ACS Engineering Austarted in January 2021. This broad-based open access journal offers chemical engineers and related chemists as well as applied chemists a high-quality outlet for their research if they want to publish open access or if their financiers request it.
Professor Vivek Ranade of the University of Limerick is Associate Editor of the journal. In the interview he reveals more about himself, gives his top tips for developing a research career and reveals what his superpower would be.
So, Vivek – what attracted you to chemical and process engineering?
It is hard to believe that I hadn’t met a chemical engineer before studying chemical engineering at UDCT (now the Institute of Chemical Technology) in Mumbai. Soon after joining the UDCT, I was very happy that I chose chemical engineering – my thanks go to my teachers at the UDCT, especially Professor MM Sharma. He and his love for the job of chemical engineer left deep impressions. My Ph.D. Mentor Professor JB Joshi introduced me to the rich world of multiphase flows and multiphase reactors. I was really interested in developing the ability to deliver materials and energy in chemical reactors to the right place at the right time to maximize performance and productivity. The penchant for the chemical engineering profession cultivated by professors like MM Sharma and JB Joshi, combined with an inherent interest in mathematical modeling, drew me into chemical engineering research. I started my independent research in 1990 at the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune, and have enjoyed my job ever since. At NCL I had the opportunity to work closely with many industries. That revealed the power and potential of chemical engineering research to affect the well-being of people and the planet, which continues to hold me on to it. I am sure that this will remain the case for the foreseeable future.
What have been the greatest challenges for you in developing a scientific career?
As mentioned earlier, I started my research at the NCL in 1990. Shortly afterwards there was a financial crisis in India (after 1991) that severely impaired research funding. For a young researcher like me who wanted to set up a new research group, it was a great challenge. The then director of NCL, Dr. RA Mashelkar, made a conscious effort to establish research collaborations with global multinational companies. That gave us a lot of impetus and forced us to leave our comfort zone, which led to many cooperation projects with industry. On the shoulders of these projects I was able to build focused research on flow modeling and multiphase reactors. This research led to the establishment of NCL’s first start-up company – Tridiagonal Solutions in 2006. The other biggest challenge I faced was 2010. At the time, I was running Tridiagonal Solutions while on leave from NCL. I have decided to give up the management of Tridiagonal Solutions and return to NCL. I wanted to start over and change the focus of my research over the past two decades. It was really a challenge to move away from the established territory and venture into the new. It took me some time to evaluate different options and finally to redirect and refocus energy and efforts on the development of MAGIC processes (modular, agile, intensified and continuous). In retrospect, it turned out to be entirely appropriate; it led to new fluidic devices, patents and processes that were transferred to industry. It was a pretty challenging time in 2010, however. Another challenge I want to mention was the time I moved from NCL to the UK / Ireland in 2016. At NCL, I was used to writing brief suggestions to the industry. Unlike industry, research funding agencies in the UK, Ireland and Europe need detailed proposals describing not only the technical work but also its implications, training and dissemination and many other aspects. It was quite a challenge at this stage of my research career to learn the tricks and techniques for writing proposals that are appropriate for these new (for me) funding agencies!
Do you have any tips for prospective researchers to improve their careers?
A research career is a lifelong process that doesn’t stop after office hours. So do not choose your research interests because they are hot topics of your time, but rather fascinate you as a scientist. As I say this, it is important to identify key issues in your area of research and develop a genuine interest in addressing those important issues. It is not uncommon for researchers to develop specialized skills, tools, and experience; and look for relevant problems that can be solved with their specialist skills. It is often more worthwhile to identify key issues that need to be resolved and address them with whatever it takes to resolve them, even if it is outside of your comfort zone. This is an opportunity to learn new skills and initiate new collaborations. Another tip I would like to give is to pay proper attention to aspects of research other than the specific technical area – researchers involved in the research project, their well-being, education and career path; Dissemination and application of research carried out with public funds; potential impact on science, economy and society; and public relations. These aspects and the ability to articulate your approach are not only important for drafting applications to funding agencies, but are also the foundation for developing a productive and fulfilling research career.
What does Open Science mean for you as a researcher?
Open science means different things to different people. It usually means sharing the research process and results as early as possible and with no restrictions on use. However, it covers the wide range from open access to eliminating the use of restrictive intellectual property such as patents. In science, the current discussion about open science revolves around how and when publications and data should be made available to the public. In general, everyone agrees that it is better for everyone involved in research if the results are made available as soon as possible. The real debate is who will bear the real costs associated with publishing. In my opinion, the cost of publishing results is insignificant compared to the cost of obtaining the research results and should therefore be borne by the research funding agencies as part of the research cost. This gives everyone interested in access to research results. I grew up in India and cannot stress enough the need for and potential benefits of open access to research. I believe that open access to research will foster real and global partnerships between universities, governments, industry and the general public that are needed to solve complex technical problems related to human wellbeing and prosperity (health, nutrition and nutrition) are, water) and planet (climate change, sustainable energy).
As deputy editor of ACS Engineering Auwhat are you looking for in a job?
I am looking for manuscripts that present exciting and significant advances in the fields of process engineering, applied chemistry and energy that cover fundamentals, processes and products. Experimental and computational research that pushes the boundaries of the current state of the art (both in terms of understanding and technology) and generates new possibilities is very welcome. In general, I look to see if manuscript (a) is of interest to a broad applied chemistry / chemical engineering audience; (b) summarizes the current state of the art in the field of study, identifies the novel contribution in the manuscript, and highlights the importance of advancement in the field of study; (c) the results are generalized and can be applied to systems other than those specifically described in the manuscript. In addition to manuscripts that report on the original research, I am also looking forward to perspectives and reviews that critically comment on the state of the art and outline ways for future research.
If we could finally grant you a super power: what would it be and why?
I want to acquire the ability to concentrate fully on one object (it can be physical, biological, or even just a thought) and achieve the state of “samadhi” as described in the science of yoga. This ability will enable a full understanding and understanding of the true nature of this object and unite with it (as is the meaning of “yoga”). Heisenberg said somewhere: “What we observe is not nature itself, but nature that is exposed to our method of questioning.” The ability to achieve “samadhi” is synonymous with attaining an infinitely powerful method of questioning. Such a survey method will transcend definitions such as reductionist – holistic, dissolution – range, inward – outward, physical – psychological, etc. Gaining full understanding by adopting such a method of questioning and using that understanding to improve life and the universe around you is an ultimate superpower.
ACS Engineering Au is ready to receive your research. It is subjected to the same robust, fair, and efficient peer review as all ACS journals to ensure that it is promoting science that really moves chemistry and engineering forward. And the main advantage of Open Access is that all interested readers have instant access, so your work can have a greater impact in less time.