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With new campus & IIT collaboration, ‘liberal-arts hub’ Ashoka University eyes big science push

At present, the Haryana varsity offers some programmes in science, but with the expansion, the founders plan to offer a 'unique blend' of research in science and humanities.

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New Delhi: Haryana’s Ashoka University, which is primarily known for its liberal arts courses, is expanding its science department with a dedicated campus coming up next to the main one at Sonepat’s Rajiv Gandhi Education City.

The private varsity is collaborating with some of the most prestigious centres of learning in India and abroad, including the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the UK’s Cambridge University, and Buffalo University in the US.

“You cannot do sciences alone, you need to discuss and have a dialogue with other institutions,” Pramath Raj Sinha, Ashoka University’s founder and trustee, told ThePrint.

At present, the varsity offers some programmes in science, but with the expansion, the founders plan to offer a “unique blend” of research in science and humanities. The university campus will occupy nearly 100 acres of land once work on the new wing — comprising a science park and laboratories — is complete.

“Multidisciplinary science is where we want to stand out, we want to bring together physicists, chemists, computer scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, psychologists under one roof and get them to work together. We think that level of multidisciplinarity is difficult to bring into legacy institutions. Since we are new in this, it will come naturally to us…”, Sinha added.

“The plan was always to do a full liberal arts education, which also includes science… definitionally, we always knew we were going to do science. It’s just that we sequenced it in such a way that humanities came first and now the sciences,” he further said.

Sinha told ThePrint that instead of offering professional programmes like engineering, MBA and law, the university wants to focus on technical liberal arts — humanities, natural science, and computer science, among others. 

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Science park, School for Advanced Computing

Ashoka University’s science campus will have a ‘School of Biosciences’ offering courses on health and emerging areas of biosciences, a ‘School for Mathematics and Physical Sciences’ offering courses on maths, physics and astronomy, and a ‘School for Advanced Computing’ offering courses on computer sciences.

A science park comprising a ‘Centre for Disease Biology’ with special focus on emerging infectious diseases, human immunology, antimicrobial resistance, and Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in clinical and epidemiological settings, will also come up on the new campus.

A ‘Centre for Inflammation Biology’ to study the role of inflammation in infections and cancers, and a ‘Centre for Synthetic Biology’ focussed on understanding biochemical events in living cells at high resolution and precision in time and space, are also in the pipeline.

The university hopes that students will be able to start participating in research at the School of Biosciences by 2023. 

Meanwhile, the university is also amplifying its computer science programme and will launch a ‘School for Advanced Computing’ this year. 

Sinha told ThePrint that the university is recruiting faculty from across the world. Former IIT Delhi professor Shubhashish Banerjee, who teaches computer science, and former director of Delhi-based CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology Anurag Agarwal are among the faculty that have already joined.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

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