Global Spotlight: Pankaj Ram Kaushik
Title: Visiting Scholar
Education: PhD & MS in Environmental Science, Griffith University (Brisbane, Australia), Master of Technology in Applied Geology, Kurukshetra University (India)
Home Country: India
Pankaj Ram Kaushik is a visiting scholar through the Center for Global Education and Engagement’s Exchange Visitor Program.
What country are you from?
I was born in India and spent most of my life there in floodplains near the Himilayas. I did a majority of my schooling and received my bachelor’s degree in Geology before moving to Brisbane, Australia to pursue my master’s degree in 2017. Cultures are much more similar in India and Australia compared to the US because both countries were colonized by Britain. For example, Cricket is a very popular sport in both countries and an easy way to connect with others.
How long have you been at SUNY Brockport and what do you do?
I initially came to Brockport in 2015 for a semester. I worked with Dr. Mark Noll when I was working on my undergraduate degree. That was my first trip to any other country. Everything was really fascinating but I was nervous and Mark Noll made everything easy for me. He later supported me throughout COVID when other countries shut down their borders.
The Center for Global Education and Engagement at SUNY Brockport worked hard to ensure I could return to Brockport to finish my research for my PhD program. I arrived on September 11, 2021, and I will remain for the entire semester until I finish my research.
What are the noticeable cultural differences from your educational structure compared to the US classroom dynamic?
In India, school and college are very strict and they really focus on the basics. For example, we are not allowed to use calculators at all on our exams. Australia and the US are more lenient and which allows you to do more practical stuff in the labs. Also, the students and their teachers are more liberal and talk to their students openly. In India, a teacher is referred to as a “Guru” and students have great respect for their Guru, but you are not able to have a friendship.
What international research or collaborations are you working on today?
I am part of the Australian River Institute and researching the Great Artesian Basin (GAB). It is a mineral-rich underground basin that covers 1/5 of the land in Australia. The area is tropical and arid and covers almost four climate zones. The groundwater springs are important when there are droughts. I am looking at how groundwater and springs can help bring vegetation. If you want vegetation in the desert how is that possible using the groundwater springs? What do the ecosystems need to look like to make this possible?
What made you want to teach?
I want to teach students and do research alongside them. There is not a lot of research in India particularly on geology, environmental science, and water resources, but I learned a lot at Brockport. I want to make research papers interesting for students and teach them how to look at it as a novel and take interest in it. I always felt that we needed to take action and do research on important topics like water resources and I want to share that passion with students.
Describe the most important (or most celebrated) holiday of your culture.
There are two important events in India. The first is Diwali, which is held between October and November each year. It is celebrated with candles and firecrackers while exchanging gifts and meeting with your friends and family.
The second is Holi which is typically held in March. We put colors on everyone because it symbolizes winter is gone and the new season is coming. It is about starting new, a time to forget all your past relationships or anything at all. No matter their religion, everyone celebrates these two festivals.
Is there a favorite dish from your home country that you miss? Can you tell us a little more about what makes that special to you?
Mark taught me a lot about cooking when I first came here. I am vegetarian so I eat a lot of veggies. I love Indian curries and Naan. I cook a lot of my own food using ingredients I pick up from the Indian markets in Rochester and I most commonly visit Namaste. Every day I am trying to make different curries using different vegetables.
What surprised you most about your transition to Western, NY
When I came in 2015 it was winter and there was snow everywhere and that was my first time ever seeing snow. It felt like I was in an imaginary land or movie and I remember thinking “Am I in a dream or something?”
When I came back this year it was in the Fall. I was shy about meeting people, but when I started talking to people I realized a lot of them are open-minded. What surprised me the most is the smile on everyone’s face. It gives me energy and it feels like they are really excited to talk to me. I don’t feel like I am away from my family when I am here.