October 1, 2020

Professor Somesh Kumar is one of those professors of IIT Kgp who does not need much of an introduction, being the president of Gymkhana, IIT Kharagpur and a renowned professor in the department of mathematics.

It was in 1982 that he started off his illustrious career in the field of mathematics by joining a 2-year MSc course in Statistics in IIT Kanpur which was instantly followed by a PhD program in the institute which carried on till 1988. Prof Kumar has all praises for the professors and the overall environment of IIT Kanpur and describes the 6 years spent there the best of his life. It was henceforth a 5 and a half years stay in the University of Jammu before he joined IIT Kharagpur as a faculty member. He rates IIT Kgp to be academically at par with IIT Kanpur and the only difference he could spot was the former focussing more on the application part.

He joined IIT Kgp in 1994 and those times had a total of 450 students in the 1st year at UG level which averaged out to 60-70 students per class, hence enabling the professors to interact with most of the students, even remember the names of those who were perpetual occupiers of first-row benches. But recent years have observed a rise in the number of students to 200 per class, which he considers a hindrance in the utter importance of student teacher interaction resulting in disconnections and dissatisfactions amongst both sides. Worse is the students not even recognising their professors, which academically, is certainly not a good thing to happen.

Tantalized by the atmosphere in IIT Kanpur, he, as a student, had already decided to dwell in the IIT system. So, making hay while the sun shines, he accepted the first call he got from IIT Kgp and is quite satisfied with the 22 years he has had here.

Being a statistician here in IIT Kgp, he likes discussing statistics with people regarding its applications in fields like agriculture, mining, mechanical, electronics, etc. He likes diversity, which gives him a chance to interact with others, and wishes for more departments which inculcate in-depth studies on particular areas.

The fact that the IIT system is centuries younger to the top seed universities is, what prof Kumar believes, the major reason behind the poor performance of IITs in QS Rankings. Coming to the top rankings would require a lot of time and skills. We also face a lack of faculty members in our departments. For instance, we have around 30 faculty members in the mathematics department as compared to 100 in other universities. Adding to the misery is the even lower percentage of these faculty members who are into research work. However, IIT Kgp does fall in the top 200 category when it comes to the mathematics department especially in Statistics and Operational Research. It is also expected that we would be ranked much higher if some of the old IITs are combined and taken as one, as the number of faculty members would increase and so would the contributions made.

As the President of Gymkhana, he has great responsibility resting on his shoulders taking into consideration the activities of a humongous number of 12000 students in the field of sports, games, technology and mega events like Spring Fest and Kshitij. He regularly needs to dedicate at least 4-5 hours of his day to cater the needs of the post which takes away some crucial time off of his research work. His tenure is expected to end by September, 2017 after which he aims to concentrate more on his research work and academics.

His major area of research is Theoretical Statistics where he considers Theory of Estimation. Inspired by some statisticians who started considering the idea and reading the same in the paper, he discussed it with his supervisors who motivated him to move a step further in this area. Fortunately, he was able to prove new results in the area and soon it became his major research topic. Later, he found a large number of problems where some information is already available, thus being called prior information. In the 1990s a new method was started called ‘Bejian Analysis’ which is dependent upon the above stated prior information. Posterior to his becoming a professor, he moved on to a new area named “Directional Analytics”. Another research area is the problem of classification, in which he worked with one of his students, whose thesis was awarded the best thesis by Indian Society for Probability and Statistics and he received a cash prize of Rs. 33,000. Prof Somesh then went on to the core probability theorem with his research students and started developing a new central limit theorem. He also worked on Quantum Information Theorem alongside a professor from the Computer Science department. They then successfully published a decent research paper.

This time may be considered a golden period for statisticians as new areas namely High Dimensional Data Analytics and Big Data Analytics are on the rise. The huge amount of data produced due to the presence of automated systems is the reason why this area came into picture. The amount of data produced in a particular physics experiment going on in Geneva, Switzerland is so huge that it was the statisticians who had to come to the rescue for analysis of data and conclusion.

We are already having some of the best students of India. Prof Somesh advises them to use their talent in making themselves strong. If one is into too many things, then it would be difficult, because it doesn’t take much for the mind to get diverted. What is needed as of now is to grow oneself stronger in the core area, which can be followed by pretty much anything. As is rightly said, we all are masters of our own destiny.

The foundation of an institute depends on the relationship between the students and faculty members. Prof Kumar also recommends developing an inquisitive mind and unhesitatingly asking questions in the class, however weird they may sound. It is also suggested to pay more attention during presentations and bring in seriousness for class projects. Finally he wishes that every bit and piece of IIT Kgp develops an equal amount of passion for the institute, be it the students or the faculty members.