Interview 1- Kartikeya Sharma (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden)

We are pleased to present the very first interview of our Interview series! This interview is precisely a student interview which intends to help students to keep the doubts at bay and look for answers related to textile and more! Let us analyze more about textile with Kartikeya Sharma.

Kartikeya Sharma is currently studying Macromolecular materials (Polymer Science) at the master's level in Kungliga Tekniska Hรถgskloan (KTH Royal Institute of Technology), Sweden. He graduated from Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai in 2019 with a bachelor's degree in Fibers and Textile Processing Technology.
His coursework spin around physics and chemistry of polymeric materials, anchoring around sustainability and recycling. His point of convergence of research is on the application of synthetic polymeric materials in the sports industry and 3D printing. His research territory also includes biocompatible composites material for textiles, synthetic nano-materials and nano-fiber science and much more! He has completed international internships as well. With such enthralling reaching we believe this interview will be compelling enough to gain considerable amounts of knowledge. Let us explore more about him in this interview.
We must now dig a little deeper. We have asked Kartikeya some questions, which often pop up in minds of young students which will be answered in this interview. Here it goes!

1-Can you provide a setting of your coursework?
The coursework in my programme revolves around the physics and chemistry of polymeric materials with a good amount of focus on sustainability and recycling. A lot of focus is also given on the manufacturing techniques of composite materials of micro- and nanoscale. Since wood is the most abundant naturally available raw material in Sweden, a deeper understanding of wood-based materials and cellulosic material based products is provided. Other than this, the course also focuses on the application of polymeric materials in the surface coating industry, pharmaceutical industry, packaging industry, Refineries and chemical plants, enzyme technology, proteins, fibre science and bio-composites.

2- Tell us about your experience studying at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden.
My experience so far has been good. The curriculum is very enriching, especially for those who want to continue their research in natural and bio-based products. A lot of freedom is available in the choice of subjects and a lot of interdisciplinary research is also provided. The professors are very open and very helpful, not only in academic but in other general stuff as well. The facilities provided are extremely good with all high tech equipment available for analysis. The research groups and PhDs are also very friendly and open to discussions on related academic subjects. The environment is also really good for education and the students are not under a lot of workload so as to maintain a good work-life balance.

3-Brief us about the favorable opportunities and extend of your field
Since polymeric materials find application in almost every field, the opportunities are abundant. Not only industrially but also academically, research opportunities are always available due to ever-growing advancement in this field. Especially since the world has started shifted towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle, the research opportunities have burgeoned due to enhanced application of bio-based materials. Not only this but synthetic materials are still going to last in the world for as long as we can imagine. Hence, every field that makes use of materials provides an opportunity for a polymer scientist. The field of polymer science not limited just to polymeric materials and it finds its extension in all fields of sciences; physics, chemistry and biology.

4-Can you tell us about your research interests and give us a gest about sporttech?
My research has so far been focused on the application of synthetic polymeric materials in the sports industry and 3D printing. I also research on biocompatible composite materials for textiles, high-performance polymers, polymers for 3D printing, application of functional and responsive polymers, synthetic nano-materials and nano-fibre science.
Fibres and polymers have always been closely knit with the sports industry, with almost every material being made out of polymers. Application of such materials in sports industry is not limited to just sportswear or apparel, it is also used in making the sports equipment, rehabilitation, sports science and sports technology. In recent times, a lot of focus has been shifted to the application of responsive and electronic materials in the sports industry for performance assessment, property enhancement and wearable textiles. Since this transition, SportTech has gathered a lot of attention and funding from big organizations for conducting enhanced research and to provide engineering solutions.

5-Any special features of your program that you would like to share with us?
KTH provides for a special masters programme in Polymer Technology which is jointly organized by KTH, Chalmers University, DTU and NTNU, the top Nordic universities for research in polymer science. The feature of this programme is that you get to study at any two of these universities depending on your choice of specialization, spending one year at each university. This way you get to explore the research in each university and also get the experience of living in two different countries. The programme also provides for three different tracks, the information for which can be found on the website.

6-What guidelines would you give to students who are planning their further studies from abroad?
Firstly, going abroad is not the only option that students have to pursue. The important thing is that students should be able to decide what interests them and then try to pursue it, whether in India or outside. Secondly, please do not be obsessed with the university rankings. It is more important to be at a university where you develop yourself rather than to be at a high ranked university just for the sake of it and spending huge sum of money.

7-How does studying abroad fit in your academic plan? And how according to you it will pave way for future opportunities?
Having completed international internships, I knew that opportunities are abundant in the world. Since the field of research that I was interested in is pretty much non-existent in India and most of the companies based outside of India, I knew that studying abroad would be the better choice for me. Being associated with a well-reputed international university provide you with many advantages, most important of which is access to a lot of internship and work opportunities. In many situations, I have received an added benefit during my application for internships because I am a student of KTH. So far, 8 months into the master's degree, I have successfully been able to secure a thesis at a very reputed company along with multiple internship offers from Institutes and companies. This will help me in securing a job in future in top companies in my field as well as doctoral positions at research groups of my choice.

8-What challenges did you face while adapting with the culture at your University?
Since I have spent a lot of time internationally during my internships and projects, I was well versed with the kind of culture I would walk in to. Hence, I did not have any problems adjusting to the university culture or adjusting with the people. Many people faced problems in adjusting with the climate which is significantly different from India but due to my previous experiences, I fit in quite well and easily into Swedish life.

9-How can funding for universities facilitate the development of new technologies and products that will benefit the society according to you?
The universities are the main source of innovation in the real world. If new advancements are to take place in the world, they will originate from research groups from universities and then get taken over by companies. Hence, to implement enhanced research at the grass-root level, investing and providing funds to universities is very important to facilitate the development of new technologies. Europe, in this regard, is very advanced and supportive of research investments. Currently, most of the projects going on in universities are EU funded projects and if not funded by EU commission, these projects are funded by private companies and organizations to improve their production output and developments. Local governments also have various innovation programmes and schemes to enhance the living standards in their own country.

10-How should use of disposal of polymeric materials should be managed to ensure protection of the environment, considering the current situation where people are move aware about the hazards?
End of life properties and disposal of polymeric materials has been a highly discussed and researched field for a long time now. New and new ways of degrading non-biodegradable polymers are being found, with every route an advancement over the previous. Many countries have established proper recycling mechanisms to cope with the menace of plastic pollution and they have been successful in converting it into energy to power public transport and other systems (e.g. Sweden, Germany). A lot of focus is being given on replacement of synthetic materials with bio-based and biodegradable materials to prevent this problem of waste disposal completely.

11-Are there any scholarships or grants for students that you would recommend applying for?
Most universities have their own scholarships that they provide to students based on certain criteria. Scholarships are also available from public agencies in different countries which can be applied for by international students. Various scholarships and zero-interest loans are also available in India itself for students going abroad for studies. One important thing to note is that generally, the preference for the scholarship is given to the individual who has some work experience (Not including internships) along with merit.

12-You are inclined towards sports, how according to you sport activities play a significant role in a students’ life?
For me, sports was the main reason to dwell in this field of research. Having played sports at a very high level in India, I experienced a lack of technological advancement. This is how I inclined towards working in the sports industry.
Playing sports not only keeps you fit physically and mentally, but it also inculcates discipline in an individual's life. This reflects ion the way people do their tasks, build relations and gain confidence. This in turns helps you improve your focus and perform better in your studies as well. Sports also becomes a source of refreshment and keeps you busy, making you stay away from getting drifted into unhealthy activities. You never know where and at which moment you might inspiration!

13-Lastly, any advice that you would like to share with all the young engineers and our readers?
The advice that I would give to the students is not to be obsessed with going abroad for studies. There are plenty of opportunities in India and certain institutes which are providing the world with high quality research. The students should also be clear in what they want to do and what kind of impact they want to create rather than taking things casually and for granted. A lot is riding on the shoulders of the upcoming generation of engineers to take technological advancements in every field to the next level. Hence, plan your life, focus on what you do best and bring out your best creative side. An important suggestion would be to plan out your time properly, making the most of the opportunities that come your way. All the best for all your future endeavours.

Kartikeya Sharma, it was pleasure taking a glimpse at your research, it was surely captivating! Thank you for providing us an insight into your career. It was appealing to have you. 

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