Sunday, August 4, 2013

US Vice President Joe Biden at IITBNF

As I came out of the clean room, I saw this guy, tall, muscular, and wore a black suit. He looked like a special agent right out of a Hollywood movie. He was standing near the gas detector panel in lab, and was asking the facility staff about the various nitty gritty of the detector system. The facility staff looked at me in despair and asked me to help him out. I was told it was a safety audit, and hence I showed me around the lab. I briefed him about the various hazards in the lab, and gave him an overview of various exit and entry points to the lab. As he was about to leave, I asked him " The Vice President is Coming?". With a cold expression on his face, he nodded, and said "yeah".

Three days later, I received a phone call from the lab manager, who asked whether I would be available on 25th July. He informed me that they were looking for students to be part of the lab visit during the US VP's visit to IITBNF. I informed him that I would be more than happy to be a part of it, and I was told that I would be informed of other formalities. The very same evening, around 20 of us filled up the form for security verification, and we were told to be available at all times over phone and email. 

A meeting was convened on 23rd July, by Prof. Bipin, who briefed us about the visit, the potential do's and don'ts and informed us that we would be meeting people from the US consulate that afternoon. We met Liz, who introduced herself as a White House staff, along with three other people. She was in charge, and had a towering persona unlike her short stature. A rehearsal was arranged, four of us, including myself were supposed to meet the Vice President in the micro 2 lab. We were instructed to keep our lines short and simple, and specifically told us not to bother about the contingent of media personnel who would be right in front of us during the visit. The next evening we received our entry passes prepared by the Mumbai CID, and we are all gearing up for the big day. 

As we walked towards the corridor in front of CEN, we were stopped by the Mumbai police. After verifying our badges, we were let in and was escorted by the US consulate officials to VMCC, for a thorough security screening to be done by the US Secret Service. After a detailed screening like those in Airports, we were escorted back to the lab and was asked to take our positions inside the lab. Sanchar, Nehul, Rajul and myself were stationed in Micro 2 lab, which houses the two in house built systems, Hotwire CVD, and Plasma Immersion Ion Implanter (PIII), along with other systems. Rest of the members were inside Nano and AMAT labs. After a while, a huge contigent of media personnel were brought in by white house staff. There were members from PTI, Reuters, Doordarshan and the like, who were asking questions about various equipments present in the lab. We knew in a short while, he would be arriving.

"He has arrived, and will be here in 5 mins", said the lady from US consulate. I was anxious, and kept telling myself to stay calm and relaxed. Within a few minutes, he walked into the lab with a broad smile in his face. Mrs. Rajul Patkar, welcomed him to the lab, and guided him towards the Hot wire CVD. It was Sanchar's turn to speak. He said "This is a Hot wire CVD, and is used for depositing materials". As simple as it gets. The Vice President kept looking at Sanchar for a few seconds, and replied "well, it doesn't look all that simple". Sanchar probably amused replied, "we were told to summarize in a sentence", and went into the details of the system. It was Nehul's turn next. Rajul and Nehul, showed him the Cantilevers under a microscope,  and Nehul went on to explain the functioning of the explosive sensor, heart sensor, and sensor platforms for agriculture. The Vice President was impressed by the potential of the technology, and remarked, "This has huge potential, I am impressed". He turned around, shook his hands with all of us again, and turned to Sanchar, and told, "This looks right out of Star Wars". He asked Sanchar to join him for the photo, and he left the lab, with a huge smile on his face. Indeed Sanchar was the star of the show, and the poor thing had to shell out a hefty amount on treat.

It was truly a moment of pride for all of us in IITBNF, EE Department, and IIT Bombay. The icing on the cake was when he said, "IIT Bombay is one of the best in the world".

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