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Tata Trusts’ support of automotive engineering fellowships widens bridge between South Carolina and India

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Newsstand.clemson.edu | Paul Alongi |  College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences | July 19, 2016 |

Ratan Tata, center, received Clemson University’s first honorary Ph.D. in automotive engineering when he visited in February 2015. He is pictured with Clemson Trustee David Wilkins, right, and Robert Jones, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost

Ratan Tata, center, received Clemson University’s first honorary Ph.D. in automotive engineering when he visited in February 2015. He is pictured with Clemson Trustee David Wilkins, right, and Robert Jones, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost

CLEMSON — South Carolina is broadening its connection to the world’s second most populous nation with the help of Ratan Tata, who has been called the father of modern industry in India and is funding fellowships that will pay for five Indian students to work toward automotive engineering degrees at Clemson University. Tata, the chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, received an honorary Ph.D. in automotive engineering from Clemson last year and left so impressed that he has agreed to fund the fellowships through Tata Trusts, the nonprofit charity where he is now chairman. The fellows will arrive from India’s PSG College of Technology in time for fall semester and will be studying in a state that has sought to strengthen economic ties with India, the world’s seventh-largest nation by gross domestic product. Several Clemson officials see the fellowships as a way of widening the portal, providing new economic and educational opportunities on both sides of the globe. Each fellowship recipient will be a master’s or doctoral student in Clemson’s automotive engineering department and receive $26,500 a year toward tuition, books, housing and other expenses. “Investing in education is a legacy bequeathed by our founder and an important part of our philosophy,” Tata said. “This partnership with Clemson University promises to benefit both our countries and prepare professionals who are passionate about automotive engineering to offer their expertise to Indian industry.”

The collaboration is taking a step forward this week as Subramanyan Neelakrishnan visits the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research. He is the head of the department of automobile engineering at PSG College of Technology and will be meeting with Clemson officials to discuss details of the Clemson-PSG College of Technology collaboration. Clemson University President James P. Clements said the collaboration is an important step in expanding the university’s presence around the globe. “Through the fellowships, we’re leveraging personal relationships to expand the portal that connects South Carolina to India,” he said. “India has a young population and is a fast-growing global and regional power. “As a top public university, we want to engage in the most meaningful research and offer a highly relevant educational experience. Much of the 21st century growth will be in India and other fast-rising nations. This collaboration and others that stem from it will make students in both nations more competitive.” Robert Jones, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at Clemson, said the collaboration is part of a larger effort to establish connections between Clemson and fast-growing parts of the world, such as India. “Many of the grand challenges of the 21st century are inherently global as the world becomes more interconnected,” Jones said. “Students who develop global awareness will be better positioned to innovate and have a positive impact. Collaborations like this will help innovators in both countries remain at the forefront of technology.”

The collaboration’s linchpin, Brij Khorana, was a highly regarded physics and optical engineering professor and a founder of several innovative initiatives at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana. His brother used to run a Tata Motors plant in India. Khorana, who has since retired in Greenville, played a central role in bringing Ratan Tata to CU-ICAR in February 2015. When Tata visited, he received Clemson’s first honorary Ph.D. in automotive engineering. It was the first time Clemson awarded an honorary degree off the main campus and at a time other than a traditional commencement. In a single day’s visit, Tata toured the CU-ICAR facilities, met with automotive engineering students and participated in a roundtable discussion moderated by Keith Crain, chairman of the publishing conglomerate Crain Communications. Several people who were involved remember Tata leaving impressed. “His main comment during his visit here was, ‘This is a unique facility in the world, and I would like to see all of the automotive engineers in the world educated and trained like they are being educated and trained at Clemson’,” Khorana recalled. “That was his main takeaway.”

After the visit, Clemson officials began seeking other ways to collaborate with Tata and asked Khorana to spearhead efforts. He made two trips to India in search of a college that fit well with Clemson’s automotive engineering program and one that Tata Trusts held in high regard. Khorana, who is now scientific adviser for technology partnerships in the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, visited several engineering educational institutions and identified PSG College of Technology. It was perfect, with its top-20 rankings and established connections to Tata-related companies. Both PSG College of Technology and Clemson have automotive engineering programs and close connections with industry. Officials on both sides are already exploring other opportunities to collaborate, including a faculty-exchange program, although nothing has been finalized. Zoran Filipi, chair of the automotive engineering department, said he looks forward to helping the PSG College students further their educations at Clemson. “This is an excellent opportunity for the automotive engineering departments at both institutions to expand their global footprints,” Filipi said. “We look forward to a long, fruitful collaboration.” –  Courtesy


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