Research and Development is always fun, especially when it can be applied to the real world to solve real problems.

Our next pathbreaker, Dharmaraju, works on solving real world challenges in Electric Vehicles by researching sustainable/green materials for EV (Electric Vehicle) batteries and fuel cells.

Shyam Krishnamurthy  from The Interview Portal talks to Dharmaraju Chinnaiah about his career path and wok as a Battery Research Engineer at Nissan.

Dharmaraju, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi I am Dharmaraju Chinnaiah. Iam from Poongudi, a village near Pudukottai.My father Mr. Chinnaiah is a farmer and mother Mrs. Vijaya is a home-maker. I have two brothers. One of them is working for a two wheeler company in Chennai and the other is a professor.

The most important aspect of my education happened during my higher secondary schooling, thanks to GHSS Cauvery Nagar and TELC School, Pudukkottai. I was weak in Chemistry while I was in higher secondary. It was disappointing and breaking at that time. But it proved to be a major turning point because I started working on it and today i work on advanced chemistry related solutions

What did you study?

I did my graduation in Mechanical Engineering from University of Rajasthan.

What were the key influences that put you on the career path you are today

After schooling, i changed my thought process. Also, my training at WABCO TVS, Chennai, in R&D, shaped my future career path. The opportunities here allowed me to experiment and made me to overcome by failures and inhibitions. 

I must in specific, mention about Mr. Krishnamoorthy in my native. He supported my family a lot during initial stages. Without his push, I wouldn’t have been the person I am today.

My sister, Mrs. Amutha has been a pillar of moral support.

My Wife, Mrs. Maheshwari for having been an excellent support system when events didn’t work out as planned. Without that any of significant developments for the long term wouldn’t have happened.

My first boss at WABCO TVS and other gentlemen from present organization also inspired me.

When head of the firm took my name in annual award ceremony and announced the breakthrough which I was working on, it motivated and inspired me to do more. 

How did you get your first break? Tell us about your work there

I got my first break at TVS WABCO through a walk-in interview. I was a trainee there. It was a blessing in disguise. I was not looking for an opportunity. But the curiosity to experiment made me take the job and looking back, it was a finest decision I have ever taken.

In WABCO I was in the Break analysis R&D division. My role was to test the brakes in different environments. I learnt about research, way of thinking and analysis of different types of brakes. 

What was your career path after TVS WABCO? Tell us about your transition to your current company

After working as trainee for 6 months i joined as a Research Assistant at DRDO. Here i worked on on fuel cell R&D.

Fuel cells generate energy from chemical reactions which can be then used to power vehicles. But the amount of voltage generated by a single fuel cell is too little. So individual cells are stacked to achieve a higher voltage and power. This assembly of cells is called a fuel cell stack, or just a stack.

We as a team were working on developing 1kW to 30kW Fuel Cell stacks.

At Nissan, i initially joined as Junior Research Engineer. I was involved in handling the testing of Fuel Cells at the Nissan plant.

Iam currently an R&D engineer at Nissan. My role is to develop different materials for EV (Electric Vehicle) battery research.

What were the challenges you faced in your career?

In the initial days we didnt have access to internet to find jobs. Along with my friend, we had to spend time waiting outside the office to get a call for training programs. I kept waiting at the gate everyday for 2-3 days. Somehow, on the 4th day, a person from TVS WABCO asked us the reason for waiting daily and the opportunity arrived. It was a happy moment, because both of us got the job.

When I shifted to the next job, the scale of thought process changed based on the organization. Getting used to the change takes time and at times also affects productivity. I really had to work on them. First, I accepted that not all that we learn can be implemented. Second, i understood that contributing to new areas requires a lot of learning and takes time. But when I did these two, in my third organization, I was able to manage these challenges.

Tell us about your current work

I work for Renault Nissan Global Alliance at Chennai. Some of the processes which are pre-defined don’t produce results. My job is to identify such processes and improve efficiency wherever there are gaps. 

 Li-Ion Batteries and Fuel cells are the EV technologies that are being used in vehicles. However there are several challenges. Electric Vehicles are expensive and have limited range .

My role is to explore cheaper and sustainable (Green) materials for fuel cells and post LI-Ion batteries. Iam also involved in design and assembly of fuel cell stacks to improve performance with new materials, components and identify failure mechanisms.

I also perform electrical, mechanical and thermal tests with lithium ion batteries and help improve electrode design through R&D.

 How does your work benefit the society?

For a pollution free environment we need to decrease the pollution from vehicle. The only way is Battery and fuel cells replacement in vehicles.

The work which I am doing now, will see it’s results for future generations and technologies. So that’s how it is. 

What are some of the critical skills needed for your job?

Patience and curiosity to experiment. When there is only uncertainty, these are the important survival tools. 

Thanks to my first job ti honed my skills.

How is a Day in your work ?

Surprises and challenges. On one hand, the efficiency improvements would inspire me to work more but on the other hand, something else would have happened.

What do you love about your job?

Freedom to innovate and work on future technologies    

Tell us an example of a specific work you did that is very close to you!

There was a situation when anything I tried or worked on increasing the effectiveness, didn’t yield results. It was so disappointing. I decided to go on a vacation to my hometown. It was a kind of un-winding process. After few days, when I started the work again in office, it was confirmed that what I was working is unique and it required lots of additional checks to confirm. Finally, this was appreciated by my management. 

 Your advice to students based on your experience?

Be curious and always experiment. If it works, it’s good else it’s a way to understand what doesn’t work which is equally important.

Keep learning and show positive mind-set towards gaining skill-sets. 

Future Plans?

I want to give back to society. That’s clear. But when and how is something which I am thinking about. Hoping to do it soon.