The Department offers three main degree programs namely, the Master’s degree by coursework (MTech), the Master’s degree by research or thesis option (MTech (Res)), and the Doctor of Philosophy degree (PhD). At any given time, the Department has a total of about 180 students in these graduate-level programs with about 120 in the research programme comprising the PhD and MTech (Res) degree students. This gives an overall student-to-faculty ratio of about 7, enabling adequate interactions between faculty and students. A brief overview of these different academic programs is given below.
The MTech programme is a course-based Master’s programme of 2 years duration with a sanctioned strength of about 30 students/year. The programme is based on a rigorous and well-rounded training in advanced mechanical engineering subjects through a set of core courses and electives, along with a year-long project to provide students a first-hand exposure of scientific research on a specialized topic. One of the unique aspects and strengths of this programme is that all students are required to undertake basic core courses in nearly all major areas of mechanical engineering. The feedback over the years has been strongly positive – that this helps the students in many ways, especially the students joining industries, where a good all-round grasp of concepts in multiple areas is considered advantageous. Admissions to this programme take place through the national level GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) exam in mechanical engineering conducted annually by IITs and IISc.
Over the years, GATE has grown into a prestigious and intensely competitive exam taken by about 200,000 undergraduate students from across India. Our Master’s programme is well sought-after by top ranker-holders in GATE, with entry to the programme usually restricted for the top 50 or so candidates. After graduation from the programme, typically about 70% of the batch typically pursue lucrative job opportunities, while the remaining opt to pursue PhD opportunities in India or abroad. A number of students have also stayed back to continue in the Department with the PhD programme and gone on to excel in the academia later in their careers.
Structure for MTech programme (Total 64 credits)
Core courses (any 4 out of 5) of 12 credits in total
Fluid Mechanics, Solid Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Dynamics & Control of Mechanical Systems, Materials & Structure Property Correlations
Core requirement of 3 credits
Engineering Mathematics (Department course)
Electives of 21 credits in total
See below for full list of courses offered.
Dissertation Project of 27 credits
The MTech (Research) or Master’s by thesis option is designed for students who desire advanced training in mechanical engineering through a relatively less rigorous coursework programme balanced with substantive research experience through a thesis. The programme is designed for a duration of 2 years. The students typically take a set of 4 to 7 courses over about a year covering two of the core courses along with a customizable set of electives with the remainder of the time dedicated on a focused Master’s thesis. The admission process for this programme is based on a combination of GATE scores and an interview (held simultaneously with PhD interviews). The graduates of this programme tend to pursue R&D careers in industries or research laboratories or continue towards a doctoral degree.
The PhD programme is the flagship programe offered by the Department. It is designed to impart sound fundamentals in mechanical engineering sciences, together with intensive study and research experience in specialized areas. Admission to the PhD programme is open for students with an ME/MTech (Master’s) degree, as well as for students with a BE/BTech (Bachelor’s) degree. The admission to this programme is through an interview process that is conducted twice a year. We receive a large number of applications (over 1000) for this programme from across India from both categories of students. The selection is done through a combination of academic criteria used for shortlisting candidates, and a technical interview. About 25 candidates are admitted to this programme every year.
The PhD programme has course requirements that constitute the Research Training Programme (RTP) decided primarily by the student in conjunction with the research advisor. At the end of the RTP, typically at 1.5-2 years, the student is required to take an oral examination referred to as the Comprehensive Examination. The examination comprises an oral assessment of RTP courses and a presentation of research proposal for PhD. After the comprehensive examination, the research students are required to make yearly presentations at an in-house research symposium that is held once a year. The intention is to help them assess their progress and inculcate a sense of interaction among all the students within the Department. Special invited lectures are also held as part of this symposium. Students take about 5 years on average for the PhD degree. Graduating students from the Department have gone on to make successful careers in academia with many of them getting placed in faculty positions in premier national institutes (such as the IITs), apart from a number of them joining the Industry.
Structure for PhD programme
Coursework: Research training programme (RTP) comprising a set of elected courses
Comprehensive examination: Oral assessment based on RTP and a research proposal
The Department offers an eclectic mix of courses covering all major areas of mechanical engineering. The teaching methodology for the core courses varies from traditional whiteboard lectures to PowerPoint slide presentations. These courses also dwell on focused problem-solving taught through tutorial classes and periodic problem sheets. The pedagogy for the more traditional electives resembles the above style, whereas in more recent specialized courses, there is a higher weightage ascribed to PowerPoint presentations, technical article readings, discussions and special assignments. A lot of interactions are generally possible in the classes due to the reasonable student-to-faculty ratio. A typical class size for the core courses is about 40, while the electives classes are smaller with less than 20 students. A representative list of courses offered within the Department is given below.
Entry-level graduate courses:
Fluid Mechanics, Solid Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Dynamics & Control of Mechanical Systems, Materials & Structure Property Correlations, Engineering Mathematics,
Advanced graduate courses:
Introduction to Soft Matter, Two-Phase Flow and Boiling Heat Transfer, Turbomachine Theory, Principles of Solar Thermal Engineering, Solid and Fluid Phenomena at Small Scales, Fluid Turbulence, Computational Heat Transfer and Fluid Flow, Experimental Methods in Microfluidics, Convective Heat Transfer, Refrigeration Engineering, Air Condition Engineering.
Structural Stability and Fracture Control, Finite Element Methods, Structural Acoustics, Topology Optimization, Continuum Mechanics, Principles of Tribology, Introduction to Robotics, Variational Methods and Structural Optimization, Fracture Mechanics, Fundamental of Acoustics, Vibrations of Plates and Shells, Biomechanics, Mechanics of Slender Elastic Structures, Analysis of Manufacturing Processes, Geometric Modelling for Computer-Aided Design.
Apart from the regular courses, some of the faculty offer courses with a more widespread reach through web-based massive open online courses (MOOC) and video courses. NPTEL is one such national initiative wherein the faculty of the Department have offered the following courses:
Robotics: Advanced Concepts and Analysis, Heat Transfer and Combustion in Multiphase Systems, Convective Heat Transfer, Heat and Mass Transfer, Basic Thermodynamics, Compliant Mechanisms: Principles and Design, Variational Methods in Mechanics, Radiation Heat transfer.
Challenges and New Initiatives
One of the challenges to the main course-based MTech programme has been with the admission process based on GATE. Recently, the exam has also been used in the undergraduate hiring process by several big Public sector undertaking (PSU) companies, causing distortions in the regular process that has worked well for a number of years. This issue is common to a number of other departments and IITs. It has led to student attrition over the past few years, as a few students join the programme and then leave, after they convert PSU job opportunities into job offers. Our Department has particularly been affected as these companies have a large requirement for mechanical engineers. The top GATE students, having joined IISc, are lured by such job offers to make a premature exit. From this year (2019) onwards, we are introducing an interview system to select students with a visible aptitude for a Master’s programme. We hope that this will help resolve the issue of attrition with other measures taken by the Institute with the Master’s admission process in general. Once this process sets in, the Department intends to increase the MTech batch strength substantially.
The Department ensures that programme objectives are constantly met through feedback obtained from faculty, students, and alumni, which occurs during periodic faculty and Department Curriculum Committee (DCC) meetings, end-of-programme student feedback forms, and alumni events, respectively. As part of this process several new courses have been introduced over the past few years in emerging areas of mechanical engineering to give exposure in contemporary topics to the course students and to equip research students working in these topics. Driven by these feedback processes and through a number of young faculty who have joined the Department, we hope to introduce other new teaching-related initiatives in the near future. These include framing collaborative courses with industrial partners, developing more
MOOC-type courses, and setting up of more comprehensive and well-equipped teaching labs where students can be exposed to modern experimental and computational tools.
Every summer, the Department faculty train about 40 2nd– and 3rd-year undergraduates from disciplines related to mechanical engineering. A significant number of summer interns come through the Indian Academy of Sciences Summer Fellowship programme and the Indian National Academy of Engineering Mentorship programme. These students are selected through a competitive nationwide selection process. A good number of students are also selected by the faculty directly, based on their academic record, aptitude for research, special abilities and accomplishments. The interns are generally attached to a particular laboratory where they receive research training and get an opportunity to work along with postgraduate students. They are assigned one or more individual projects based on their research interests. Summer students also get opportunities to attend special lectures given by IISc faculty and invited seminars.
Over the years, the summer internship programme in the Department has inspired several young engineers to take up science and research as their career. Many of them have come back to IISc for higher studies.
The Institute encourages students to take up internship positions in industries for up to three months, without largely affecting academic activities. A sizeable number of Master’s students from our Department avail this opportunity to take up these internships during summer months (May to July) every year. Research students are also eligible to avail internship once their coursework is completed.
At any time of the year, there are about 70-80 engineering graduates working in various research laboratories in the Department as Project Assistants (PAs). They are typically fresh engineering graduates (BTechs) in disciplines related to mechanical engineering and are recruited by faculty to assist them in externally funded projects. These young and enthusiastic graduates form a significant part of the research workforce in the laboratories. They receive research training in a laboratory for a year or two, after which they leave for higher studies or take up engineering jobs. It has been observed over the years that many of the bright research-minded PAs continue to build their association with the Department through admissions in the Master’s and PhD programmes.