Life is not a simple algorithm, which has few entities and conditions enclosed in a series of simple steps. It is a complex program with unexpected variables and exceptions. For Dr. Chitra Babu, HOD of Computer Science and Engineering from SSN Engineering College, Chennai, the first variable came in the form of a seminar. She was nervous, as she had to present a paper on 'Operating Systems' in front of her classmates and teachers. The second year electronics student over ruled all her stage fears to present a paper on a subject, which was in its budding stage during the 80's. "The appreciations that I received from my friends and teachers after that seminar gave me immense confidence. Moreover, at that moment I realized my potential to communicate the concepts clearly to others," says Dr. Chitra.
The seminar was a glint for Dr. Chitra to show her path towards teaching while she was doing her under graduate program on Electronics and Communication Engineering. Later the electronics student became a computer science professor, which was also an unexpected turnaround during her engineering education. "When I did my schooling and under graduate degree, computer science was not a prominent course but I was instantly drawn to it," says Dr. Chitra who fell in love with the problem solving methodologies of computer science with a single programming language called 'FORTRAN' that she learned during her engineering studies. "It was first time I got a chance to learn any of the computer programming languages and I got very interested in some of its logical arguments and problem solving aspects," recollects Dr. Chitra.
Opting to do Master Degree in Computer Science and Engineering was not a gamble for this electronics engineer, as she was very much fascinated about the principles of programming. She completed her Masters in Engineering from College of Engineering, Guindy, which later turned to become the prestigious Anna University along with three other technical institutions. The admiration to her favorite subject inspired her to study further. In the beginning of 90's, she flew to the U.S. to study M.S. in Computer and Information Science from The Ohio University.
Life was waiting with another surprise for Dr. Chitra in her final days at Ohio University. She was appointed as a System Engineer at legendary AT&T Bell Labs, which is known for its contributions to the modern information technology. The glorified job at a research center, which has already produced seven noble prizewinners, was not adequate to her. The passion towards teaching pulled Dr. Chitra to her homeland.
She spent her next five years at IIT Madras to complete her research in computer science. During her studies, the Ph.D holder met many eminent personalities. Some of them were her teachers, some of them were her mentors and some of them became role models to her. Dr. Chitra says, "All these people left an indelible impression on my mind that teaching is my profession and through this I can full fill many other minds. Ultimately, I wanted to be a teacher."
The Awaited Chapter Begins
After acquiring a doctorate from IIT, Dr. Chitra needed a platform to begin what she was more passionate throughout her life. SSN College of Engineering provided an ample atmosphere for Dr. Chitra to start her career as a teacher. It might be just a coincidence that the founder of SSN College is another technology enthusiast like Dr. Chitra, who is Dr. Shiv Nadar, Chairman of HCL Technologies.
At present, the HOD of Computer Science Department believes that the current undergraduate engineering programs can deliver knowledge about many different dimensions of any engineering principles. To nurture the skills related to computer science, she encourages her students to participate in many coding competitions. For that, she started chapters of different technical associations in the campus like Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), IEEE, AICE and CII to name a few. "The competitions are very tough and challenging. It helps them to learn how to tackle heavy challenges and progress into national level and international levels," says Dr. Chitra.
Along with teaching, the ex-employee of Bell labs is still busy polishing her research abilities by taking part in the various research activities at the campus research centers. Currently, she is giving guidance to six professors to grab the doctorate degree.
In the process of transition from an electronic student to a mentor of computer science, Dr. Chitra learned many lessons and now she is teaching the next generation whatever she learned. With complete sureness, she says, "Engineering is all about solving a problem by analyzing potential tradeoffs in different dimensions. It is important for the student to acquire both analytical and synthesizing skills so that they can be better engineers. "
Dr. Chitra Babu, HOD – Computer Science and Engineering, SSN College of Engineering
Dr. Chitra Babu is currently the head of Computer Science and Engineering at SSN College of Engineering. She received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from IIT Madras, Chennai and did her M.S in Computer and Information Science from the Ohio State University, USA. She says, "It is important for every individual to understand their calling. That will take them where they belong."