Lambani student aims for the sky and gets it

Lambani student aims for the sky and gets it

Kiran Jayasurya is set to join the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as a scientist

When he was in college, space fascinated Kiran Jayasurya; his imagination fired up by a steady dose of Discovery Channel documentaries. 

"After PUC, I got a seat in the CET (Medical), but did not want to go into medicine. My father then told me about the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) in Thiruvananthapuram, where I could learn astrophysics.”

Kiran eventually landed at the institute. Now, the 23-year-old is set for a career with Isro and a date with the stars. Watching documentaries didn't go in vain after all.

What makes his accomplishment unique is that Kiran comes from the nomadic Lambani community that largely lives outside mainstream society in Tandas.

His father, Manjunath, who now works in Bengaluru, told DH about the early struggles, on how he could not afford to send his son to a proper school due to his impoverished background.

“We lived in a small village near Chitradurga," Manjunath said. "I moved to Bengaluru in 1992 as a student and worked as a helper in a machine shop.”

Later, after Kiran was born, Manjunath said that his lack of adequate income meant that he could only afford to enroll his son in local unaccredited neighbourhood schools. 

That didn't deter Kiran. In SSLC, Kiran scored 99%, which he matched in PUC at the MES College in Malleswaram.

“However, I did not know what I must do with my life,” Kiran told DH, adding that he had always dreamt of a career in space. 

There was one hiccup, however. He did not know how to enter the aerospace industry.

“My interest was driven by documentaries on the Discovery Channel," Kiran said.

On learning about the IIST from his father, Kiran cleared the JEE Main and Advanced exams and was offered a seat for a dual-degree, 5-year course at the IIST.

Associate Professor Samir Mandal, Head of the Earth and Space Sciences Department at IIST, said Kiran was a dedicated student. 

“In addition to a drive for knowledge, he was incredibly hardworking, disciplined and obedient. These qualities proved attractive to many of the faculty,” Dr Mandal said.

IIST, which was set up by the central government, is a major source of recruitment for Isro.

“This does not mean that all students who attend the institute automatically find a position in Isro. This is contingent on Isro’s requirement for the year plus a high academic cut-off,” Dr Mandal said.

He added that Kiran had been offered the Isro position as a Scientist C on the basis of his dual degrees in astronomy and astrophysics. "His academic work in his final two years also saw him conferred with a gold medal,” Dr Mandal said.