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Meet Dipankar Dar Sarma, from the Gaspard Monge Visiting Professor Program

Dipankar Dar Sarma, J. N. Tata Chair Professor at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, India, is one of the professors invited thanks to the Gaspard Monge Program.

To start the 2020/19 season of the Gaspard Monge Visiting Professor Program, École Polytechnique received Dipankar Dar Sarma, from the Solid State and Structural Chemistry Unit of the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, India.

What is the project you have been working on?

Our work aims at understanding the electronic structure of functional oxide materials. Indeed, transition metal oxides display a large range of exotic properties, some of which can potentially be capitalized on in applications. Examples include materials where optical properties change as a function of pressure or temperature – so-called “piezochromic” or “thermochromic” materials, or materials whose optical properties can be controlled by applying a voltage. Thanks to this Visiting Professor Program, we could study such “electrochromic” materials. Understanding the mechanisms underlying this effect, eventually enables you to predict and engineer materials with pre-assigned properties that can be used for specific applications. In general, functional materials are all around us: they are found in batteries, hard discs, screens, etc, it is then essential to study them.

What do you think of the Gaspard Monge Program?

Having this kind of program is extremely important as it attracts people, creates ambassadors and participates to the international exposure of the institution. École Polytechnique is at the epicentre of important research activities, so it is great to be in contact with its ecosystem and the scientific community of France for these three months.

Moreover, l’X also offers the possibility, besides working with collaborators, to teach and to bring one of my students with me, which is unique. Students are very bright here, they challenged me and I feel that by combining our ways of thinking, we could have a more complete view on subjects. As for my student, he seems to love it here so much I am afraid to lose him! Researchers seem very happy with him too, and he has made tremendous progress. For sure, the project will continue beyond the visiting program!  

What was particular about this collaboration?

I came here to work both with Silke Biermann, from the Center for Theoretical Physics (CPHT) and Thierry Gacoin, Head of the Solid State Chemistry group at the Condensed matter physics laboratory (PMC), on a truly interdisciplinary project involving both the physics and chemistry departments. What is particular is that I studied Physics as an undergraduate but I did my Phd in Chemistry, making me able to understand both languages, which are complementary. In this way we worked on the properties of materials from different perspectives: the theoretical approach (equations and calculations) and the experimental one. This dual, complementary approach provides a deep understanding into the phenomena investigated.


The Gaspard Monge Visiting Professor Program is a visiting professor program supported by the École Polytechnique Foundation (FX). The program is aimed at researchers of international reputation and typically Senior Experts or Young Brilliant Scientists internationally recognized as leaders or future leaders in their scientific area.

These top-level professors reside on campus for a period of 3 to 4 months and are invited to give a 24-hour course, on the subject of their choice, in one of the training programs of l’X. These courses are open to 3rd or 4th year Polytechnique students, Master's students and PhD students.