From the pretty china cup to the outer lining of a spacecraft that can withstand extreme temperatures, ceramics dominates almost all spheres of life. In India, a person who desires to make a career in this sector is almost sure to find himself loaded with a wide range of options. It could be as an entrepreneur or as an employee in a large-scale ceramic ware manufacturing unit, or even in a steel refractory or as a researcher treading unknown territory.
“Options for youngsters in ceramics are enormous,” says Dr Shankar Ghatak, senior scientist with the Central Glass & Ceramic Research Institute (CGCRI), Calcutta, adding, “Besides, the opportunities to excel in research are enormous.”
“Our students are snapped up even before they finish their graduation. That is the kind of demand we are talking about for ceramic technology engineers. For anybody who is focussed and ready to work hard, I think the sky is the limit,” says Ashis Bandopadhyay, principal of Government College of Engineering and Ceramic Technology, Calcutta.
According to Manas Kumar Panja, who works for a private steel manufacturer in Surat, the opportunities are increasing by the day. “The demand for ceramic specialists is such that it will take ages to reach the saturation point,” he points out.
Some institutes that offer graduation courses in ceramics (BTech, BE and BSc) are Government College of Science & Technology in Calcutta, Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, Regional Engineering College in Rourkela, Faculty of Technology and Engineering, M.S. University in Baroda, PDA College of Engineering in Gulbarga and Anna University in Chennai. Admission to these institutions is through entrance examinations.
“Significant progress has been made in areas related to research, design, development, testing and commercialisation of these materials all over the world. However, challenges abound for making further advancements in the properties of these materials for maximum utility and widespread use,” says Kamal K. Kar, assistant professor, department of mechanical engineering and materials science programme, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.
Some of the higher educational institutes include materials and metallurgical departments of all IITs, department of ceramic engineering, Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University, Calcutta University (Rajabazar campus), CGCRI Calcutta.
Typically, students who opt for higher studies are those who are interested in doing further research in ceramics. And, be sure, there is a lot to research on. “For instance in India, we can’t make a furnace that can withstand more than 2000 degree Celsius. Unless we come up with a ceramic material that can withstand such high temperatures, we may continue to lag behind,” says Kar.
Besides, there are institutions such as the Indian Space Research Organization, Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and Institute for Plasma Research, among others, which are in need of trained experts in ceramics.
The opportunities for someone fresh out of college are vast. “When I had just graduated, there was a flood of offers from various industries, but I chose a steel refractory,” says Panja. According to experts, a student who has just graduated can earn anywhere between Rs 25,000 and Rs 40,000.
“In government institutions like our own, more often than not, students with PhDs are preferred for the ‘scientist’ category. And for anybody who is willing to work hard, the opportunities to excel are mind-boggling,” says Ghatak.
One can even opt to be an entrepreneur. “If a person is enterprising enough, he or she can go ahead and set up a ceramic unit. This has become easier as the government now offers easy loans,” says Bandhopadhyay.
“Ceramic specialists could never dream of such prospects before. In fact, during the IT boom, many of those who did BTech in ceramic technology preferred a job in one of the software companies but not any longer,” says Arnab Sengupta, who recently completed his BTech from Government College of Engineering and Ceramic Technology, Calcutta. He took up a job with a refractory in Karnataka, thanks to the placement cell of his college.