Dr. Mamta Jaswal: IIT Dhanbad’s First Woman To Earn A PhD In Mining Engineer

An interview with Dr. Mamta Jaswal who became the first woman PhD holder in Mining Engineering from IIT (ISM) Dhanbad on 22nd December 2022.

[ Dr. Mamta Jaswal became the first woman PhD holder in Mining Engineering from IIT (ISM) Dhanbad on 22nd December 2022.]

I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved” – Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

The journey of women’s empowerment goes hand in hand with education, and every new milestone that women achieve needs to be spoken about and cheered on.

In our search for inspiring stories, we met Dr. Mamta Jaswal, a mining engineer and research analyst who became the first woman to earn a PhD in Mining Engineering from one of India’s oldest institutions, IIT (ISM).

You are an engineer, teacher, research analyst, and now the first woman to earn her PhD in mining engineering from IIT (ISM), is there something you would like our readers to know about you other than your academic achievements?

A) Research takes up a lot of time, so not much it left for activities aside from academics. It being a male dominated industry, one has to go the extra mile to be seen and heard among male professors, colleagues and lab partners.

Regardless, I am happily married to my partner whom I met during my research and have two dogs, that take up the rest of my time.

When did you start thinking about your PhD, and how did this journey begin?

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A) I did my B.E in mining from a government engineering college in Gujarat (Gujarat Technological University, Ahmedabad). They didn’t have many resources, therefore I had a plan to pursue my post-graduation from a better reputed institute.

IIT ISM is one of oldest engineering colleges in India and dates back to 1926. I was determined to do my Masters in Technology from there and get basics from a good college because Gujarat didn’t have as many options for me.

I got in through college placement and (towards the end of my degree) approached my mentor, a now-retired professor, who encouraged me to pursue my education.

Likewise, I come from a fairly middle-class family, and it was there in the back of my mind to start earning at the soonest and get a job, but my mentor still advised to pursue the opportunity to attain a PhD.

I decided to venture forth. I put my concerns aside and left the job opportunity, even though it was good for me at the time. It was tough, but I chose to not be short-sighted and have a greater long-term vision. Upon my decision, my mentor and professor took me under his wing as a scholar, and that’s how it started.

What inspired you to pursue mining engineering?

A) I always had interest in earth sciences as my grandfather worked in ONGC. I was exposed to similar fields and my father is a civil engineer who did his diploma in civil engineering.

I was already on the track to do my engineering, but didn’t like many of the mainstream fields like civil or chemicals. As I was searching for options, I ultimately found mining engineering and gave it a try and found it to be very interesting.

What challenges did you face in this particular field, did being a woman create hurdles in your path?

A) I was the only girl in my class and was surrounding my men whether in the lab, mines, on site visit or even travelling to the mines. Needless to say, education is not that different from mainstream society which is patriarchal, therefore the same can be seen in education, especially in the field of mining.

I specifically hardly saw women, much less in powerful positions, and a handful that I did see were daily wage labourers at the mining sites. It would’ve been more comforting to see more powerful women in this field, but I know first-hand how hard it can be to be assertive and many people don’t take you seriously. You have to be stubborn and not give up, show grit and carry on.

What are your proudest academic achievements?

A) I was the gold medallist during my bachelor’s degree for mining engineering and topper of university but personally, I felt most proud when my external examiner, who was from IIT Kanpur, was done with research questions and I heard the term Doctor in front of name for the first time.

It felt like all the years of blood, sweat and tears paid off. I was humbled when my work was recognized and applauded for my dedication and efforts, including fighting through covid, when working in labs and mines was most difficult. That felt like my proudest moment.

You had also worked as a research analyst, how does mining figure into your research work and for people who don’t know much about your profession, how do you explain it to them?

A) I am currently working as a research analyst with Wood Mackenzie. I didn’t want to wait for a job and began applying for positions during thesis submission.

I gave interviews and found a current vacancy with the aforementioned company under the metals and mining sector. Basically, it covers graphite and is concerned with the raw battery graphite research market, raw material for electric vehicles.

This also includes market and mines research, how much graphite costs, price forecast, supply demand and other commodities under the same sector as copper, coal and more.

Basically, mining is the future. We are aware of United Nations SDH’s that focus on energy transition and sustainability and for that, mining and commodities research is extremely necessary.

What was the constant support you had throughout your career, which made you keep going?

A) I would say that my husband has been my greatest support. We met during research and fell in love and soon got married in 2018.

Working on my PhD for the four years (following our marriage), there were moments where I felt like giving up especially around COVID, he was always there for me and though he wouldn’t force or push me, he stayed positive and always believed in my abilities.

Being in the same field, he understood my struggles very well and motivated me throughout. Even when I almost gave up, going through anxiety and bouts of depression, he has been my number one support and also my dogs!

What would you like to say to girls who are going into professions and careers like yours, which have traditionally been boxed and typecast as masculine or reserved for men?

A) Though male dominated, I am starting to see more women around me in the field, doing mine shifts and colleagues working in research. There are so many women to look up to, so my message to those interested in this field is that— Do Not Give Up At Any Cost— be stubborn and hold your place out of spite when people question your choices and abilities.

Remember that you can do much better and that no one can question your choices and goals.

What would you like to say to other women in education right now?

A) My biggest advice would be to take your time and explore your options, as initially we can always feel at a dearth of choices when it comes to education and academic pursuits.

Go recommend going to the internet and exploring, talking to people around you, and to keep learning. Even after a PhD, I feel like I have just begun exploring, so I would definitely tell others to continue learning and find the field that you feel happiest in.

It is also important to be long-sighted and to keep larger academic pursuits in mind as opposed to just getting a degree and a job, to feel much more satisfied and accomplished in the longer run.

At Women’s Web, we are always in search of stories of women who break the glass ceilings and create new histories in different fields, from academics to entrepreneurship to sport to fine arts.

If you have inspiring stories to share with us, drop us a message.

Image source: Mamta’s LinkedIn and IIT (ISM)’s Facebookpage, edited on CanvaPro

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Ria Tirkey

I am Ria from New Delhi. I'm a student of political science and law and I have a lot to say apparently. read more...

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