Jul 23, 2011

Prof. Lakshmi Varahan

They say "First impression is the best".If I were to go with their sayings, the DAR Program would not have been meaningful at all for me!

When Prof. Varahan derived the expression for evaluating an optimum value of a function with arguments that used mathematical jargons, I thought to myself "Why don't mathematicians learn Occam's razor?"

However, it was after his first lecture that I realize how elegant the mathematics becomes when the topics are taught in mathematical language! It is for no simple reason they say "Mathematicians are smart people. They reduce complicated equations by replacing them with symbols".

I changed my mind during his second lecture to such an extent that I looked forward for his sessions. Not only to learn mathematics, but also for his way of teaching.

Prof. Lakshmi Varahan has a knack of keeping the class alive and engaged with his high energetic and dynamic method of teaching, asking "are you with me guys?", "all of you get an 'Aha!' here?", and with proverbial quotes suitable to the situation such as the Chinese proverb:
you hear, you forget
you read, you remember
you do, you understand
And he wanted us to do each and every step by ourselves to understand how the method works. If, for time constraint, we were not able to do it during the lecture hours, he will say "It's a homework problem for you guys!".

Though he gave us only five lectures, and conducted about three tutorial sections, he covered almost all the topics from his book "Dynamic Data Assimilation", and cleared all our doubts during coffee/lunch breaks.

Soon, he became the most sought after to converse with, during and after the sessions. At one point, I even bunked a day's sessions when I came to know that Prof. Varahan is not having any sessions on that day! (Me and my friend went to Vishveshwarya museum on that day. The museum is like a Mecca or Amarnath yatra for Mechanical Engineers. More on this later).

Born in India, Prof. Varahan did his Masters and Ph.D at Indian Institute of Science and worked at Indian Institute of Technology Madras before leaving to abroad for a career in computer science. It is my fortunate privilege to have met him personally during this program and got enlightened in one of the most important and advanced topics in which the whole world is working on.