Please tell us about yourself

Like most graduate students, Sritama Sarkar collaborates with experts for her research. But in her case, that expert also happens to be her father. She came to Memorial from India to pursue her PhD in ocean and naval architectural engineering with research on submersible vehicles for underwater dredging and mining. Her father, Mridul K. Sarkar, is a mechanical engineer and since 1979 has designed and built surface floating dredgers.

I grew up in a dredging environment, said Ms. Sarkar. When I was a child I watched him drawing the designs, because AutoCAD wasnt that common, and I would go to work sites with him.

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What did you study? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and fascinating career?

Ms. Sarkar began her academic career with a bachelors in geology from Calcutta University, followed by a masters in the same discipline, then a masters in mechanical engineering from Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands. In fact, she was the first Indian to graduate as a dredging engineer from Delft University.

After meeting Dr. Neil Bose, Canada Research Chair in Offshore and Underwater Vehicles Design at Memorial University, at a conference in India, she decided to pursue graduate research at Memorial University.

I wanted to pursue PhD work in submersible technology for a long time in order to improve my knowledge in the field and also to contribute something to the field of submersible technology. It was this urge, which pushed me to do research work””, she says.

Tell us about your career path

Ms. Sarkar worked in India with her fathers company, Excavation Equipment Manufacturing (Private) Limited, for a year after her first masters degree. Ms. Sarkar says that when you work with your father, it sometimes gets a bit emotional.

Its not the standard boss/employee relationship. You have that, but no matter how hard to try to maintain it, theres always that soft relationship between a father and daughter.

Sometimes, she adds, he was very protective.

Iam not a very good swimmer and dredgers are always on the water. I remember once we went to a site that was on a river that had lots of currents. The dredger was very close to shore but he wouldnt allow me to go on the dredger because he was afraid I would fall and wouldnt be able to swim to shore. After a lot of fuss, I was finally allowed to go on with the operators.

Ms. Sarkar says her father may be proud that shes chosen his line of work, but says he doesnt communicate that very often.

He will say, Okay, this is good, but he would never say too much because then children might think too highly of themselves!However, she adds, she does admire his courage to fight against anything he doesnt feel is right and the fact that everything he has accomplished he has done on his own.

What did you do for your Phd?

My research focuses on developing suitable technology and equipment for dredging deep inland reservoirs as also to execute dredging and mining activities in shelf or tidal areas. There is either lack of suitable technology or operational restrictions with the existing technology. Within my research, I developed, designed, built and tested the prototype of a new type of walking submersible dredging/ mining platform. This new design is very modular and can be modified easily to adapt to a particular working area very easily. This new technology can be used to replace conventional surface floating dredgers in a number of inland and offshore areas, besides the above mentioned application areas. Surface floating dredgers require a high number of personnel for operation. Small remotely operated submersible dredgers/ miners with sufficient on board autonomy will require less personnel. This is an important consideration for countries like Canada where labour is very expensive. The new vehicle is suitable for areas where constant monitoring and dredging activities are necessary. These include a) reservoirs and water supply intakes; b) small harbors and navigational canals; c) drainage and municipal canals; d) very long water supply canals and associated reservoirs; e) canals and reservoirs. It can also be used for placer diamond, gold or heavy mineral sand mining in shelf areas and in the offshore oil and gas and telecommunications industry, dredging of contaminated sediments.�

During the last three years simultaneous designing and building of the prototype of an active legged submersible dredger/ miner has been carried out. The mechanical construction of this electro-hydraulically operated highly modular vehicle is complete, and is presently being remotely operated on land by one person. The first phase of on land functionality and locomotion tests has been successfully completed. Performance evaluation models have been developed for the designed vehicle to predict the vehicle performance under varying environmental and operational conditions. These evaluation models can be used as a design tool for developing similar types of legged walking submersible dredging/ mining platform.

This research is a collaborative research project between Dr. Neil Bose, Canada Research Chair in Offshore and Underwater Vehicles Design, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, Ms. Sritama Sarkar, PhD student, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and Mr. Mridul Sarkar, Managing Director, EEM (P) Ltd., India. EEM (P) Ltd. is an inland dredging company from eastern India, which has designed, manufactured and operated dredgers in India for the last 26 years.

How was the experience at Memorial?

I met my supervisor Dr. Neil Bose, Canada Research Chair in Offshore and Underwater Vehicles Design from Memorial University in an International Conference. During our conversations I came to know about the underwater vehicle research going on in Memorial University. I expressed my interest to work in the field of submersible dredging/ mining platforms and our mutual interests matched. I also came to know that Memorial has the best program in Ocean and Naval Architectural Engineering in North America. These two reasons led me to choose Memorial as the university to pursue further research activities.”

The faculty members are very helpful in Engineering and being involved with a multidisciplinary work, I received enormous help and valuable suggestions from different professors, technical staffs and fellow students at different times. The atmosphere in general is very friendly, which really facilitates if you want to pursue research work.

The university is situated next door to the Institute for Ocean Technology, which makes it really helpful if you are performing ocean related work.

The environment and atmosphere in St. Johns is very clean and pollution free and the people are really helpful. Its a very quite place, which makes it ideal as a research environment.

In my free time, I like to take long walks through the nature trails in St. John�s and also enjoy music.

What are your future plans?

In 2004, Sritama passed her comprehensive exam with a distinction.

I want to work either in the underwater vehicle industry or join the academia pursuing research on underwater vehicles after I finish my PhD