Ashok S. Kolaskar
Former Advisor, National Knowledge Commission, New Delhi
Former Vice-Chancellor, University of Pune
Professor, Biotechnology & Bioinformatics, University of Pune
A career of over 33 years marked by numerous accomplishments in bioinformatics research, teaching, mentoring, higher education reforms, and managing large institutions with outstanding success.
One of the first few scientists in the world to pursue research in bioinformatics. Pioneered the establishment of the network of Distributed Information Centers (DICs) in India in the late 80s to initiate and promote bioinformatics research in India. Signal contributions to the field of bioinformatics include development of an algorithm to predict protein coding regions of a genome, development of first web based comprehensive database of animal viruses, development of complete methodology to design and develop peptide vaccines, development of VirGen – a database of full viral genomes and software tools to extract knowledge etc. Published over 60 papers in national and international peer reviewed journals, and edited books and monographs.
Teaching postgraduate programs and mentoring Ph.D. and M.Phil. students for the past 28 years at various universities – Central University of Hyderabad, University of Pune, and George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
Over 20 years of management experience encompasses founding, nurturing, rejuvenating, and revamping small and large organizations. Founded the Bioinformatics Center at the University of Pune in 1988. As director of the center for 10 years, oversaw the rapid emergence of the center as the most dynamic of the contemporary centers conducting active research and disseminating information and training through innumerable national and international workshops, seminars, and conferences. Headed the Department of Biotechnology at the University of Pune for four years and Department of Zoology at the University of Pune. As director of the Division of Bioinformatics at the American Type Culture Collection in Virginia, secured major grants for research in metabolic pathway engineering, biocomplexity, and poxvirus information system.
As advisor to the Government of India’s National Knowledge Commission identified several areas in need of the Commission’s scrutiny and worked in formulating recommendations and reports to the Hon’ble Prime Minister. Some of the significant contributions are the in depth study and reports on the Open Access and Open Educational Resources around the world, Research and Education Networks, University Education, Distance Education etc. Designed and directed primary research across India to understand the facilitators and obstacles of innovation in the country and authored a comprehensive report on the same. Carried out a similar project on entrepreneurship in the country. National Knowledge Commission is the special commission established by the Prime Minister of India to suggest policy measures and governance reforms that will improve the knowledge infrastructure of the country and ensure that the fruits of the economic progress reach the common man.
As the Managing Director of the DSK Global Education Research Pvt. Ltd., Pune, ushered in a new model of international partnership in education and vocational training. Established a major international institute that offers integrated five year programs in Animation, Gaming and Industrial Design with the aim to create leaders. This is the only institute of its kind in Asia and is established in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Valenciennois, France.
As the Vice Chancellor of the University of Pune for five years introduced sweeping reforms in university governance, financial management, and quality management. Introduced several new and innovative programs like MBA Biotechnology, Diploma program in Information and Network Security, M.Sc Bioinformatics, M.Tech Energy Studies, B.Sc Applied Geographical Information System etc. Increased university corpus substantially, from Rs.460 million to Rs.2 billion by means of accelerated fund raising and rational financial management. Established industry academia nexus by bringing in industry as the knowledge partner. Introduced numerous student and staff welfare programs. Implemented incentive schemes for quality improvement in affiliated colleges and recognized institutes. Adopted the latest technological advances like wi-fi connectivity throughout the campus, dedicated FM Radio station – “Vidya Vani”, digital library, online student admissions, use of virtual classroom for quality teaching etc. Brought in radical reforms in the examination and evaluation systems. Pune University is the first university in the country to adopt measures such as transmission of question papers to examination centers through secured internet which eliminates the chances of question paper leakage. Improved research and training infrastructure on the campus. Undertaken innovative initiatives such as faculty appointment on contractual basis, joint appointments, adjunct faculty appointments etc. to overcome the faculty shortage resulting from the state government freeze on new appointments.
Served National Accreditation and Assessment Council in various capacities such as Executive Committee Member, Finance Committee Member, Building Committee member, and Chairman and member of several peer review committees, contributed significantly to make the assessment and accreditation process objective, rational and transparent.