Prof. Arun S. Mujumdar - Q+A Session with China Daily (also available at http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2014-01/10/content_17229403.htm)
How do you feel about winning this award?
I feel deeply honored and also humbled by this esteemed award. I believe it is recognition of the diligence and creative effort of a number of my research students and colleagues as well as collaborators. I have had the privilege of mentoring numerous brilliant minds over the years in Canada, Singapore, the Chinese mainland, India and Hong Kong, as well as many other parts of the world. I am delighted that the decades-long effort in drying R&D has been so successful. My collaborators at Jiangnan University as well as Tianjin University of Science & Technology deserve special mention here.
What has been your most important accomplishment in China?
As an academic I believe my major accomplishment in China has been in generating interest in universities and industry in conducting R&D in areas of interest to China. This has led to a very large number of research publications, PhD theses as well as training of high-end talent in this field. Since much of this effort was industry-relevant, I believe that its impact has been in improving industrial drying technologies to save energy and produce better quality products. Also, the results of Chinese drying R&D are now disseminated globally through International Drying Symposium series — two of these global events have taken place successfully in China. A number of members of the editorial board of Drying Technology Journal are from China. Thus, our joint effort has resulted in a global network of researchers in drying technology. I might mention here that I am named High End Foreign Expert at Tianjin University of Science & Technology during 2013-2015. This also affords a great opportunity to mentor doctoral researchers and develop innovative drying technologies with industry interaction. My cooperation with Jiagnan University will be enhanced as a result of this national level award.
What plans do you have to carry out work related to China in the next five to 10 years?
My plans over the next five years are dynamic in that I would like to promote new global networking and drying R&D with additional institutions and industry in China. I prefer to carry out R&D with strong industry relevance. The impact of engineering research should be measured in terms of how it enhances industrial output. Although I have published very extensively and overall the publications have attracted a large numbers of citations, this is a byproduct and not the main goal of my research. Also, my philosophy is to develop highly productive and capable researchers in academia — impactive research follows naturally. So I hope I will have the opportunity to mentor more researchers with a global perspective in drying as well as allied areas.
Also, I am keen to develop global networks of excellence where research in mutually interesting areas can progress faster with synergistic collaboration. I think China can play a major role in this area. I would like to be a catalyst to help develop such networks.
In your opinion, what were the main factors behind your success in the awards?
I think numerous factors have led to the successful accomplishment of my R&D targets. My employment with McGill University in Canada and the National University of Singapore has been extremely valuable in being able to have the opportunity to work with high-caliber students and colleagues. I was also fortunate to have early collaborative links with academia and industry in China since 1984, when I visited Tianjin University of Science & Technology as well as several other universities to share my ideas about drying technologies. This led to long-term continuous interactions. Since 2001, I have worked with Prof. Min Zhang of Jiangnan University. This has been exceptionally productive research collaboration resulting in many PhD theses and also contact with many major food companies in China in the development of enhanced drying technologies. Since drying is highly energy intensive and a complex process to design and optimize, I am particularly pleased that we had industry participation as well.
How has your work in China helped your career develop in your native country?
My vision has been to establish drying research as a multidisciplinary area since drying is highly energy intensive and encountered in most industrial sectors. It is particularly important for the food processing industry for preservation as well as for development of new products. My joint work with colleagues in China as well as with my Chinese research students and visiting scientists in Canada and Singapore has helped increase awareness of the important impact of drying R&D on industrial processes. A large fraction of my publications have emerged out of my association with research talent from China. This naturally has had a positive impact on my professional achievements. The success of this collaboration is widely known around the world; it has served as a role model for international cooperation. This award from China will no doubt give further stimulus and visibility to this model of cooperative R&D.
What do you feel about the level of research carried out in China compared with other places around the world?
I have had the privilege of working closely with colleagues in many countries around the world. My research output has been maximal with my Chinese colleagues and students. The most impressive and heartening aspect has been the close interaction with industry making technology transfer easier and more effective than in other countries I have worked in. The quality of research effort has been comparable but much bigger in scope in my case. Availability of highly skilled talent in China is a distinct advantage in carrying out relevant research in China.