Currently enrolled in a Doctorate program (Pure and applied sciences.)
Please state your current major and explain the area of research you are currently involved in. Do state your past research if any.
Currently, I’m a Ph.D. student at Cornell University and my area of research is Semiconductor Physics. Before my Ph.D., I did my MS in Physics from Cornell, I also had some summer research experiences at NIT Trichy.
What should students know before taking up research? How should they pursue their career in research?
Before taking up research as a career option, it is essential to realize that “That is indeed what I want to do”, rather than it just being something you like doing.You should be very clear in your decision. Research is never-ending, you might do a masters or you might do a Ph.D., the research still never ends, unlike a job which has retirement and end-goals. You have to keep on going till your brain lets you. One way to realize that is to do something over the summer, talk to professors, attending their group meetings, talking to PhD students and finding out the life they have etc..
Why are research internships important? How do students hone their skills through these internships?
Research internships as I said, let you take that call very early on, whether indeed it is something you can do in the future. There are people who have done a direct Ph.D. just because it was the best option available to them at that time.After a year or so, some of them come to the conclusion that it is not for them, they feel they would be better off in an industrial job say. Research internships certainly impart a lot of knowledge but it also prepares you for the future as you meet people and you get to know their honest opinion on the life they live. This knowledge is more important than the knowledge you anyway get from doing the internship. The soft skills, the networking, the contacts you receive are much more valuable in the long run.
Where do you think, the research scenario in NIT Trichy needs improvement, and how can it be improved?
I’m from the batch of 2012. We had a couple of research opportunities in our department (ECE). Personally, I wanted to do something in physics, which I couldn’t do at NIT Trichy, as the opportunity to seek something outside my department was never really given to me. Interdisciplinary research is something which could be improved much more in NIT Trichy. Most research projects given to our department(which I looked up on the website) are very specific to the department itself. Interdisciplinary projects are much wider in scope in premier research institutes, and it also helps in involving more students. An ECE project need not have only an ECE student working on it, a guy with coding experience or even a mechanical engineer can be involved in it. It would help many students.
What must one do after getting admitted into college? I.e How do you feel time must be utilized post-admission?
I worked for a couple of years before going for my masters, so I didn’t apply during my college days. For 2 years, I worked at NVIDIA. So, in your free time, just interact with your professors. People normally relax in the final 2 semesters, nothing wrong with that. It is also important to maintain good relations with your department, so if you need a recommendation letter, say 2 years down the line in my case, you need someone to vouch for you. Being in the final year, you are in a much better position to participate in department activities(specifically department symposiums), go talk to the professors, HoD etc. They are all ears for your suggestions on improving the department, especially since you are in your final year. Keep that bond with the department even after you leave college.
What are some things about your career path you wish you knew in college, in retrospect?
Focusing on basics in college is very important. The fundamentals you learn especially from the 2nd year. For people who entered college having no idea as to what their course involved, they become focused only from the 3rd year. If you haven’t paid much attention, it becomes really tough. Also, in retrospect, I wish I could have networked more with my seniors. From the 2nd year, if I had spoken to 4th years who are applying to different fields, I would have gotten an idea as to the opportunities that are out there. Which I feel you guys are doing right now.
What exams do you think are most important to write before applying for highers?
For any technical/research degree, exams are not a priority at all. It comes down much more to what knowledge you have gained in college. That only comes down to 2 things, your GPA and your recommendations. Recommendations carry much more weight than your SoP’s as it is someone else who is telling that “You are good”. I have spoken to admission committees here in the US, and as a Ph.D. student also, we need to give our opinions on the applications we get. As far as what I know, GRE and TOEFL scores are the least prioritized. Unless the scores are alarmingly low, it doesn’t give you an idea about the candidate as these are examinations with a non-technical aspect to it. You can’t really judge a student from these exams.
How useful is having work experience before applying for highers? Is one year time for work experience ample enough?
In my case, I was a hardware engineer, so for my masters, I completely changed my field. It wasn’t really helpful, apart from saving money to support my studies. Knowledge wise, wasn’t too useful then. Right now it is too early to say that, in the future, since research is interdisciplinary and my research right now is based on semiconductor devices and components. Computer architecture is something that I would have to use somewhere down the line. As of now, it wasn’t of much use.
If anyone is thinking about going into research (that is making the jump to science), it is very useful to get in touch with alum so that we could guide them from engineering into a more science-y field.