Singapore is the one of the few safest places on earth despite COVID-19, says Bapi Dutta, research fellow at the Logistics Institute-Asia Pacific, National University of Singapore (NUS). The researcher from West Bengal’s Chakdaha, a small town of Nadia district, is missing home, and like scholars and researchers at the campus is trying his best to cope with the emotional challenges of not being able to visit his family due to travel restrictions. But he is all praises for the extraordinary effort and timely introduction of control measures introduced by Singapore government. “It has helped prevent the spread of COVID-19 which has been in one digit for over two months. Consequently, international admissions for 2020 across six autonomous Singaporean universities had not borne the brunt. Even R&D activities are ever increasing so the prospects to pursue research careers in the country remains bright,” Dutta says.
Life in times of the pandemic
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His own work in a multi-disciplinary research team aimed at solving operational management problems faced by multinational companies and government agencies across Southeast Asia, has all the safety restrictions in place. “As an operations research analyst, my job is to understand the clients’ pain points’ and address their future challenges in the face of disruptive technologies, such as robotic process automation, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Based on the nature of problems, we design analytic/simulation models. In ordinary times, we had to visit our clients’ operations site for face-to-face interactions, but in the face of the pandemic, such interactions have been limited to online meetings,” Dutta explains.
Several norms have been imposed at his own campus to mitigate the risk of Coronavirus spread, most notably “splitting workforces as per shifts, allowing work from home options for non-lab based staff, zoning the campus, running all the classes online and launching app to track unauthorised campus visits, apart from temperature checks for all.
For someone whose modest roots in West Bengal began with nearby schools followed by a Bachelor’s in Mathematics Honours from Chakadaha College under Kalyani University, it has been a rollercoaster ride for Dutta. Developing a passion for research in Applied Mathematics, in particular, operations research from his teacher and mentor, it led him to join the MSc course in Industrial Mathematics and Informatics at IIT Rookee.
Although most of the fees for his MSc studies were covered by several competitive scholarships such as the National Board of Higher Mathematics Post Graduate Scholarship from the Department of Atomic Energy, UGC University Rank Holder Fellowship and Gorkha Prasad Trust Merit cum Means Fellowship from IIT Roorkee, his father ended up borrowing money for the rest of his expenses.
Dutta did not disappoint, as he later pursued his PhD at IIT Patna through the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Fellowship and worked in intersection operations research and decision theory. In 2017, he landed his current job in Singapore and never thought twice in accepting the offer from National University of Singapore, ranked #11 in QS Global Ranking. “The nature of the job, challenge, learning from pioneers and geographical proximity made me excited about the position,” Dutta says.
Rising relevance of operations research
Singapore’s multi-cultural society and his friends in the country made it easier for him to adjust to life both within and outside the campus. Dutta now plans to have a R&D position in the future “that engages in solving some of the pivotal problems in society”. He feels that career prospects in his field look promising, and more so, in a post-pandemic world. “The business environment is getting increasingly complex, calling for more informed and effective decisions based on data. That is where operations research and analytics as well as the related fields of management science, data science, computer science and decision science will be widely-sought-after. The prospects in my area of research will get even better with time,” he adds.