TUM Ambassador Amaresh Chakrabarti

“Work hard and pursue your passion”

In his native India, Amaresh Chakrabarti grew up in modest circumstances. Today he is one of the pioneers in the field of design research in his country. The TUM Ambassador’s recipe for success is a continuous international exchange.

Ever since he was a child, Amaresh Chakrabarti has been influenced by the everyday life of his artistic family. Inspired by his father, a Sanskrit scholar, and his aunt, an artist, he wrote poems and painted pictures as a child. At the same time, his uncle, who was a civil engineer, introduced him to the natural sciences, leading him to try his hand at some first technical constructions at an early age. He wanted to work in both of these areas at the same time when he grew up.

A childhood dream fulfilled

As a young and inexperienced man, he let himself be guided more by those around him than by his own deliberate convictions when it came to deciding what subject he would study and what area he would focus on. In retrospect, this actually turned out to be very profitable for Amaresh Chakrabarti. Studying Mechanical Engineering, which he did following the recommendation of a civil engineer friend of his father, and then later specializing in Mechanical Systems Design, which was proposed by fellow students, paved the way for Amaresh Chakrabarti towards a scientific career. And this made his childhood dream of being able to work both scientifically and artistically come true.

Amaresh Chakrabarti achieved both his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and his Master’s degree in Mechanical Systems Design in India as the best in his class and with awards. Following that, his professor presented him with the application forms for a doctorate at a British university. Out of respect for his mentor, Amaresh Chakrabarti filled them out before even realizing what it meant to be recommended to the renowned University of Cambridge. “Only when I received a prestigious scholarship for my doctorate, did I realize once again how lucky I was,” Amaresh Chakrabarti recalls modestly today.

A pioneer in design research

After gaining his PhD, Amaresh Chakrabarti stayed in the UK for another ten years and led the Design Synthesis Team at the EPSRC Centre for Excellence in Engineering Design. In 2001, he was finally called back to India by his alma mater, the Indian Institute of Science. As a leading faculty member, he was asked to help expand the newly founded Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing (CPDM) in Bangalore. “It was my big dream to return to my home country and support the innovation leap India was making at that time with my research and my teaching in Design Theory and Methodology. My alma mater’s reputation at the new Department of Design, which, if done right, would be able to play a crucial role in this, seemed to me just the right opportunity to put my plan into practice.”

Amaresh Chakrabarti set out with indescribable commitment carrying out the pioneering work throughout the country in order to develop the CPDM. He founded the Virtual Reality Laboratory (VRLab) and the IDeaS Lab for Design Research (Innovation, Design Study and Sustainability Laboratory), the first facilities in India for innovative Collaborative Research in areas such as design creativity, design methodology, sustainability, rationale capture and research methodology. He was also co-initiator of the first Indian Design Research Conference and the first formal PhD program in Design in India. Amaresh Chakrabarti proudly reports that hundreds of students have since successfully completed their studies, are among the winners of international competitions and among the founders of innovative start-ups. Amaresh Chakrabarti also co-intiated India’s first Smart Factory (Industry 4.0) as a research platform, and leads a brand new interdisciplinary MTech and PhD programme in advanced and smart manufacturing at CPDM that is about to start from 2019.

Intercultural exchange as a recipe for success

Amaresh Chakrabarti advises his young students to do exactly what helped him towards success: “Work hard and pursue your passion. The rest will come by itself.” Taking from his own experience, he also advises young researchers to always think outside the box and to work interculturally, internationally and inter-disciplinarily. “If you want to be an internationally recognized researcher, you have to have international contacts and intercultural skills,” he says.

At TUM I am judged by my scientific achievements and not by my cultural background.

In many of his projects, Amaresh Chakrabarti is committed to international cooperation and collaborates with universities and institutes around the world. In 2013 he went to Munich with his wife and daughter to do research and teach at the TUM, but, as he emphasizes, also to learn. “Of particular interest to me as a theorist was the strong practical orientation of TUM as Germany’s leading university for engineering sciences and the far-reaching connections between the Institute for Product Development and the private sector,” he says, explaining his decision back then to do a research semester at TUM.

Science connects people

Demonstrating the same energy as at his own facilities in India, Amaresh Chakrabarti also made use of the diverse possibilities that were presented to him at TUM. He offered a PhD course on Design Research Methodology, held a series of lectures, spoke at panel discussions and organized an international workshop with TUM Professor Udo Lindemann, which led to a joint publication at Springer. Amaresh Chakrabarti remembers his colleague with great respect: “I was judged by my scientific achievements and not by my cultural background”.

Finally, following an Alumni event, Amaresh Chakrabarti spontaneously agreed to mentor a PhD student. Together, they launched the first tandem of the TUM Mentoring for Scientists program, which has since brought international researchers together with young academics. He immediately brought his mentee and another TUM student to India for joint research. “The honorary title of TUM Ambassador, which was awarded to me by President Wolfgang A. Herrmann, makes me proud and humble,” says Amaresh Chakrabarti. “It shows that science is capable of crossing national and cultural borders and connecting people who work together to solve the problems of the world we live in”.