All set to lead a team of 12 faculty members from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras to Zanzibar, the island city in Tanzania in East Africa, to start the first batch of the first international campus here for any IIT, Prof Preeti Aghalayam feels this will give confidence to more women students.
“This may come as a step forward and give confidence to more women students to study math and science, which have largely been considered male-centric domains,” says Aghalayam, in an interview to News18 from Chennai. Aghalayam and her team will take the flight to Zanzibar next week, ahead of the commencement of classes from October 24.
There are many firsts here, says the professor, who has been appointed as the director-in-charge of IIT Zanzibar (a branch of IIT-Madras), the first woman ever to head an IIT since it was established in the country in 1951.
While IITs have been the premier tech institutes in India, the number of women, both faculty and students, has been low on the campuses. “There is a misguided, completely wrong perception that women cannot be as good as men, especially in math, which needs to be corrected. So, the messaging is very important,” the Prof says.
A chemical engineer, Aghalayam, also an alumnus from the institute, has been teaching here since 2010. She was also one of the 75 women recognised in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) by the Principal Scientific Advisor’s office. Being associated with the global management wing of the institute for long, she is leading the first offshore campus and the journey so far, she says has been “overwhelming”, as she has been receiving a “completely unexpected” response since her name was announced for the new role.