Provost Is In: Uday Sukhatme
In this special edition of “The Professor Is In,” Pace University Provost Uday Sukhatme discusses his artistic aspirations, sub-nuclear elementary particles, and his secret love of “The Big Bang Theory.”
Uday Sukhatme, ScD, is an expert in physics problem solving. Among his many research accomplishments, he developed new techniques using supersymmetry to understand better and determine the energy levels of potentials in quantum mechanics and wrote a book about it. While his research techniques apply specifically to quantum mechanics, there is no doubt he’s used his unique problem solving skills to the betterment of Pace.
In this super special edition of “The Professor Is In,” we invited Provost Sukhatme to talk to us about his philosophy on life and art and what makes good students great. As the chief academic officer of the University, working with the President, the role of the Provost is to shape and implement Pace's educational philosophy and policies. Since joining the University in 2012, he has made great strides in the enhancement of the educational experience at Pace and has breathed new life into research being conducted by the faculty and students at the University. Despite his administrative responsibilities, Provost Sukhatme is still a professor at heart, and occasionally teaches an introductory physics course.
What was one thing or person that made you passionate about your current career?
In grade school, I read a book, whose chapters were devoted to scientists who were responsible for some of the great discoveries in science. I was fascinated by the ingenuity and hard work which led to transformative discoveries. At the time I completed high school, understanding the ultimate basic structure of matter by creating and studying sub-nuclear elementary particles was the cutting edge, and so I chose physics as my field of study.
What quality do you most value in your students?
Methodical thinking, good study habits, and hard work are essential ingredients for student success in a physics course. I stress regular studying habits, since physics courses steadily build on previously learned materials—so cramming just before an exam is not effective for understanding the subject matter.
What’s your advice to students to make the most out of their time in college?
Participate in many of the exciting co-curricular activities college life has to offer, but never forget that your first and foremost “job” is to be a student, and to excel in your studies.
If you had to do it all over again and took another path, what profession would you choose? What profession would you not choose?
If I had the natural talent, I would have chosen a career in either art or architecture. I particularly like the interplay of light and color in impressionist painting and am fascinated by large structures, both ancient (pyramids, forts, cathedrals) and modern (museums, bridges, skyscrapers).
Although I like to watch magicians, I would not like to be one.
What is your favorite word? Least favorite word?
I like the adjective “innovative”. My least favorite word is “bored”.
What is your guilty pleasure TV show or mobile app?
Watching The Big Bang Theory is generally very enjoyable. Some episodes are a little crazy, but by and large, the show continues to be remarkably fresh after so many continuous seasons! My wife and I also enjoy Shark Tank.
What was your favorite class as a student? Least favorite?
Mathematics was my favorite subject as a student, and I was very good at it. My least favorite subjects were probably history and zoology, since our high school teachers required us to memorize a lot of seemingly disjointed facts.
If you were a Pace student, what class would you like to take with another Pace professor?
I would enjoy a better appreciation of art, and the motivations and circumstances underlying an artist’s work. Did the choice of materials, color, size, and shape come in a stroke of genius, or was this choice the result of experience gained from considerable trial and error? So, I think an in depth class in art history and appreciation would be something I would enjoy.
What would you do if you had an extra hour every day?
Spending extra time with the family is good—especially when the grandkids are visiting!
What is your favorite professional or personal journey/experience?
I enjoy the intellectual exploration of uncharted territory, and the discovery of solutions to large or small problems. It is stimulating to give an invited research talk at a physics conference. It is also exciting to tell an audience of higher education administrators how a careful analysis of data leads to improvements in student learning.
What is your favorite saying/words to live by?
“Early to bed and early to rise—makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” A quote by Benjamin Franklin.
If you could have any five people living or dead, imagined or real, as guests at a dinner party, who would you choose?
Mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan; impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir; path-breaking physicist Marie Curie; versatile inventor/artist Leonardo da Vinci; influential author Jane Austen. I have chosen five people from the past, whose brilliant contributions have stood the test of time.
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