Refresher Course on Foundations of Physics



Indian Academy of Sciences
Bangalore, India

Indian National Science Academy
New Delhi, India

The National Academy of Sciences
Allahabad, India

Organized by
Indian Women Scientists’ Association, Mumbai

Scientific Report on the Course

The fourteen days’ Course sponsored by the Joint Educational Panel of the Science Academies on ‘Foundations of Physics’ was organized by the  Indian Women Scientists’ Association at their Head Quarters at Vashi, Navi Mumbai from 20th December, 2014 – 2nd January 2015. There were about 20 participants from colleges across the country, many of whom were Associate Professors in their respective colleges.

The year 2014 has been declared as the International Year of Crystallography (IYCr2014) by the UNESCO. Therefore, it was planned in the beginning itself, that the Refresher Course would  cover some of the interesting topics in this area, as well as other topical subjects relevant to graduate and post graduate courses, such as:  Electricity and Magnetism, Thermodynamics, Statistical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, Mathematical Physics, Materials Science, Lasers and Optics, Plasma Physics,  Nanoscience and Technology and Physics Teaching.  The Refresher course was planned to have a blend of lectures on theory of the above subjects as well as Laboratory sessions. Experiments were carefully selcted on some of the topics from the Acdemies’ Kit.

The course was designed on the basis of the elective courses at MSc level. It was decided to integrate basic level lectures with some of the advanced topics. In this way, the participants would refresh their basic knowledge and would become aware of the frontiers in each subject. It was decided to hold basic level talks as regular lectures and advanced topics as “Evening Talks”. These evening talks were delivered by some of the best speakers in that field. The speakers were asked to communicate the advanced topics in simple manner, starting at basic level and building it to advanced level. The topics were of contemporary nature which could encourage teachers and students from nearby colleges. A wide publicity was given for these lectures.

The course was inaugurated by Dr. R. Chidambaram (Principal Scientific Advisor to the PMO) on the 20th December, 2014. In his inaugural speech, Dr. Chidambaram addressed the audience on ‘Crystallography and Knowledge-driven Economy’, where he stressed on the need of the nation to translate knowledge into products to make India a developed country. He discussed the different components required for an Ideal Education System to attract students into careers in Science after the schooling stage and highlighted the constitution of Emerging Educational Technology that has made effective in-roads in our educational system.

The course started with talks on material science on the first day. The two weeks’ course included 33 talks covering most subjects of physics : crystallography, High energy physics, nano science & technology, lasers & laser photonics, nuclear physics & energy, plasma physics, accelerator technology, electricity & Electricity & electrodynamics & Thermodynamics & Statistical physics, communication techniques, solar power as emerging technology, quantum physics, importance of calculus development, etc. There were ten popular Special Evening talks covering exciting topics : The unbelievable pursuit of the unimaginable (the Higgs Boson detection at CERN), Rose petals & lotus leaves: nano technology lessons from nature, Intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe, Physics of diamonds & gem stones, Nirbhaya – self defence tool and fun with Science  are some of the talks which attracted a large audience. These talks were open to all colleges – lecturers and students – in Navi Mumbai and Mumbai.

There were four discussion sessions held during the course – How to foster experimental abilities and skills in students, A symbiotic relation between Science & Technology, Role of ethics in teaching & research and How to motivate students for a career in research. These discussion sessions were moderated by expert scientists who brought lively discussion among participants and summarised the points in the end. An abstracts book consisting of abstracts of both session talks and evening talks has been brought out for distribution to all participants, which is being enclosed.

This Refresher course was novel, as it contained lectures as well as experimental sessions. There were eight experiments (chosen from Prof. Srinivasan Kit, set up with the help of Prof.R.  Nagarajan and his team from CBS and Mumbai University) which were set up and conducted at IWSA premises, with a total of 16 hours of practical sessions. These experiments were extremely popular, as they exposed the participants to inexpensive techniques to teach basic experiments in a simple way to the students. Simple automation techniques for some of the experiments were also taught.

The participants were taken inside BARC for two days, i.e., on 30th and 31st December.  On the first half-day they visited the Super computer facility, Folded Tandem Ion Accelerator (FOTIA) at Nuclear Physics Division and the Intense Laser facility at High Pressure Physics and Synchrotron Physics Division.

This was followed by three state of the art experiments at BARC using Neutron diffraction, X-ray diffraction and Fourier Transform based I.R. spectroscopy experiments. The titles of the experiments are included in Annexure-5. The details of the experiments conducted are included in the Abstract Book.

The participants had an opportunity to see the work inside the DHRUVA Reactor, BARC, which was specially arranged by taking special entry permits. This visit to BARC has given a new dimension to the outlook of the participants. They received a huge motivation from the scientists involved in their experiments. They have been advised how to start a research project on a small scale and apply for research grants to Board of Reasearch in Nuclear Sciences (BRNS), which supports such projects from Universities.

The participants visited TIFR on 1st January, 2015. Here they visited the Pelletron Facility, Intense Laser facility, the Low temperature laboratory, which were appreciated by all participants.

The Valedictory function of the Refresher course was held at IWSA on 2nd January. Prof.Vijay Singh of HBCSE was the chief guest and spoke on ‘Scaling of objects in Nature’. Prof.Deepak Dhar from TIFR presented the various science programs supported by the joint education panel of the Academies. The certificates and books were distributed to the participants by the chief guest and Prof.Dhar.

Prepared by Prof. L. Dhareshwar and Dr. D. Ramanathan