START Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Sameer Deshkar

sameer deshkar photoDr. Sameer Deshkar came to START’s 2015 Advanced Institute on Disaster Risk Reduction and Loss Mitigation via a path that began in architecture.   In the early 2000’s Sameer studied and taught architecture and building design in his home country of India. Then, in 2006 he volunteered to take part in a national United Nations Development (UNDP) program on urban earthquake planning for cities in his region, and was introduced to the field of disaster risk reduction (DRR).

Sameer then pursued a PhD at Nagoya University in Japan – well known for its disaster risk expertise. Sameer continued his post-doctoral work in India as a coordinator for a government project developing rural regions for DRR, working within rural vulnerabilities and policy development mechanisms.

As a member of the Asian University Network of Environment and Disaster Risk Management (AUEDM), Sameer met Prof. Rajib Shaw, a START colleague who introduced him to START’s work in Asia. Sameer attended an event at the Sendai World Conference on DRR in March 2015 where he met other START staff and alumni and learned about the Advanced Institute the following month.

“Taiwan was a great beginning for me,” says Sameer about START’s Advanced Institute. The policy approaches and process of looking at systems research was very helpful in his current work transferring planning policy knowledge from urban centers out into rural regions. The training in Taiwan and follow-on seed grant from START helped Sameer expand his research and “get out of my regional boundaries to different geographical areas with new challenges,” he says.

Since the Advanced Institute in 2015, Sameer and his cohort from Taiwan have kept in touch with a Facebook group page. This platform provides a good exchange for ideas as members share their research updates, training events, and travel schedules for opportunities to meet in person. Facebook group members came from varied geographical and career backgrounds, but they share the same concerns about disaster risk reduction and are all at a similar mid-career level. This diversity in background with a shared common goal has created a strong network as they all benefit from learning how each one does disaster risk research in their own regions and sharing ideas to streamline their work.

For the past decade, Sameer has been an Assistant Professor at the Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (Nagpur, India) where he researches urban environmental studies, climate change, disaster risk resilience, and biodiversity & ecosystem services. He is passing the torch to the next generation of START researchers. He integrated DRR into the school’s urban planning curriculum and has since guided 11 masters and 1 PhD theses on DRR related topics. His PhD student, Shruthi Dakey is a currently in START’s Pan-Asian Risk Reduction (PARR) fellowship program. “Creating more capable human resources is important from this perspective and hence encourage my own research students to take up higher studies and gain international research experience,” Sameer says. “In this pursuit, START has been a most significant by extending support through [Advanced Institute] and PARR fellowships.”

According to Sameer, START offers something different in the world of GEC research with its “crosscutting approach to issues.” Other research organizations tend to focus on one theme, but START looks at issues holistically. The way START involved people from a variety of academic disciplines, research, policy, and even military backgrounds at the Advanced Institute provided a rich experience and ongoing network of colleagues for program participants like Sameer.

As Sameer looks to the future he dreams “to start an integrated full time course in DRR at Masters level and establish a regional research center on DRM in India.” We look forward to more interactions with Sameer and his colleagues in South Asia, around the world, and on-line!