Professor Mohanty's fundamental principle to education and teaching has been deeply influenced over the years by his father, who although is a Professor of Philosophy, has been trained in mathematics and logic in Göttingen (Germany) and who has published over twenty seven seminal books and two hundred peer reviewed articles in various branches of philosophy. At a young age, by essentially encouraging me to follow my dreams, my father instilled in me the crucial traits that would make an effective scholar-teacher: curiosity, critical thinking, the ability to communicate, and the excitement of hands-on approach to basic research. From the laboratory to the classroom as well as in public education of science, I have strived to build on these fundamental traits.
Although my overall teaching philosophy at Boston College is based on the principles that I had learned from my father, there are some new elements that have been added on to it. In the classroom teaching, the new elements include the incorporation of (i) quintessential elements of problem solving skills by emphasizing the concepts hand-in-hand with estimating an answer to a problem before performing a calculation; (ii) the latest advances in contemporary research so that students have some knowledge of where the field is essentially heading; (iii) topics relevant to every-day lives such as environmental issues; (iv) meetings with students on a periodic basis to find ways to enhance the effectiveness of the class.
I often discuss the latest advances in materials, biophysical, and in soft condensed matter physics to freshman students in General Chemistry and juniors in Physical Chemistry courses. We disseminate the latest scientific results that has appeared in Science, Nature, and the Proceedings of the National Academy to enhance the scientific understanding in our biweekly seminars for physical chemistry. To enhance communication skills, I have replaced one of three mid-term exams in several graduate courses with a poster presentation. The students will be mentored to dissemble the main ideas of the paper and present it as a twenty minute lecture in a form that is understandable to the entire class.
Teaching of Research
Undergraduates. I have discovered by trial and error that the most rewarding experience for an undergraduate carrying our research in theoretical chemistry is to do so side-by-side directly with the faculty member. I have mentored and trained several outstanding students in theoretical physical and biophysical chemistry. Students from my group have been recipients of National Science Foundation Fellowship, Goldwater Scholarship, Phi Beta Kappa, and American Chemical Society Theodore Richard Norris Award, for example.
Graduate and Postdoctoral Students.One of the pivotal roles of my research activities has been to train strongly inter-disciplinary graduate students and post-doctoral scholars. I emphasize reading the literature on a weekly basis, probing the “bigger picture”, improving ones communicative skills, and learning how to attack several research problems simultaneously. Several of my students hold academic appointments. My graduate students have been receipt of DOE fellowships and have won awards from the Material Research Society.
High School Students.The future of science depends on the next generation of science students who are now in middle and high schools. For the past decade, I have integrated my research activities towards scientifically training high school students. These students are an integral part of my research group and have carried out basic theoretical research on liquids and biophysical chemistry in my laboratory. I have published papers with high school students in highly prestigious journals.