past whom you admire. Why?
Manoj: I read about life stories of many eminent and great personalities and the most prominent among those are Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Prof. Stephen Hawking and Prof. R A Mashelkar. I am a big fan of Prof. R A Mashelkar whose scientific contributions took the country to new heights. Prof. Mashelkar is one of India’s most respected, eminent and global thought leaders. I am always inspired by his speeches and thoughts. He is an outstanding scientist, an inspiring speaker, an accomplished author, a visionary leader and above all a very fine and simple living human being. He is an eternal optimist and passionate believer in the future glory of India. I remember the words he spoke about me when I received the GYTI award 2016 at Rastrapati Bhawan. Nothing is great in the world when someone receives such appreciation from the person to whom he admires. I really feel great and honoured to receive the award at his hands.
Biostandups: What would your co-workers or your supervisor say about you?
Manoj: Before, I go to answer your question, let me thank to my co-workers, friends and colleagues, who have helped me always, motivated and encouraged me. If I am here, it is because of my friends. My co-workers and colleagues always exchange healthy words with me. As a supervisor, Dr. Nayak has always been supportive and encouraged me to think differently, promoted the creativity and innovativeness lies within me. Dr. Nayak’s views on me ‘Mr. Patel is very innovative, creative, logical, meticulous and extremely well organized and excellent at time management. I see him as a leader who is leading from the front and excellent team member to the valuable input to tasks in the sense both for science and practical applications. A strong work ethic is a great asset to the organization to be proud of and a desirable quality for almost any position. Patel is also very social and helping poor and under privilege at the time of need. As a mentor/co-worker, I wish to see him to hold /keep bit more patient during odd and set an example so that other can see and follow in that direction.’
I always take his suggestions very positively and I will try my best to make his expectations alive that he has shown on me. Appreciations from the co-workers give me a sense of responsibility to live up to the expectations that they have shown on me.
Biostandups: Do you have any additional information that you would like to share?
Manoj: Yes, there is something interesting apart from my professional life which I wish to share with you and I feel very proud to share about the initiative, that we collectively took during graduation days at NIT Jamshedpur. We the NITians founded a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) named “SANKALP-A PLEDGE TO CHANGE” to provide free and quality education to underprivileged children living in slums and villages across the country. We lay emphasis on the upliftment of people in the slums by providing free remedial classes for children, preparation guidance for Navodaya and other competitive exams, women empowerment, organizing free medical camps and cleanliness drive. It was started as a volunteering activity by few young, courageous students of 2005 and 2006 batch with inspiration from Kartavya-An NGO operating on similar lines and vision in ISM Dhanbad. Initially, we have started from nearby villages of Jamshedpur with one centre accompanying few children and now you will be surprised to know that Sankalp has 13 centres (including BHU, IIT Dhanbad) across the country providing fee of cost tuition to more than 1100 underprivileged & needy children and funding the complete fee of 78 children. It is funded by students and alumni of NIT Jamshedpur. Sankalp is now a certified NGO registered under the Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860. Let me take this opportunity to request every Indian to come forward to sponsor the education fee by adopting the children through Sankalp (www.sankalpnitjamshedpur.org) because “our children are the future of this country.”
Biostandups: Please give your feed back about biostandups.com
Manoj: Biostandups is a unique platform of its kind to portray the research done by young minds of the country and world research community. Biostandups is a virtual news channel which gives the information on selected topic such as biotechnology, bio-industry, public health and issues, food, fitness, agriculture etc. under the one platform. I wish Biostandups a great success and good luck.