Interested in research? Your search for the right route to become a researcher should end at the planetarium in Bangalore.
Bangalore Association for Science Education (BASE) collaborates with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) and Raman Research Institute to offer a unique three-year course—called REAP—that brings some of the top scientists in contact with aspiring students.
“The idea behind the Research Education Advancement Programme (REAP) is to promote the small percentage of students who want to pursue research as a career,” said BS Shylaja, director of the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium and one of the teachers of the course. REAP could be concurrently studied by students who are pursuing their Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree. Classes for the course is conducted during the weekends. “We want to motivate students to pursue research.
During the three years of the course, students will be lectured by scientists from IISc, IIA and RRI as well. The scientists also evaluate the performance of the students,” Shylaja said.
Students get to learn the basics in the first year. “They will be taught the basics of astronomy, astrophysics and mathematics. They are also given homework and we are very strict about attendance. This is a course that should be taken seriously,” Shylaja warned.
Students also get to visit research institutes as part of the programme. “Bangalore has many research institutes. The second year will take things to a more advanced level and students will be exposed to subjects like quantum mechanics and electrodynamics. At that time, they will also be conducting experiments. This course is loaded with practicals. Some of the experiments go on for four to five weeks,” Shylaja said.
Students move out of the classrooms during the final year, when practicals completely take over. “In the third year, students will be paired with local scientists and be part of their ongoing research studies. We have students visiting IISc, the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and other such institutes. Even though they are only a small part of the project, they are invaluable experiences,” she offered.
Not so popular
REAP, however, has very few takers and many students fail to sustain their interest in research. “When the first year ends, our classroom strength size is usually around 25 and it becomes half the size by the end of the second year. But those who do complete the three years usually take up integrated Phd programmes offered here or even go abroad,” she said. “The programme that was started 10 years ago is only recognised at an academic level. So, a certificate of having completed this programme would not register with importance at a workplace that is outside of the academic world but every year we have students who take up Phd and that is an achievement,” she says.
While the course is structured to boost the academics of a BSc student, according to Shylaja, students pursuing engineering degrees also take up the course. “Engineering students have recently started approaching us to be part of the programme. But it is very hard for engineering students to focus after the first year because our structure works around the schedule of an average BSc student but we also have had such students who completed all three years,” she added.
When the course was launched, it was offered free of cost. Now, the fees for REAP programmes start at Rs350. The last date for submission of applications of the programme is July 23.