Interview: Ayushi Tiwari (Civil – 2016)

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 Masters in Geotechnical Engineering from University of Texas, Austin. My current Master’s research is working on engineering characteristics of induced earthquakes and site characterization of earthquakes in Texas. It involves an understanding of the behavioral pattern of man-made earthquakes and understanding its damage potential. Site characterization involves a certain parameter to predict ground motion equations for such earthquakes. My past research involved various other areas of geotechnical engineering including risk analysis, modeling and validation of certain empirical relationships and working on bender elements to evaluate stiffness of geomaterials.

What should students know before taking up research? How should they pursue their career in research?
Students should try different things before declaring one of the topics as their interest. Either your interests develop naturally over a particular course of time or you need to explore and expose yourself to things. Research is one of it. They should know that it is hard and they should expect to be prepared to fail. It is about learning than anything else. You should be prepared to have these things in mind before starting out research. Our college provides ample opportunities to travel and try your hands on research. Internships are meant for that. Then with each individual, things vary differently and can be figured out in whatever interests them.

Why are research internships important? How do students hone their skills through these internships?
As I said, research internships are a platform for learning. Its experience determines a lot for your career path. It can result in only two options, you either dislike and hence eliminate it from your career or you go into it and pave the path for yourself. Both options will pave a path to your success. Moreover, it gives you a lifetime experience with new places and friends. In all my research internships, it was as much my personal growth as professional growth.
What other skills do you think students need to learn before/while pursuing higher studies in engineering and sciences?
I would say software skills. This is the biggest thing lacking in our system. All majors should hone these skills as it is of utmost importance in today’s world.
Where do you think, the research scenario in NIT Trichy needs improvement, and how can it be improved?
Research scenario needs to be improved in a number of ways. People should be motivated and energetic to pursue research. When I study amongst pioneers of Geotech world, I find that they are passionately in love with what they are doing. Unless the attitude towards research is not changed, any improvement would be futile. Apart from that, we need to get the resources available to students. There should be more undergrad research assistants positions which should motivate students to be involved in one project or another. Infrastructure and the learning atmosphere needs to be improved. Software classes should be promoted and should be made available to students.
What must one do after getting admitted into college? I.e How do you feel time must be utilized post-admission?
Our college is a plethora of wonderfully smart people. There is learning everywhere. Students should utilize and improve both professional and personal growth. Starting from a variety of clubs which hone you with multiple skills to being involved in various sports, NIT Trichy has it all. It is just important to know the correct proportion and your priorities. Education and the program attitude should be definitely improved but to hone one’s extra-curricular skills, it gives you multiple ways for improvement.
What are some things about your career path you wish you knew in college, in retrospect?
I wish to have definitely learned various programs and software which would have been helpful to me in grad school. Thankfully, with the help of amazing seniors and mentors, I was aware of various career paths, which the college offers. If I would have to go back, I would have learned various concepts in much detail as is required here.
What exams do you think are most important to write before applying for higher studies?
The general ones, GRE, GMAT & TOEFL depending on the major and country you are applying to. I would say the scores from these exams are a little hyped and probably focussing on your overall profile is the most important thing to be done.
How useful is having work experience before applying for higher studies? Is one year time for work experience ample enough?
Quality matters more than quantity. So more than years of experience, the relevant work experience matters. But I have always preferred studying after undergrad if the interest is known than getting diverted in some other field only to come back later. However, it completely depends on the individual. Sometimes, work experience gives you insights which will be helpful in grad school. People worry about the financial constraints which studying abroad imposes. Be clear that if your profile is good, universities do offer you scholarships. Don’t base your decisions on the majority of the cases. You can be an exception.
Geotechnical engineering is regarded as one of the most difficult streams in civil. But how is the scope in this field and if students are interested in pursuing a career in this field, what would you recommend they know or have a fair understanding about?
Geotechnical engineering is tough. Honestly, undergrad gives you a very little exposure to this part. Geotech is the foundation of civil engineering. Not many students get exposed to its various applications during their undergrad. Its scope is immense in the Western world. Students should either do internships in this field to understand their interests or learn from the various sources available online. It is uncertain in many ways and hence will always be challenging. For me, this field gives you the feeling of being a good engineer than anything else.

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