Established in 1957, Thiagarajar College of Engineering (TCE), a government-aided autonomous institution located in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, has already produced four Padma awardees in its 62 years of illustrious journey. Known for its excellence in teaching, the institute has deliberately changed its direction since the beginning of the 21st century. Today, TCE focuses on teaching, research and entrepreneurship.
We know that single-use or disposable plastics such as carry bags, wrappers and bottles are harmful to our environment. However, ask Dr. Rajagopalan Vasudevan, a recipient of Padma Sri and a professor of Chemistry at Thiagarajar College of Engineering (TCE), he would claim that Plastic is an important invention and a great resource. In fact, Dr. Vasudevan has already shown us how can we effectively manage the so-called plastic waste. Known as the ‘Plastic Man of India,’ Dr. Vasudevan has invented a method to reuse plastic waste to construct better, more durable and very cost-effective roads. So far, 1,00,000 kms of plastic roads have been laid across the country using his technology, for which the college got a patent in 2006.
“We have two categories of research here; advanced research and appropriate research. Dr. Vasudevan Sir’s work is an example of appropriate research, as it directly impacts the betterment of the world we live in,” says Dr. V. Abhaikumar, Principal, Thiagarajar College of Engineering. As a result of Dr. Vasudevan’s research works, TCE has three important things in the campus; India’s only Centre for Plastic Waste Management funded by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, stretches of plastic road on campus, and a quake-bullet-water-proof model of a toilet made with ‘plastone’ (plastic plus stone). “When it comes to research, we always look at the society to identify the problems. The possibilities of innovation are so high here, as we know that there is somebody waiting for us to find a solution to their problem. This way, the research will become more meaning full,” opines Dr. Abhaikumar.
At present, TCE has around 45 ongoing research projects that are relevant to the society. Indeed, fulfilling the expectation of the society and industry by equipping students with state-of-the-art resources for developing sustainable solutions is the one of the missions of TCE. “We have given different themes for departments to work on. For example, Civil Engineering Department is working on Ecofriendly Structures. Similarly, every department has an important area to focus,” says Dr. Abhaikumar. Being an autonomous college since 1987 also helps TCE to introduce such innovative practices in the campus.
“We were known as a teaching-oriented institution till 2000. But we changed our direction and now we focus more on creating knowledge,” adds Dr. Abhaikumar. The institute’s research activities have paved ways for many cutting-edge programs. A master training course on “Waste Management” under the Green Skill Development Programme introduced by Environmental Information System (ENVIS) Centre at TCE is one such initiative. The course is aimed at making jobless graduates employable and around 20 students had joined in the first batch, which started in 2018.
The Perks of Having an Active Alumni Network
Dr. Sivathanu Pillai, father of BRAHMOS – India’s supersonic cruise missile, was a student of the 1964-69 batch at TCE. Nambi Narayanan, a scientist and aerospace engineer who was in-charge of the Cryogenics division at ISRO, was another student of TCE. Shankar Narayanan (an Indian born American entrepreneur), Murugan Pal (a serial entrepreneur based the US), Karthik Subbaraj, (a south Indian film director, writer and producer) and the list of TCE’s notables hardly gets an end. “Many of our old students are now handling senior positions in topnotch companies and government organization. They always stay connected with us and advocate us in achieving our goals,” sates Dr. Abhaikumar.
With the help its alumni members who are working in the industry, TCE conducts courses on subjects that are beyond the scope of regular curriculum. “This happens on every weekend, where industry professionals will come teach our students some of the latest technologies. It has picked really well, and we have now companies like Intel, IBM, TCS, Honeywell and many more coming to the campus to teach students,” claims Dr. Abhaikumar. The weekend classes by industry professionals is an excellent opportunity for students to find internships and placements. “Most of the time, these companies will offer internships to our students after seeing their performance in the classroom,” mentions Dr. Abhaikumar.
Industry has always been a part TCE’s curricular activities. From curriculum design to content delivery and assessment, the institute involve industry professionals to inculcate the latest trends of the workplace. “For Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering, we have co-created a curriculum with TVS Motors. Every year, the company will select around 15 first year students and will pay the entire fee for next four years. These students will work with TVS during the vacation time. At the end of their course, they get absorbed in TVS. Five such batches have gone out till now,” shares Dr. Abhaikumar.
Today, TCE has everything that takes to offer a quality technical education; excellent infrastructure, strong industry-institute interaction, active alumni network and so on. More than 65 percent of its faculty members are PhD holders, which is excellent in non-IIT environment. “We are now promoting entrepreneurship in the campus, which was missing in our yesteryears. Now, the goal is to be known globally for our excellence in education,” concludes Dr. Abhaikumar.
Dr. V. Abhaikumar, Principal
Dr. Abhaikumar completed his B.E in Electronics and Communication Engineering and M.E in Communication systems from the P.S.G College of Technology in the year 1977 and 1979 respectively. He obtained his PhD in the area of Computational Electromagnetics in the year 1986 from the Indian Institute of Technology. His areas of research interest include the use of computational electromagnetic methods for the modeling and analysis of wireless antennas. He has coauthored twenty technical papers in international and national journals. and published more than hundred papers in international and national conferences.