Dr. Madhavi Latha Gali - Geotechnical Engineer, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
My efforts in micro to macro of soil-reinforcement interactions, supported through digital image analysis, have received global visibility.
Dr. Madhavi Latha Gali, Geotechnical Engineer, Professor Department of Civil Engineering, Chair, Centre for Sustainable Technologies, SERB POWER Fellow, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

My long-term goal is to create sustainable, economical, and effective reinforcing techniques.

My major interest lies in developing resilient geotechnical systems through various innovative reinforcing techniques. I did my Ph.D. at IIT Madras and joined IISc after working for a year at IIT Guwahati. My 20-year tenure at IISc has been very exciting and interesting. I did encounter several roadblocks, which are mostly related to my family commitments and gaps in my networking skills. During my initial years, I saw failures in grant proposal acceptance and in gaining the visibility that my work deserves.

My major interest lies in developing resilient geotechnical systems through various innovative reinforcing techniques. My long-term goal is to create sustainable, economical, and effective reinforcing techniques that can suit extreme conditions like high-speed trains, earthquakes, and floods. I also work on understanding the micro-level mechanisms that govern the macroscopic behaviour of reinforced systems. My efforts in micro to macro of soil-reinforcement interactions, supported through digital image analysis, have received global visibility.

I am not an exception to being unfairly judged for my work and related pursuits.

My close friends also do not understand or support my long working hours and frequent travels. Sometimes, I am forced to feel guilty when a few of my male colleagues advise me to go home early and take care of my kids. But unwavering support from my husband and the kids is what keeps me going, though there are instances of their displeasure.

It used to be very challenging to effectively manage dual responsibilities at both home and work when I started my career. However, I find that this is a trivial issue for the current generation. At least in my profession, the new girls have all the opportunities to effectively manage their dual responsibilities.

I am from the generation where there was no reservation for women in education or employment. However, I do not support the idea that women must refrain from reservations. Equal sharing of domestic responsibilities does not happen with these arguments. The change must happen at a deeper level in the cultural system and in the bringing up of the male kids.

Without the support of my family, nothing would have been possible for me. Most often, the support is just through their assurance that they stand by me in rain or sunshine. My family gives me confidence and motivation. I have seen many bright young girls who have graduated from IITs and IISc becoming homemakers only, just because their family wanted them to. In my opinion, if the family is not supportive towards your professional goals, you might have to take hard steps to make them understand your point of view, rather than foregoing your career.

My most significant lesson learnt…

Reflecting on my professional journey, the most significant lesson is to shed inhibitions and trust the system. If we are inhibited, we lose out on experiencing valuable situations in life and meeting interesting people. Self-confidence is the key for being uninhibited in life and it comes through perseverance during bitter moments. My message to the emerging women civil engineers and professionals is - stay strong and do not settle for anything less than what you deserve.
NBM&CW - March 2024
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