We are delighted to welcome Professor Nagamani Jaya Balila to the IIT Bombay family. She joined the Metallurgical Engineering and Material Sciences last year.
She completed her B. Tech in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from National Institute of Technology, Karnataka in 2007. Then from 2007-2013 she worked on ‘Microscale fracture testing of graded (Pt,Ni) Al bond coats’ as her topic for her PhD at Indian Institute of Sciences Bangalore (IISc).
The topics that she mentions as her current research interest constitute, Mechanical behavior of materials; Nanoindentation and Nano-/micro-mechanics; Interface engineering and design of damage tolerant brittle matrix composites; Electro-thermo-mechanical failure in thin films, hard coatings, nanocrystalline materials and semiconductor device materials; Fracture behavior of advanced, high strength steels. She is also working on a number of projects with national as well as international collaboration. One of her projects under the Max-Planck India Partner Group Project, 2016-2019 (approved) is on ‘Designing damage tolerant functional oxide nanostructures’. Under the IITB Seed Grant, 2017-2021(approved) she is working on ‘Tailoring damage tolerance in brittle systems at multi-hierarchical length scales’. She is working in collaboration with TATA Steels and TATA Global Wires (approved)-, 2017 on ‘Role of the interface on deformation and fracture behavior of dual-phase steels and cold drawn pearlite’.
While speaking on the recent developments in the areas of her research interest that according to her will have a huge impact in the future, she mentions that failure by catastrophic fracture is a problem encountered in all structural systems. With continued device miniaturization (MEMS, thin films, coatings) and impending size effects that kick in, a number of existing correlations break down. It hence becomes necessary to gauge the materials response at the length scales of their final application instead of extrapolation from the macro-scale. Materials scientists are grappling with multi-scaled cause (structure)-effect (property) relations with increasing focus on smaller dimensions. In- situ micromechanics, in which she specializes uses state of the art tools inside electron microscopes to manipulate structures under various loading conditions while watching them as they evolve simultaneously. She further adds that development of this field in the last decade has brought about an impactful insight into how we ‘see’ things today and has huge potential in the future.
Her future plans at IIT Bombay is to enable testing material’s mechanical properties at small length scales when exposed to static, dynamic and cyclic loads at ambient and elevated temperatures while investigating the applicability and validity of existing deformation and fracture mechanics theories as well as testing standards. She also plans to develop understanding of failure behavior of materials over different intrinsic and extrinsic length scales of the material and structure by correlating observed responses to the materials micro and nano-structure. This research subject is extremely relevant to any real material or device under stress, and finds applications in MEMS structures, multi-layered thin films and graded coatings as well as in composites used in aerospace structures, defense, nuclear and manufacturing sectors. According to her this pursuit requires a multi-scale testing and simulation approach as well as inspiration from natural design.
Explaining her idea of teaching she says that she lays more stress on the teacher’s role as a motivator and a facilitator. She thinks it is important emphasize on what the students gains from their time spent in the class, both in terms of information as well as motivation. She further says that she wants to steer students into science that is not linear or formulaic, but is more inter-disciplinary and curiosity driven. She feels that student’s engagement happens only when they participate actively instead of being passive listeners. She has devised a number of ways of increasing the student’s engagement in the class. She says that, she prefers spending more of the class time in solving assignments and tutorial and understanding where the students lack clarity of concept. She has also implemented open-book examination system to test concepts than memory based learning. In the last part of her course she has implemented a paper presentation to improve student’s communication skills as well as nurture interest in them. Her endeavor for future is to involve students into projects academic or industrial so that they can understand their role as material scientists more effectively and are better prepared for their careers. She wants to introduce more laboratory based approach in her lectures and improve practical learning with as many industrial visits as possible.
Worth mentioning are her thoughts on passion. She looks upon passion as the ability to submit and go through the grind to achieve the best one can, which does not necessarily be what one is inherently good at.
Her interests away from material sciences are quite vivid and she likes to spend her spare time reading about politics, philosophy and science.