Interview: Sanjay Gopalan (Meta-2017)

Please state your current major and explain the area of research you are currently involved in. Do state your past research if any.

I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in Material Science at The University of Texas at Dallas(UTD). My project is based on Applications of Monte Carlo Analysis of Electron Transport in small Semiconductor Devices and Theoretical study of Quantum Transport. My project is entirely theoretical and it studies about the materials used in semiconductors. My past research was during my BTech in NITT where I worked on TiG welding characteristics of Inconel 718.

What should students know before taking up research? How should they pursue their career in research?Students should be clear about what their interests are and what they will be doing as research. There are many factors to decide before taking up a research. I will list some of them which helped me to choose my career in research

1. Field of research and personal interest match
2. Professor or guide with whom you will do your project
3. Research Facilities available
4. Time
5. Scope of the project
6. Funding
7. Job prospects
In my case, all the projects I did and coursework I took in NITT gave me the required basics to do my research work. Though the field that I am currently working is varied from that I was used to in NITT, I was prepared to take that extra step of learning the extra basics I required and in graduate studies, you have to seek the opportunities to learn.
Why are research internships important? How do students hone their skills through these internships?
Research internships are helpful to explore and experiment the knowledge that you got through your courses and independent study. If you have decided to pursue a career in research then research internships will be Step 0 for that. Never see internships as the way to fill the resume but to learn something out of it. Since internships last not more than 3 months you should be prepared beforehand on what to expect and should be able to extract the maximum out of it. Research internships will also give you exposure to perform experiments in the lab environment and more importantly, would help you to apply the classroom knowledge.
What other skills do you think students need to learn before/while pursuing highers in engineering and sciences?
  • High academic standing
  • Strong commitment to pursuing rigorous research training in a selected subject area
  • Enthusiasm and a high degree of interest in learning
  • Curiosity, and an open and enquiring mind
  • Sound work ethic, integrity, and moral standards
  • Collegiality
  • Perseverance and patience
  • Maturity and reliability
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Ability to integrate data and information from multiple sources, and to develop and test hypotheses rigorously
Where do you think, the research scenario in NIT Trichy needs improvement, and how can it be improved?
The lab infrastructure along with equipment and apparatus needs to be improved a lot. Students must be encouraged to use the facilities to the fullest and BTech students, in particular, must be exposed to research activities that are taking place on the campus.
What must one do after getting admitted into college? I.e How do you feel time must be utilized post-admission?
Graduate studies is a place where one will be studying on very specific topics. One of the advantage in pursuing graduate studies abroad is one will have a lot of flexibility in choosing their courses. In my case, I was asked to take 4 courses of 11 (minimum number of courses to take) and other 7 courses can be taken according to my interest. Post-admission, the student must go through the courses offered by their department and also departments related to them and have a fair idea of what courses to take and which semester to take. If the student is admitted for MS, and planning to work after the study, then they must do research on the job prospects of the field in which they are pursuing their degree.
What exams do you think are most important to write before applying for higher studies?
Most of the universities accept GRE and TOEFL/IELTS. Writing these two exams should be sufficient. Start preparing early and complete the exams well before the admission process starts, so that you will have time to retake the exam if needed, research about the universities, and prepare SOP. I recommend completing the exams before October if you are applying for Fall.
How useful is having work experience before applying for highers? Is one year time for work experience ample enough?
I did not have any work experience before taking up my higher studies. But from my point of view, work experience of 1.5 to 2 years and graduate study in the same field will be the best mix. Having work experience in one field and pursuing higher studies in another is waste of time.
I came to UTD after getting admitted for MS. But now I got converted to Ph.D. directly without doing my MS. I am being funded for my project and getting a full tuition waiver. So, this place has a lot of opportunities and one needs to have the interest and commitment to shine.

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