A career in research
Life’s toughest choices often reap the most benefits. When backed by calculated decisions, self-belief, and hard work, these seemingly hard choices produce the best results, believes Dr. Tapas Chakravarty, Principal Scientist, TCS Research. His professional career has been shaped and elevated by the choices he has had to make over the last three decades.
Dr. Chakravarty’s story highlights several things. But most of all it shines a light on perseverance. Getting research work published is an ordeal for budding researchers but the experience is worth the effort, he says. Being recognized for work among peers is an invaluable self-fulfillment, he adds.
“Research as a career is a hard journey. It’s almost a roller-coaster ride. In my opinion, at least 50% of motivation in research is self-driven,” he says. The rest comes from the environment, through people, processes, and infrastructure. “Although a research-focused organization provides the necessary stimuli to foster innovation, self-evaluation, patience, and the courage to accept failure--a of these are integral to success,” he explains.
"The pride that I associate with being a research scientist is incomparable to any other role or opportunity, irrespective of the additional perks or benefits the latter may offer. Having a sense of self-fulfillment has been my sole driving force.”
In 1988, after completing his master’s degree in Electronics Science from Delhi University, Dr. Chakravarty joined the Society for Applied Microwave Electronics Engineering and Research (SAMEER) undeer the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Mumbai, India. This marked the beginning of an illustrious career in research that would bring in several accolades along the way.
“It was my first job. I didn’t have any knowledge or expectations... It was coveted government mployment that gave me security and, as a bonus, helped expand my horizons using my core competencies in technology,” Dr. Chakravarty says.
By 1993, he established himself within the organization and welcomed the opportunity to set up the new Millimeterwave Research Centre under SAMEER in Kolkata. After 15 years in the role, he moved on to academic positions in private engineering colleges and universities. While pursuing a doctorate degree at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India, also mentored graduate-level students. He recalls this as the most exacting phase of his life – even as he ploughed through challenges, some personal and others professional, for nearly five years.
“I was guiding several strategic projects while pursuing my PhD. And I realized that research doesn’t end after creating a working model in a laboratory. It creates value only when it demonstrates the promised outcome in field deployments,” he adds.
Dr. Chakravarty was offered a position at TCS Research in Bengaluru in 2007. It offered unlimited research opportunities given the multi-disciplinary nature of work.
“I sensed that this team was building cutting-edge systems with a focus on customer-centric applications. I also noticed that the organizational culture was not insistent on hierarchy. By the time I joined TCS Research, I had clarity on what I wanted,” he says.
What followed were two years where he stayed away from family, getting accustomed to an unfamiliar city and culture.
A career milestone
It was around 2009 when a large US-based medical devices company approached us to create ultrasmall RFID (radio frequency identification) tags that go in implantable medical devices. The desired miniature passive tags at the required frequencies, however, defied the laws of physics.
It was during a customer visit that I understood the context on the choice of size. The tags were expected to improve supply chain tracking for small medical implants. Understanding this end purpose helped me propose a viable, alternative design that was entirely hand-crafted. We filed for a patent in the USA in May 2012. It was granted two years later.
Indeed, I was pleasantly surprised, when my research ‘The Small and Smart Solution’ was published in the second volume of Inno Cases – Developing a Culture of Innovation: Tata Experiences.
Dr Tapas Chakravarty
Principal Scientist, TCS Research
Focus on invention
He says that among the developments that impacted his career is the focus on invention at TCS Research. Filing patents and publishing peer-reviewed articles is a crucial element in all that goes on here. In a span of 12 years, he has authored and co-authored patent submissions and received 83 patent grants in India and across the globe.
“The highlight of my career is research on new technologies, and design and development of complex engineering systems such as radars. I always wanted to create a valuable and research-led engineering solution that establishes TCS as a player in domains where we have marginal presence. This is still a work in progress,” he says.